Canadians – and future Canadians, it seems – don’t understand the Canadian Crown. A group of immigrants applying for Canadian citizenship are going to court and demanding to cede the oath to “her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, [and to] Her Heirs and Successors” from the citizenship process because it violates their Charter rights.
Two of their claims is that the Monarchy is an archaic institution that has no place in modern day Canada, and that it is a symbol of inequality.
In the affidavit, applicant Michael McAteer complained that “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.” Charles Roach complained that the oath still causes him “discomfort and distress.”
There is a simple answer to this non-problem. Don’t move here. Don’t move to one of the forty-three nations with a monarchy either. But the arguments of the plaintiffs are flawed even beyond that point .The argument displays such ignorance of our Constitution and our history.
Yes, monarchy is an archaic system. It is a tyranny where one authoritarian rules over all others with no system of checks and balances. Thank god Canada is a constitutional monarchy.
An oath to the Queen is not an oath to so-called undemocratic principles, but rather an oath to all that the Queen represents. It is an oath to our system of governance, our institutions, our Constitution, and our way of life. Taking an oath to the Queen is equivalent to taking an oath to Canada. Refusing to do so is the refusal to follow law, much as it would be if an American immigrant refused to pledge allegiance to the Constitution.
Indeed, to say that the Crown is a symbol of inequality is a blatant insult to our history. The Crown in Canada has historically been the protector of equality, in the limited power it had to do so. While relations with First Nations by elected governments have often been shameful, the Crown enjoys a healthy relationship with them, a bond that has been around since the eighteenth century. It is so entrenched that Native leaders during the Idol No More movement demanded that the Governor General, the Queen’s representative in Canada, be present at any meeting with government officials since their sovereign land was put into the trust of the Crown. To First Nations, the elected government is not legitimate, only the Crown has that title.
The claim of inequality is curious. Despite being a constitutional monarchy, Canadians have never had a domestic class system based on titles and heredity, unlike the expansive gentry in Great Britain. The Queen herself does not rule over Canadians, she reigns. We are her subjects, not her puppets. It was also through our Royal connection that slavery was abolished long before the American Civil War and that the French language was preserved North of the republic, unlike the assimilation tactics that took place in Louisiana.
The complaints that the Crown somehow violates an immigrant’s right to religion is bupkis. Being a corporation sole separates the head of the Church of England from the Queen of Canada. The Queen has no other official role in Canada other than as head of state. The factum takes a very broad definition of religion, pointing out that the courts have protected vegetarianism under section 2(a) of the Charter, but it would be a mistake for any court to use this extremely broad and minor precedent for such a major decision as changing who new Canadians show their loyalty to.
Furthermore, the Crown is deeply entrenched in our Constitution, the legal legitimacy of the Monarchy is not a subjective matter, it just is. Refusing to recognize the role of the Queen is equivalent to refusing to acknowledge the existence of the prime minister or the power of your local police force. It’s a form of anarchy, and those seeking to become citizens should not wish to disassemble our social contract before even receiving their passports.
And of all people, those applying for citizenship should be aware of this. Unlike most Canadians, they have had to learn about Canadian civics and they understand better than most the role of the Crown. Native-born Canadians have the benefit of tacitly agreeing to the social contract. For those wishing to immigrate to a new land of opportunity, demanding an oath of loyalty to everything the Crown represents is not too much to ask before welcoming them with open arms.