Oath of Citizenship bill tabled in Parliament

The formal announcement of Bill C-6:

The Honourable Marco E. L. Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, today introduced a Bill to amend the Citizenship Act to change Canada’s Oath of Citizenship. The bill responds to the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission by inserting text that refers to the rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The Government of Canada is committed to reconciliation and a renewed relationship with Indigenous Peoples based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation and partnership. The proposed amendment to the Oath demonstrates the Government’s commitment to reconciliation and to the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The new proposed language adds references to the Aboriginal and treaty rights of First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples:

“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, including the Constitution, which recognizes and affirms the Aboriginal and treaty rights of First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples, and fulfill my duties as a Canadian citizen.”

All new Canadians recite the Oath before receiving their Canadian citizenship. By doing so, new Canadians promise to abide by the laws of Canada and to take on the rights and responsibilities of Canadian citizenship.

The Government encourages all new citizens to join the Canadian family by becoming active in their communities and upholding Canadian values.


“The Oath is a solemn declaration that all newcomers recite during the citizenship ceremony. With this amendment, we will take an important step towards reconciliation by encouraging new Canadians to fully appreciate and respect the significant role of Indigenous Peoples in forming Canada’s fabric and identity.”

– The Honourable Marco E. L. Mendicino, P.C., M.P., Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship

“The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action are an important roadmap for all Canadians. From coast to coast to coast, orders of government, civil society, education and health-care institutions, and the private sector are demonstrating their commitment to this important journey as we build a stronger Canada together. The change to the Oath of Citizenship introduced today responds to Call to Action No. 94 and demonstrates to all Canadians, including to our newest citizens, that Indigenous and treaty rights are an essential part of our country.”

– The Honourable Carolyn Bennett, M.D., P.C., M.P., Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations

“Indigenous Peoples have a rich history and have helped shape this country. I encourage everyone to respect, learn about and understand the place and importance they have in this country. The Government of Canada is committed to fundamentally transforming the relationship with Indigenous Peoples. The change in the Oath is an important step to create a foundation for a stronger, more prosperous and inclusive Canada.”

– The Honourable Marc Miller, P.C., M.P., Minister of Indigenous Services

“The proposed change in the Oath recognizes the contributions that First Nations, Inuit and Métis have made to Canada. I am pleased that we are once again moving forward in making the Oath of Canadian Citizenship inclusive. Reconciliation and reaffirmation of rights will help Canada create a strong, inclusive Northern Policy that will benefit all Northerners and all Canadians.”

– The Honourable Dan Vandal, P.C., M.P., Minister of Northern Affairs

“I welcome the Government’s new legislation to change the Oath of Citizenship to better reflect a more inclusive history of Canada, as recommended by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in its final report. To understand what it means to be Canadian, it is important to know about the 3 founding peoples – the Indigenous People, the French and the British. Reconciliation requires that a new vision, based on a commitment to mutual respect, be developed. Part of that vision is encouraging all Canadians, including newcomers, to understand the history of First Nations, Métis and Inuit including information about the treaties and the history of the residential schools so that we all honour the truth and work together to build a more inclusive Canada.”

– The Honourable Murray Sinclair, Senator

Quick facts

  • The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Final Report states: “Precisely because ‘we are all Treaty People’, Canada’s Oath of Citizenship must include a solemn promise to respect Aboriginal and Treaty rights.”
  • The Government consulted extensively with national Indigenous organizations on amendments to the Oath of Citizenship.
  • Canada supports the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Declaration recognizes Indigenous Peoples’ human rights, as well as rights to self-determination, language, equality and land.
  • Today, Indigenous People are 5% of Canada’s population—more than 1.6 million people.

Source: Read more

This Canada Day, we need a new citizenship oath – The Conversation

Given the government’s failure to issue a new version of the citizenship guide, we do not know the degree to which the revisions would address these somewhat unrealistic concerns.

The revised version of the Oath proposed in C-99 was overall wordy compared to the TRC recommendation:

This Canada Day might be a good time for Canadians to think about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Calls to Action. At least three of those (No. 46, 47 and 49) call on Canadians, including newcomers to Canada, to reject concepts used to justify European sovereignty over Indigenous lands and peoples.

But my preliminary research shows that concepts taught in the process of acquiring citizenship continue to teach new Canadians colonial relations with the land and with Indigenous peoples.

