By Jasminee Sahoye
Even though prominent community leader and lawyer Charles Roach died fighting to change would-be Canadians having to pledge allegiance to the Queen, three other permanent residents of Canada are continuing the cause.
They argued in court that forcing would-be Canadians to pledge allegiance to the Queen before they can become citizens is discriminatory and a violation of their constitutional rights.
Critics say, people who come to Canada must subscribe into the society in which they live.
Twenty years ago, the then Jean Chretien government and its citizenship minister, Sergio Marchi were looking at the removing the oath to the Queen but scrapped it after fearing that there could be a backlash.
Roach had challenged the oath requirement in 1991 in Federal court and lost. He later brought the case in Superior Court in 2005 but died fighting for the cause.
Among the three residents is Simone Topey, who was born in Jamaica and came to Canada in 1978. She says swearing allegiance to the Queen would violate her deeply held beliefs, as Rastafarians regard the Queen as the “head of Babylon.”
The three – Topey, Michael McAteer, from Ireland and Dror Bar-Natan from Israel – maintain they oppose the oath on religious or conscientious grounds, saying pledging allegiance to Canada should be sufficient.
The Citizenship Act requires applicants for citizenship to swear or affirm they will be “faithful and bear true allegiance to Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, her heirs and successors.”
The oath requirement “effectively bars” these applicants from enjoying citizenship rights such as voting or obtaining a Canadian passport, their application to Ontario Superior Court states.
People born in Canada or abroad to Canadian parents are automatically citizens and don’t have to take any such oath.
“All of the applicants would willingly take an oath to observe the laws of Canada and fulfil their duties as Canadian citizens,” the document says.
McAteer, 79, a retired journalist who immigrated almost 50 years ago, says his father was persecuted in Ireland for supporting Irish independence.
“Taking an oath of allegiance to a hereditary monarch who lives abroad would violate my conscience, be a betrayal of my republican heritage, and impede my activities in support of ending the monarchy in Canada,” McAteer says in his affidavit.
Bar-Natan, 47, a math professor who came to Canada in 2002, maintains taking an oath to the Queen would be “repulsive.”
The federal government argues that taking an oath to the Queen has been around since Confederation as a condition of “acquiring membership in the Canadian polity.”
“The swearing of an oath to Canada’s head of state has been a constant regardless of other legislative changes that have been made over time in the process for becoming a naturalized Canadian,” the government states in its factum.
The government also insists the three are in Canada voluntarily, and their political and religious views enjoy constitutional protections.
Justice Edward Morgan has reserved his decision after saying: “If you swear an oath to the monarch, it doesn’t stop you from speaking against the monarch in the next moment.”