The Canadian government seems likely to fail in an attempt to stop a court hearing a claim that it is depriving republicans of a civil right.
The legal action, brought by Citizens for a Canadian Republic member Charles Roach, will seek a ruling that requiring new citizens of Canada swear an oath of allegiance to Elizabeth Windsor, the hereditary head of state, breaches the protection for thought, believe, opinion and expression guaranteed by the country's charter of rights.
A government lawyer told Superior Court Justice Edward Belobaba on 8 May that the attempt to bring a class action suit should not be allowed because it was frivolous and likely to fail. She argued that the case should not be heard as Mr. Roach had lost an appeal to a federal court on a similar case fifteen years ago. She also claimed that the court was not competent to hear the case as citizenship is a federal matter.
Justice Belobaba seemed unimpressed by the government's arguments. He suggested that what might be considered a violation of human rights could have changed in fifteen years. The judge told government counsel Vanita Goela that she faced an "uphill struggle" to convince him that the case should be squashed.
Applicants for Canadian citizenship are required to swear an oath to "be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors". Mr. Roach, a permanent resident of Canada, has not been allowed to become a citizen of Canada as he will not swear the oath, which he believes is undemocratic.
Mr Roach says that it is "coercion of my conscience" to require him to swear the oath. The Canadian resident since 1955 believes "the government should not force people to swear things they don’t believe in to gain citizenship. The symbol of head of state is so integrally identified with the Windsor family and privilege by birth that it offends my lifelong commitment to values of equal dignity and equal liberty."
Another republican who hopes to be included in the class action, Michael McAteer, told the National Post newspaper "In general, I don't like monarchies. If they would require me to take an oath to be faithful to Canada, that would be fine. But as a democrat, I think the monarchy is an undemocratic system that serves no purpose whatsoever." Mr. McAteer said that taking the oath would also amount to giving approval to whatever Windsor or her successor might do in the future, which was unacceptable.
Ashok Charles, 51, who has renounced an oath of loyalty to Windsor that he swore in 2004, said "I feel it was done under duress" .
Justice Belobaba is expected to rule within a few weeks on the Canadian government’s attempt to prevent a full hearing.
Since 2005 Canadian civil servants have not had to swear allegiance to Windsor. Australia no longer requires new citizens to swear allegiance to the hereditary head of state or her successors. Instead they swear loyalty to Australia and its people.
Ms. Windsor is head of state of the United Kingdom, Australia and other former colonies of Britain in addition to Canada.
Acknowledgement. Citizens for a Canadian RepublicPosted by Centre for Citizenship at May 16, 2007 07:52 AM