08 April 2016

Excluded by God and Queen

It seems some new Canadians are having crises of conscience with the Canadian Citizenship Oath. The oath 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 fulfil my duties as a Canadian citizen." 

The problem lies with the Queen bit. None of the dissenters has objected to swearing to faithfully obey our laws and duties—quite the contrary, they look forward to enjoying their rights and responsibilities as Canadians—but swearing fealty to a monarch, particularly a foreign one, they find offensive. So do I for that matter, but fortunately I don't have to take the oath.

A website has been set up that lists a number of dissenters along with some quite intriguing quotes explaining their views.

In addition to the Queen's intrusion on Canadian citizenship, God's presence can be equally tiresome. Our national anthem, quite aside from misogynistically demanding patriotic love only from men, begs God to "keep our land glorious and free." That, it seems to me, is our responsibility, not some mythical being's.

And then there's God poking Its nose into our constitution. The introductory phrase to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms reads Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law:. I fail to see how the rights guaranteed in the Charter have anything to do with the supremacy of a religious fiction.

Not that any of this stuff need mean anything. It's essentially just symbolic. New Canadians can take the oath and then disavow the Queen bit. I personally, like many other Canadians, simply never sing the anthem. The Charter intro is a bit more problematic; nonetheless, the instrument guarantees freedom of speech, so you are free to express the view that its introduction is half nonsense.

Nevertheless this kind of language is exclusive. It suggests that if you believe a head of state should be elected, or at least chosen on merit, and if you don't believe in a god, both widely held and perfectly respectable beliefs, then you aren't one of the club, you're not quite Canadian.

It is possible of course to write what are intended to be inclusive instruments in inclusive language. Someday, perhaps, someone will do that and we will no longer have to pretend we are all monarchists and believers.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, it's stupid that oath with the Queen and God references.

    I was 11 when my family came to Canada from England in 1959. Rural NS and the old man was a Doc.

    Anyway, as soon as the 5 years were up, he and Mum filled in the papers and took the oath in front of the Town Clerk, things being a little less formal in those halcyon days. The next year, I went in to see the Clerk and swear the oath. So I read it and said, well considering I'm a Brit and swore this same thing every Xmas at school and every Boy Scouts meeting, it all seems a bit pointless. But what the hell, I read it off for him from some dog-eared card that had been folded a hundred times. Had to unfold the last bit, where it says "And so help me God".

    Started laughing my head off, and the Clerk wanted to know why of course. So I showed him the beautiful fountain pen written words under that sentence:

    'I will'

    Been a great place for me. Never worried much about the oath myself as the Queen was the last thing on my mind. Canadian Armed Forces officers don't swear allegiance to Canada either, but to the Queen. At least back in the 1960s they did. I wonder if they ever changed that or whether there could be a fifth column leading our troops if the chips were down.