To become Canadian, immigrants to Canada have to swear or affirm allegiance to the British royal monarch:

“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.”

In learning about Canada, new immigrants are taught that the Queen runs through all things Canadian. She is everywhere. Put your hands in your wallet, she is there. Walk onto any land that is outside of city boundaries, it is largely called “Crown” land.

But the Queen is a symbol of the colonization of Indigenous land, a colonization that is ongoing and is reproduced by the citizenship process.

Despite what many would like to believe, ideas of what Canada stands for are not all equitable.

What would it mean to follow the TRC calls, and study, learn and live Indigenous ways of relating to land?

Colonial citizenship

Canadian citizenship is a social construct — a concept that seems fixed but is actually created by the changing cultures and people in a society. The idea of Canadian citizenship carries ideologies and power relations that are perpetuated through forms of public pedagogy — like popular culture, education and gate-keeping systems such as the citizenship process.

To become a Canadian citizen, immigrants have to study Discover Canadaand score at least 15/20 on an exam that teaches them ways of imagining Canada. It details their expected practices and behaviours as citizens. It teaches them Canadian history.

For example:

“The arrival of European traders, missionaries, soldiers and colonists changed the native way of life forever. Large numbers of Aboriginals died of European diseases to which they lacked immunity.”

In this version of history, we are told that Indigenous people merely died from disease, not that these diseases were purposely spread by the British. We are not told that the colonizers practiced race-based genocide, starvation policies and the separation of children from their parents, through the Indian Residential Schools, the Sixties Scoop and the continuing removal of Indigenous children from their families.

Another excerpt has to do with Canada’s first prime minister:

“After the first Metis uprising, Prime Minister Macdonald established the North West Mounted Police (NWMP) in 1873 to pacify the West and assist in negotiations with the Indians.”

Actually, one of the first assignments given to the North West Mounted Police was to forcibly relocate Indigenous communities in the path of the Canadian railway and Macdonald is the architect of the Indian Residential School system.

A third excerpt uncritically explains:

“Mining remains a significant part of the Canadian economy.”

A history of death and neglect

Colonial ways of imagining and belonging to Canada and colonial relationships with Indigenous people are at the heart of injustices that Canada continues to perpetuate.

Colonization is a key driver of how the federal government continues to neglect the health and education of Indigenous children. And the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women report directly links the ongoing deaths of Indigenous women, girls and trans-people to colonial structures.

This colonial history presents a unique set of challenges for immigrants who have pledged their allegiance to a colonial queen. The citizenship exam attempts to bring new immigrants into Canada as allies of colonialism and frames Canada as a benevolent nation. How can immigrants decolonize their relationship to Canada?

Honoring indigeneity for immigrants is not just about saying we are all settlers — a term that assumes we are all white and relate to Canada in identical ways. And honouring indigeneity is not just a land acknowledgement in a ceremony — though that can be a starting point.

A new oath of citizenship

In her book, Pathways for Remembering and Recognizing Indigenous Thought in Education, University of Toronto Prof. Sandra D. Styres explains that Indigenous ways of relating to land centre on three practices: learning whose traditional lands we are on; committing to understanding stories and knowledges of those lands; and choosing to respect these stories of the land.

These Indigenous ways of relating to land are different from the colonial ones most Canadians are taught. These ways do not fit neatly with Canada’s colonial relations to the Queen to whom Canadians have pledged allegiance.

The TRC has called for a new oath of citizenship:

“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 including Treaties with Indigenous Peoples, and fulfill my duties as a Canadian citizen.”

Learning Indigenous philosophies

Such an oath is in the works, and would highlight immigrants as treaty people and their treaty obligations. But what of the history of colonial relations that immigrants are asked to learn and subscribe to so they can become citizens?

