Thursday, August 14, 2014

Canada's Citizenship Oath To The Queen Does Not Violate Charter Rights

In McAteer v. Canada (Attorney General), (Ont. Ct. App., August 13, 2014), the Court of Appeal for Ontario rejected constitutional challenges to the requirement that immigrants who wish to become Canadian citizens must swear or affirm that "I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors." Two of the challengers were committed republicans whose consciences were offended by taking an oath to a hereditary monarch. They alleged that the oath violates their freedom of expression and their equality rights protected by Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Two other plaintiffs asserted that the oath violates their freedom of conscience and religion protected by the Charter:
The appellant Ms. Simone Topey is a Rastafarian who regards the Queen as the head of Babylon. She deposes that it would violate her religious beliefs to take any kind of oath to the Queen. She further deposes that on account of the oath, she would feel bound to refrain from participating in anti-monarchist movements. The evidence of Mr. Howard Gomberg, a former plaintiff in these proceedings, is that taking an oath to any human being is contrary to his conception of Judaism.
In rejecting the Charter challenges, the appeals court said:
Although the Queen is a person, in swearing allegiance to the Queen of Canada, the would-be citizen is swearing allegiance to a symbol of our form of government in Canada. This fact is reinforced by the oath’s reference to “the Queen of Canada,” instead of “the Queen.” It is not an oath to a foreign sovereign. Similarly, in today’s context, the reference in the oath to the Queen of Canada’s “heirs and successors” is a reference to the continuity of our form of government extending into the future.
The Globe and Mail reports on the decision.