Hon. Warren Allmand (Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, Lib.)
moved that Bill C-223, an act to amend the Citizenship Act (oath of allegiance), be read the second time and referred to committee.
Madam Speaker, Bill C-223 proposes to amend the Citizenship Act and, in particular, to amend the oath of allegiance which individuals must take when they become new citizens. For the most part these are immigrants who have been resident in Canada for at least three years and have met the requirements for Canadian citizenship. In order to finally become a citizen they must take the oath of allegiance.
At present the oath of allegiance reads:
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 and fulfil my duties as a Canadian citizen.
It is my experience that this oath comes as a surprise to many new citizens. Many cannot understand why, if they are becoming Canadian citizens, the principal thrust of this oath is to pledge allegiance to Queen Elizabeth II who, in their opinion, is a citizen of the United Kingdom and not truly representative of Canada.
The purpose of this oath and any oath of allegiance is to pledge allegiance to assure loyalty and to assure good citizenship. Consequently, one would expect that the principal thrust would be allegiance to Canada, to assure loyalty to Canada and good Canadian citizenship and not loyalty to Queen Elizabeth II.
The present oath is ambiguous. It speaks of allegiance to Queen Elizabeth II, and later asks persons "to fulfil one's duties as a Canadian citizen". This is confusing and ambiguous. At a time when national unity is under attack there should be no ambiguity and no confusion with respect to our oath of allegiance. It should be absolutely clear that our loyalty is to Canada and not, unfortunately, to the tainted monarchy in the United Kingdom.
As a result my proposed oath, which is in the bill, would read:
I swear (or affirm) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Canada and the Constitution of Canada, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada and fulfil my duties as a Canadian citizen.
That oath is not ambiguous. There would be no confusion in the minds of new citizens. In taking such an oath they would know that they were making a serious commitment to Canada.
The present oath refers to Queen Elizabeth II as the Queen of Canada. It is true that the present Citizenship Act and some other laws use the expression "the Queen of Canada" but it is a legal fiction. It is not a reality. Queen Elizabeth II is as English as you can get. She is not a Canadian. She is not representative of Canada.
In recent history there have been several occasions when Canada disagreed with the United Kingdom and voted against the United Kingdom at the United Nations. The most flagrant case was in the Suez crisis, when according to the legal fiction the Queen of Canada voted against the Queen of England even though she is the same person.
If we want citizens to be truly loyal to Canada should we use such an absurd fiction? This proposal to change the oath of allegiance is consistent with other steps which we in Canada have taken since the end of the second world war to assert our national identity and our maturity.
I have in mind first of all the Citizenship Act of 1947. Prior to 1947 we did not have a Citizenship Act. We were merely British subjects. The first Canadian Governor General was appointed in the late 1940s. Prior to that we had English Governors General. Since that time all our Governors General have been Canadian.
In the late 1940s the Privy Council was abolished as the final court of appeal for Canada and the Supreme Court of Canada was established as our final court of appeal. In 1964 the present Canadian flag was adopted as our unique and only Canadian flag. In the 1980s O Canada was adopted as our national anthem and we no longer have God Save the Queen as our anthem. Finally in 1981 the Constitution was repatriated to make our Constitution a fully Canadian document.
Recent studies and polls have supported such a change. Last summer consultants for the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration held 12 sessions with Canadian citizens in various cities of Canada: Vancouver, Lethbridge, Toronto, Montreal, Trois-Rivières and Halifax. Strong opposition was voiced in these sessions by citizens to swearing allegiance to the Queen. Most preferred an oath which pledged loyalty to Canada.
A similar study was done when David Crombie was secretary of state in a Conservative government in 1987, but unfortunately no change was made at that time.
This is not a bill to abolish the monarchy. It is simply to change the emphasis in our oath of allegiance. The abolition of the monarchy would require a constitutional amendment and I am not proposing a constitutional amendment. My proposal is to pledge allegiance to the Constitution of Canada. It still includes the monarchy so it is a question of emphasis.
This bill would not abolish the monarchy but is consistent with other measures taken. It would downplay the role of the monarchy in Canada as it was when we adopted O Canada as our national anthem rather than God Save the Queen, when we adopted the Canadian flag, the Canadian Governor General and so on. I am proposing that we continue in the same tradition.
This change would not in any way change our role in the Commonwealth. Several Commonwealth countries like India and others are republics yet they still remain strong members of the Commonwealth and accept the Queen as the head of the Commonwealth, but that is a different matter.
I am proposing an oath which will emphasize Canada rather than Queen Elizabeth II. I am not wed to the exact words of the new oath in my bill. If someone in this House or elsewhere can come up with better words or expressions that have the same goal, to place the emphasis on Canada, then I would certainly be pleased to accept such a change.
My goal in doing this is Canadian unity and loyalty to a united Canada. The people of the United Kingdon are our friends and allies but they are a separate, independent country and no longer the masters of Canada. Let us have a made in Canada oath for Canadians, for Canada.
Topic: Private Members' Business
Subtopic: Citizenship Act