When new citizens swear an oath to the Queen, they are not pledging allegiance to her personally, the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled on Wednesday, rejecting a challenge by three permanent residents who have refused citizenship over an oath they say violates their political or religious beliefs. The group launched a constitutional challenge last year, arguing that forcing candidates for Canadian citizenship to swear allegiance to the Queen violates the protections for free speech and freedom of religion in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
In a decision issued on Wednesday, Ontario’s top court dismissed their objections to the oath, ruling the group was wrong to take the oath literally. The decision, citing previous rulings, says that would-be citizens are not actually swearing allegiance to the Queen herself as “the reference to the Queen is symbolic of our form of government and the unwritten constitutional principle of democracy.”
Peter Rosenthal, the lead Toronto lawyer representing the group, said his clients had not made a final decision, given the uphill climb involved in convincing the Supreme Court to hear a case.
One of the would-be citizens involved in the case is 80-year-old Michael McAteer, former Toronto Star journalist. He grew up in Ireland but has lived in Canada since 1964. He took issue with assertions in the appeal decision that those with republican or anti-monarchist views are free to express them even after taking the oath and that they could even “disavow” elements of the oath without any repercussions. Mr. McAteer said he would never swear the oath to the Queen just to obtain his citizenship.
The other applicants oppose the oath on similar grounds. According to court submissions, Simone Topey, a Rastafarian, believes the Queen is the “Queen of Babylon” and that swearing the oath would “deeply violate her religious belief.” The third, Dror Bar-Natan, an immigrant from Israel, calls the oath “repulsive” because he says the Queen is a symbol of inequality.
Lawyers for the federal government argued that those who refuse to support Canada’s “foundational constitutional structure” are not entitled to the benefits of citizenship, including the right to vote. Before the Court of Appeal in April, government lawyer Kristina Dragaitis argued that the Queen symbolizes the rule of law and the right to free speech. In a 22-page ruling last September, Ontario Superior Court Justice Edward Morgan laid out the history of Canada’s evolution as a constitutional monarchy and turned down the request to void the oath.
However, the Court of Appeal on Wednesday also agreed with a cross-appeal filed by the federal government and overturned Justice Morgan’s finding that the oath violates the Charter’s free expression rights. Mr. Roach, a long-time friend of Mr. Rosenthal, refused to swear the oath and become a citizen because he believed the Queen was a symbol of imperialism and because of injustices done to his ancestors in the name of the British monarchy.
Source: The Globe And Mail