The Edmonton Journal: Saturday, May 22, 2004

Give Victoria Day another name, group says 

Advocates would prefer Citizenship Day 

JULIE MOLLINS Journal Staff Writer

 

EDMONTON - Like many Canadians, Pierre Vincent will celebrate Victoria Day tending to the garden and playing with his children. But, he would prefer to call the long weekend Citizenship Day — a change that would better celebrate the fact that we are Canadian, he said. 

“Give it another name and let’s celebrate what it means to be Canadian,”he said. “We are celebrating the fact that we are Canadian. It is a form of heritage day, in a sense, because we are all of multiple origins.” 

Vincent is the Edmonton-based associate director of Citizens for a Canadian Republic, a national organization with plans to recant a portion of the Oath of Citizenship on the front lawn of the Queen’s Park Legislative Building in Toronto on Victoria Day as a symbolic gesture. At issue for the Citizens for a Canadian Republic is the portion of the oath that requires new Canadian citizens to swear allegiance to the Queen, her heirs and successors. 

“The organization is not advocating abolishing the celebration,” Vincent said. “We just don’t think it should be a national holiday. We should be giving national holidays to truly Canadian things, not to old monarchist concepts from another continent.”

Victoria Day was established as a national holiday in 1901. Since 1952, the holiday has been observed on the Monday before May 25, although Victoria’s birthday was on May 24, and the Queen’s birthday is on April 21. The organization would like to switch Victoria Day to April 21. 

The symbolic recanting of a portion of the oath at Queen’s Park is intended to give voice to the frustrations of those who believe the Queen to be merely a symbolic figurehead in Canada. 

“This is a head of state who rarely comes to Canada, doesn’t live here, doesn’t represent Canada when she travels abroad, and represents all about Canada that many Canadians wish to relegate to the history book,” said Tom Freda, the Toronto-based director of Citizens for a Canadian Republic. 

The two-year-old organization is in the midst of a membership drive. Freda anticipates it will soon have 1,000 members across the country. Vincent, who works as a business officer at Natural Resources Canada in Devon, was invited by Freda to join the group. 

Vincent became a public figure after he received a reprieve following his refusal to pledge loyalty to the Queen under the rules of the Public Service Employment Act.  

Although the act was given an official overhaul by the federal government in November 2003, it will continue to require federal civil servants to affirm the oath until December 2005.

Vincent has not yet organized an official chapter of Citizens for a Canadian Republic, and there will be no staged recanting of a portion of the Oath of Citizenship in Edmonton. 

“Maybe in the next couple of years when the local chapter is organized we can have something more symbolic,” Vincent said. 

Some Canadians are disappointed by the planned recanting at Queen’s Park. John Aimers, dominion chairman of the Monarchist League of Canada, disagrees with the staging of a symbolic challenge to the Oath of Citizenship.  

“Canada is a free country, his renunciation has no legal force or effect,” he said. “The reason we take allegiance to her is to make every Canadian equal. We don’t take oath to a political document such as the Constitution which can be changed, or whose provisions can be argued over. 

“We don’t take oath to an abstraction or a symbol such as aflag, because those can be changed. We’ve got it right here,” Aimers said.  

“We’ve got a form of government here that is stable in a world where so much is not.” 

jmollins@thejournal.canwest.com