Oath to Queen costs Canada citizens
Toronto, ON - Nov. 5, 2002 - The proposed revision to the Citizenship Oath announced last week is an improvement, says Tom Freda, National Director of the Toronto and Edmonton based Citizens for a Canadian Republic, but still falls short of what many Canadians want.
"Unlike Australia's Citizenship Pledge that was revised in 1993 to delete reference to the Queen, it will still be mandatory in Canada," he points out, "and as long as it remains, the oath will continue to be a national embarrassment. That part of it has to go now, not in 20 years when the Queen vacates the throne."
"Furthermore," he adds, "as we in our organization are beginning to discover, it’s an insult to the thousands of newcomers to Canada each year who are forced to lie or take a stand and refuse citizenship because of their deep-rooted distaste for declaring a cult-like affirmation of loyalty to a foreign monarch".
A recent membership drive by CCR, a non-profit organization established earlier this year to promote discussion of Canadianizing the head of state, has revealed a disturbingly high prevalence of supporters who have decided that compromising their ethical beliefs is too high a price for citizenship.
One example is journalist and retired Toronto Star religion editor Michael McAteer, who arrived in Canada from The Republic of Ireland in 1964 as a landed immigrant. Since then he has raised a family and pursued a career in Toronto. He says, "I feel comfortable here. It suits my temperament. I like Canada’s civil, tolerant society, its sense of inclusiveness."
"Yet, I’ve never taken out Canadian Citizenship. It’s swearing true allegiance to her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II that bothers me", he explains.
He believes Canada is mature enough as a nation to have its own Canadian head of state and that the monarchy is "the antithesis of what a modern, inclusive, democratic state should stand for".
"I could stand before a citizenship judge and struggle through the Oath of Citizenship with my fingers crossed, as some of my compatriots have done. But oaths are more than symbolic. I take them seriously".
Another CCR supporter who has refused citizenship because of the oath, and as such, has given up his right to vote, hold public office or carry a Canadian passport, is nuclear physicist Dev Chakravarty. Born in India, the world’s largest democracy and a republic within the Commonwealth since 1947, he’s lived in Canada for nearly forty years and has taught at several Canadian Universities. Although he admits to having friends try to convince him to take out citizenship - "They’re only words", they say - his strong beliefs have never swayed him.
"I’m seventy-five, the same age as the Queen", he says proudly. "But my dream is to see Canada become a republic before I die. The Queen may be a fine person, but why do I have to be loyal to Queen Elizabeth II instead of just being loyal to my country of residence? I cannot see that".
For him, there’s also a human rights aspect that needs addressing, "There’s a big discrimination here. It’s nonsense that new arrivals are unfairly expected to leave their beliefs in democracy and egalitarianism at the door by being forced to swear allegiance to a monarch, while those born here are exempt from that humiliation".
Tom Freda agrees. "Is any institution worth retaining if it requires forced allegiance or coercion of conscience to reinforce? Imagine if we made the oath mandatory to all Canadians, including those who were born citizens. No doubt the true mettle of the monarchy would then be tested.
And he adds another point. "Even for those who value citizenship more than they dislike the oath, is this the way we want new Canadians to start out - by subjecting them to state-sanctioned hypocrisy? Inserting an element that everyone knows is distasteful to some but only requires a public statement of affirmation to make it go away is simply cheapening Canadian citizenship. Their attachment is to their new country, not to a Queen who lives on another continent. If an oath is required at all, why not have them recite a statement that comes from the heart"?
Both McAteer and Chakravarty have indicated that should the reference to the Queen be removed from the current Citizenship Oath, as Australia has done, there would be nothing standing in the way of them affirming their loyalty to Canada and finally becoming citizens.
Australian Citizenship Pledge (Revised in 1993 to delete reference to the Queen)
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