Amendments to Oath of Citizenship Contain Neither Truth Nor Reconciliation

Parliament is in the process of amending the Oath of Citizenship required of naturalized citizens. The legislation, Bill C-8, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act (Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada's call to action number 94) is at third reading. It is a duplicitous piece of legislation which does nothing to right historical wrongs against Indigenous peoples as is the intention of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It takes as its starting point an anachronistic oath of allegiance to the Queen of England, called Queen of Canada. This is despite the fact the majority of Canadians consider "the monarchy is out of date and no longer has its place in the 21st century." So said recent polls conducted by Angus Reid, Abacus Data, Research Co. and others who claim they hold true for all regions of the country and for all age groups. They found that less than 25 per cent of respondents had an allegiance to retaining the monarchy.

It is undemocratic and contrary to the will of the majority to compel naturalized citizens to swear allegiance to a foreign monarch who those that acquire citizenship by birth do not support. Far from having naturalized Canadians swear allegiance to the Queen of England, it is high time the matter of who and how Canada's head of state is chosen is settled.

The monarchy is an institution which is not only medieval but rotten and corrupt to the core. It is a burden which the Queen's so-called subjects have to bear -- all of them but especially the peoples of Scotland, Wales and all those who live in the so-called Duchy of Cornwall and other duchies forced to fill the royal coffers. Amendments to the Oath of Citizenship now not only ask for allegiance to the Queen of England, called the Queen of Canada, but also to the Constitution which is an already anachronistic and discriminatory piece of legislation.

This is a step backwards. By raising the issue of the Constitution, which has never even been signed by Quebec, the amendments proposed in Bill C-8 cause further divisions in the polity. The demand that new citizens pledge to uphold treaty rights but not the national rights of Quebec is trouble-making and shows the government is sincere about neither. To create the illusion that the government is not racist because it says citizens must pledge allegiance to treaty rights is despicable given that respecting treaty rights is a responsibility of government not of citizens per se who are presently powerless in any case.

No citizen or resident of Canada should be asked to swear allegiance to any values whatsoever which is a violation of the person's conscience. Meeting the objective requirements of citizenship and pledging to uphold the rights and duties required of everyone equally should be sufficient. Nowhere does Canada spell out the rights and duties that are common to all citizens, whether by birthright or naturalization. Those born in Canada do not have to swear allegiance to anything so it is improper to demand that those permanent residents accorded citizenship should be asked to do so.

The Trudeau Liberals crafted this legislation to give an appearance of acting upon the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Recommendation 94 which speaks of amending the Oath of Citizenship to say new citizens pledge to "faithfully observe the laws of Canada including Treaties with Indigenous Peoples." It is not properly worded in the sense that it is the duty of governments to uphold the treaties which are nation-to-nation documents, not the duty of individual citizens, who are themselves trying to hold governments to account for violations of the treaties.

The Liberal government through its Minister of Immigration, instead proposes to amend the Oath of Citizenship to read: "I swear (or affirm) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada, including the Constitution, which recognizes and affirms the Aboriginal and treaty rights of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples, and fulfil my duties as a Canadian citizen."

A modern definition of citizenship recognizes all members of the polity to be equal with the same rights and same obligations. Every citizen, or resident for that matter, is bound to comply with the law, which includes the Constitution, so what is gained by compelling a naturalized citizen to take such an oath? An applicant who has met the requirements of acquiring naturalized citizenship should need only pledge to fulfill the rights and duties expected of every citizen -- nothing more or less.

It is thoroughly dishonest on the part of the Trudeau Liberals to insert into the Oath of Citizenship, allegiance to "the Constitution, which recognizes and affirms the Aboriginal and treaty rights of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples." By sleight of hand, treaties with Indigenous peoples' are mentioned but not their inherent hereditary rights and with the understanding that they are defined as Canadian laws as given in the Constitution to be interpreted by a power above the Indigenous peoples themselves. It is colonizer-speak.

There is no truth or reconciliation in the new oath that the cartel parties will pass. The Bloc Québécois does not agree with the inclusion of the Constitution which Quebec has not signed. Bloc MPs Sylvie Bérubé and Marie-Hélène Gaudreau said as much when debating Bill C-8 on February 24. They also importantly noted that the Constitution fails to define the Canadian federation as a "free association of equal nations" or to acknowledge the inherent rights of Indigenous peoples.

Despite the Liberal declarations that Bill C-8 follows through on one of the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the revisions to the oath run counter to the spirit, principles and the aim of the Commission's recommendations. For the government to introduce and pass a law which compels naturalized citizens to swear allegiance to the Canadian colonial rendering of those relations is a dastardly act.

The only pledge that could be asked of new citizens is: I pledge to uphold the rights and obligations of citizenship.

(With files from CBC News, McGill Journal of Political Studies, HBRC Archives)

This article was published in

Volume 51 Number 4 - April 4, 2021

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