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The practice of requiring new Canadian citizens to swear an oath of allegiance to the Queen could violate the country’s charter of rights and freedoms, according to a leading judge.
Immigrants seeking to be citizens must swear to be “faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors”.
But Charles Roach, 73, a Toronto criminal lawyer, is challenging it in the courts and others are poised to follow in a huge class-action.
If they win, they are to demand token damages of $5,000 for those, such as himself, who refused the oath on grounds of conscience, or who were forced to swear it under duress.
Mr Roach, born a British subject in Trinidad and Tobago, told a court in Ontario: “I feel that we [blacks] were colonised as a people by the British throne, and we were enslaved as a people by the British throne and, to me, taking an oath to the monarch of Great Britain, without any disrespect to the Queen herself as a person, is like asking a Holocaust survivor to take an oath to a descendent of Hitler.”
The Canadian government is urging the court to throw out the case on the basis that it is “frivolous and doomed to fail”.
But cross-examining Mr Roach, Mr Justice Edward Belobaba called the case “a fascinating issue” and warned Canada’s attorney general that throwing out a charter case was “a very high, strong hurdle to clear. I don’t know if you will succeed today”. His judgment will be given at a later date.
(Posted on May 14, 2007)