Sunday, May 20, 2007

Kiss my Royal Canadian

The Toronto Star reports the following...

Lawyer cleared to challenge loyalty oath to the Queen

The federal government has lost its bid to stop Toronto lawyer Charles Roach from pursuing a class-action lawsuit that challenges the requirement for new Canadians to pledge allegiance to the Queen. ...It means Roach and an unspecified number of other people who feel they've been wronged by the requirement to pledge an oath of allegiance can have their case heard in court. They want the oath repealed and a $5,000 damage award given to each person who joins the lawsuit. In Roach's case, his objections to the current requirement mean that, although he has been in Canada since 1955, he has never sworn an oath and so is not a citizen. He doesn't have a Canadian passport, can't vote, run for office or have a shot at becoming a judge. He originates from Trinidad and Tobago.

...However, Belobaba said there was nothing in the Constitution Act requiring an oath of citizenship, nor swearing allegiance to the Queen.

..."It is interesting to note that in Australia, also a constitutional monarchy, new citizens are required to take `a pledge of commitment' to Australia and its people ... and laws," Belobaba said.

...The lawsuit states that Roach and others believe in a republican form of government and want to see constitutional reform that would eliminate the Queen as Canada's head of state. It also states that the law discriminates between Canadians born here – who are never required to take the oath – and those for whom it is a condition for citizenship.

I'm hardly what most people would call an arch conservative nowadays. Nevertheless, I find all this utterly outrageous. Bluntly, if I were a bit less liberal than I am, I'd be tempted to suggest the government stick Mr. Roach on the next flight to Trinidad and Tobago, the only country to which he owes allegiance and in which he has a right to be.

If he moved to Canada in 1955, he was already a British subject at the time. Trinidad and Tobago didn't become independent until 1962, and didn't become a republic till 1976. If a republic was what he wanted, he got it then.

Bad enough, in my opinion, to presume to rewrite our Constitution from without the membership of the state... but to demand $5,000 compensation from a nation which has opened its doors to you and offered its shelter, protection, and opportunities simply because you don't deign to acquiesce to its traditions and chosen institutions is wholly unacceptable. It casts my mind into a rather dark place where immigration is concerned, as I imagine it does others, and it should.

The Queen is not the issue here. The issue here is being told by others what aspects of our nation, our history, our culture, and our way of life they will and will not accept in requesting the privilege of our citizenship. It could be anything... the status of our official languages, the secular aspect of our governance, the rights of gays to wed, the freedom of women to initiate divorce proceedings, you name it, someone can and will object to it. But this is how we live. This is how we've grown. This is our country. We change it, and we decide how, and we decide when. No one else.

Justice Belobaba is correct in saying that nothing in the Constitution requires an oath the Queen. In fact, the Constitution is mute on the subject of citizenship altogether. It is established by statute. That statute happens to require a certain oath. I would add to the Justice's remarks the fact that neither is there anything in the Constitution requiring immigrants to adopt our citizenship (nor obliging Canada to grant it!). That's a matter of conscience, and sometimes legal necessity (the citizenships of many countries are abrogated by the adoption of another). Now if Mr. Roach's complaint had been that he were denied citizenship itself for some reason, such as race, or religion, or national origin, I would be right there with him. But that's not what this is about. Mr. Roach has taken a principled stand that has deprived him of the benefits of citizenship, but no more so than anyone else in the world who is not a Canadian citizen. He has made his own bed... and out of a half century's worth of Canadian lumber, goose down, and linens, I might add. Canada has not deprived him of the vote, or political office, or a judicial position. He has voluntarily deprived himself of them. They were his for the asking, but he would not bring himself to ask, so let his pride be his consolation. Not five grand out of my pocket.

Australia's policies are Australia's; we're no more bound to follow their example on the matter of the oath than we were to follow Trinidad and Tobago's on the matter of our head of state.

Mr. Roach, et al., would prefer a republican form of government. Canadians, as a society, do not. At least not yet, at least not to any degree compelling enough to act. For this, we owe people $5,000? This idea is risible. If we're going to use Australia as an object lesson, then it's fair to ask: does Australia owe its republicans, foreign-born or domestic, $5,000 for failing to overturn the monarchy in its 1999 referendum on the matter? Of course not. Who would credit such an absurd idea?

As to the inequity of the application of the oath, no such inequity exists for practical purposes. Those of us born Canadian citizens did not have the option of deciding whether or not we would be citizens of this nation; we simply are. However, we exist under the same compulsions as anyone who takes the oath. The allegiance to which they swear explicitly is just as binding on us implicitly. Acts in violation of it are referred to as treason, and will land one in jail without regard to how one came by one's citizenship.

In the United States, one is required to swear to, among other things, “support and defend the Constitution” in the citizenship oath. Suppose Mr. Roach were a longtime resident of that country instead of this. How far do you think he would get if he went to court and said, “I would have become a citizen, but I have reservations about the 16th, 19th, and 22nd Amendments. I cannot and will not swear to uphold and defend them. In not allowing me to swear as suits me, the United States has robbed me of rights and opportunities. Therefore, I and my co-litigants demand the right to swear as we please in being granted citizenship, and the award of damages of $5,000 on top of it...”? Just imagine.

Canada may, at some point the future, dispense with the monarchy and fashion some manner of republic. Then again, we might not. That's up to us. No one else. With regard to this, people have three choices: A) don't come here; B) immigrate, but remain an immigrant and forswear applying for citizenship; or C) swear the oath as required by Canadian law, in recognition of Canadian history, custom, tradition, culture, and constitutional heritage. What you don't have the right to do is come crashing in here saying “I ain't marryin' you till you get a nose job, ugly!” and then demand payment in lieu of lost marital privilege on top of it. Good God, get real.


Polt said...

I'd swear an oath to a maple leaf or a jar of maple syrup if it meant I could live in Canada and become a Canadian.

I agree deport him back to Trinidad and Tobago.


loneprimate said...

I should be clear that it's not the Queen per se. I would be a little sad to lose the reference, but I suppose I would understand if we, as a nation, felt it was best to play that down and quietly drop it. But the point is, we haven't. It's our oath, it's our country, and I think it's damned arrogant of someone to demand we change it to suit him. You want to change the club? Join first. Then talk to the other members about changing the rules. And if it's no, it's no. None of this "gimme five grand" nonsense. I don't particularly mind if Canadians do decide you have to swear on a jar of maple syrup, but that's for us to decide, when and if it suits us.

As far moving to Canada/being Canadian goes, you might not have to... check it out...