Friday, October 24, 2014

Court to grapple with citizenship oath to Queen

TORONTO—Ontario’s top court is set to grapple with whether forcing would-be Canadians to take an oath to the Queen, her heirs, and successors is constitutional.
Three long-time permanent residents argue the citizenship requirement is discriminatory and violates their rights to free speech—a position the government rejects.

In fact, documents filed with the Ontario Court of Appeal, which is scheduled to hear the case tomorrow, show Ottawa intends to fight any adverse decision.
“Should the result of this court’s ruling be to strike down the oath to the Queen, the [government] requests that the order be stayed pending its application for leave to the Supreme Court,” the attorney general of Canada states.
In September, Ontario Superior Court Justice Edward Morgan ruled the oath requirement is constitutional even if it does violate free-speech rights.
Ottawa is appealing that part of the ruling—it says Morgan was wrong to find any free-speech violation—while the trio of permanent residents is appealing his conclusion that the oath does not violate their religious or equality rights.
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 permanent residents oppose the oath on religious or conscientious grounds. They say it should be optional—that pledging allegiance to Canada should be enough to become citizens.
“The oath requirement imposes a coercive burden on the appellants to express meaning and content to which they are fundamentally opposed,” they say in their Appeal Court filing.
The residents also note that people born in Canada or abroad to Canadian parents are automatically citizens and don’t have to make any pledge.
In his ruling, Morgan said the oath to the Queen is actually one made to a “domestic institution that represents egalitarian governance and the rule of law.”
The permanent residents argue that assessment was wrong.
“A plain reading of the oath to the Queen implies allegiance to Queen Elizabeth the Second as an individual, to her heirs, whether or not they ever become head of state, and to her successors, regardless of how despotic successors may be.”
For its part, the government maintains the three are in Canada voluntarily, and their religious and political views—even if anti-monarchy—enjoy constitutional protection.
The Queen, Ottawa argues, is at the top of Canada’s constitutional order and therefore represents the right to dissent.

More stories