25 June 2015

Oaths, niqabs, and respecting the rules

Immigration Minister Chris Alexander made a curious statement recently when being asked about the government's proposed Bill C-75 which states that a person taking the oath of citizenship must "swear or affirm the oath out loud and with their face uncovered," and furthermore, "If a person is required to take the oath of citizenship at a citizenship ceremony, the person shall take the oath at the time, during the ceremony, when the oath is administered to the applicants." (The quotes are underlined as in the bill.) In other words, if a person would prefer to take the oath in private rather than at the ceremony, she is out of luck.

Alexander, in justifying the bill, commented that Canadians "don't want people to become citizens who haven't respected the rules." What is odd about his statement is that the rule he's concerned about is presumably the one in Bill C-75, i.e. a rule that doesn't now, and may never, exist. With the proroguing of Parliament, the bill died on the Order Paper. Currently a person may take the oath of citizenship in private and still attend the ceremony. This seems to work perfectly well.

The "person" I keep referring to is of course Muslim women who wear the niqab. Bill C-75 is entirely for their benefit. I doubt they feel honoured being singled out for such attention, however, as the bill is a gratuitous insult to their religious beliefs.

As for Canadians not wanting people who don't respect the rules becoming citizens, this born and bred Canadian disagrees with Mr. Alexander. If I were becoming a citizen, I wouldn't even be able to respect the citizenship oath itself. It reads, "I swear (or affirm) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada and fulfill my duties as a Canadian citizen." I would have no problem affirming that I would obey the law and be a good citizen, but as a democrat I would have real trouble swearing allegiance to a foreign, unelected head of state who got her job not by merit but by birth.

I cannot, therefore, in good conscience ask a niqab-wearer to violate her religious beliefs in order to swear to an oath I don't respect. Fortunately we won't have to make that request of our new citizens at least until after the October election, if then, as Bill C-75 almost certainly won't be resurrected unless the Conservatives win. It is in fact their second attempt to impose this rule, the first being struck down by the courts. The bill is a nasty bit of intolerance targeting a few people—very few—of one gender of one religion. It deserves to remain in its grave.


  1. Me and all the other members of the MORE PORN Church demand that all citizenship swearers do so naked.

  2. "but as a democrat I would have real trouble swearing allegiance to a foreign, unelected head of state who got her job not by merit but by birth."


    You said you don't have any trouble obeying the law. This despite the enforcers and administrators of those laws also being unelected. You said you would have no trouble being a good citizen despite the fact that your fellow citizens are unelected and the bureaucrats who help you fulfill your duties are not either. So why single the monarch out for specific ire?

    On that note; what do republicans have against foreigners? They keep saying the 'Queen is a foreigner' as if that should be a negative (if it were true). But were the Queen to stay here on a permanent basis I am sure they would be the same ones complaining about the cost. But by your logic if a Canadian doesn't live in Canada they should be considered foreigners.

    Finally, many Canadians get their positions (citizenship) via birth, not merit. Should they be required to submit to a means test before they can vote? Do they need to get a degree or own a certain amount of property?

    The citizenship oath is a reciprocal agreement with the monarch who promises in their coronation oath to reign according the Canada's laws and traditions. It is an agreement to support the sovereign as long as the sovereign behaves appropriately.

  3. I was interviewing for a government job 30 years ago and would not swear alliegence to the queen. I didn't get the job but that's OK. Better than obsequience to am shallow figurehead.