In 1974, the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry, also known as the Berger Inquiry, sought input from Indigenous nations about opening up their lands of the Yukon and the Northwest territories to a pipeline. Phillip Blake, a Dene and social worker, testified at a community hearing in 1975. His words offer a powerful philosophy for relations of belonging for those who come to settle on Indigenous land:

“We have always tried to treat our guests well, it never occurred to us that our guests would one day claim that they owned our whole house. Yet that is exactly what is happening.…White people came as visitors to our land. Suddenly they claim it as their land. They claim that we have no right to call it Indian land, land that we have occupied and used for thousands of years.…

I strongly believe that we do have something to offer your nation, however, something other than our minerals. I believe it is in the self-interest of your own nation to allow the Indian nation to survive and develop in our own way, on our own land. For thousands of years we have lived with the land, we have taken care of the land, and the land has taken care of us…

It is our greatest wish to be able to pass on this land to succeeding generations in the same condition that our fathers have given it to us.…I believe your nation might wish to see us, not as a relic from the past, but as a way of life, a system of values by which you may survive in the future. This we are willing to share.”

Source: This Canada Day, we need a new citizenship oath – The Conversation

New citizen takes stand against swearing allegiance to the Queen

Another one:

Srabon Salim loves Canada. The Queen? Not so much.

Immediately after taking the oath during a citizenship ceremony in Prince George on Friday, he presented a letter to the judge announcing he has disavowed his pledge of allegiance to the Queen.

“My core values can’t accept the medieval idea of monarchy in 2016 as it creates social divisions and hereditary hierarchy in social privileges,” Salim says in the letter, which he also sent to John McCallum, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship. “I highly regard that every child’s birth is royal for every parent. It is hard for me to regard someone as ‘royal’ simply because he/she was born in a so-called ‘royal’ family. I like to look at my three little boys with a high pride of self esteem that they are socially equal to any other member in this Canadian society.”

A mechanical engineer at Canfor Pulp, Salim, 38, grew up in Bangladesh but has also lived in Saudi Arabia, Japan, Australia, the Philippines, the Netherlands and even England before he and his wife, Famina, 32, decided Canada is where they want to settle down.

It was while studying for the citizenship test that he learned he would have to swear allegiance to the Queen.

“We had been looking forward to staying in this country and then this pledge thing,” Salim said in an interview. “It was actually bothering me…I thought that I have to do something about this.”

Source: New citizen takes stand against swearing allegiance to the Queen

It’s time Canada scrapped oath to Queen: Hepburn

Bob Hepburn on the citizenship oath and some of the silly commentary regarding those who oppose the current oath to the Queen:

“Forget the legalese,” wrote Naomi Lakritz, a Calgary Herald columnist. “Here’s a little populist language: If you don’t want to follow a basic rule for becoming a citizen of this great country — the best place in the world to live — then, don’t come here.

“And if you insist on coming here, don’t think you’re entitled to dictate how you are to become a citizen,” she added. “Go home, all three of you, because it’s not the oath that’s repugnant, it’s your attitude.”

A Toronto Sun editorial wailed about people who, like me, don’t like having the Queen as Canada’s head of state or who don’t like seeing the Queen’s face on our stamps and coins.

“If you don’t want to be a citizen of such a country, this may not be the place for you,” the Sun said.

Such attacks are unjustified and unwarranted, given that so many Canadian-born citizens are as outraged and disgusted as the three court challengers that Canada, which brags of its independence, still maintains ties with the British monarchy.

While judges may have decided they can’t change this law, there is nothing stopping Parliament from amending the Immigration Act.

Nothing but political will, that it.

It’s time Canada scrapped oath to Queen: Hepburn | Toronto Star.

A distinctly Canadian oath – I’ll swear to that – Yakabuski

Konrad Yakabuski, in an otherwise good overview of the Canadian oath of citizenship, misplaces the question of the oath with the question of being a republic.

“Constitutional monarchy is the best form of government that humanity has yet tried,” Dylan Matthews concluded in an empirical report, published last year in The Washington Post. “It has yielded rich, healthy nations whose regime transitions are almost always due to elections and whose heads of state are capable of being truly apolitical.”I’ll swear to that.

After all, Australia changed its citizenship oath while remaining a constitutional monarchy:

From this time forward, under God (under God optional),

I pledge my loyalty to Australia and its people,

whose democratic beliefs I share,

whose rights and liberties I respect, and

whose laws I will uphold and obey.

A distinctly Canadian oath – I’ll swear to that – The Globe and Mail.

The Star, argues the opposite from Yakabuski, noting Australia as above and the UK change for new citizens to  “give my loyalty to the United Kingdom and respect its rights and freedoms,” in addition to swearing allegiance to the Queen:

But that doesn’t mean the oath to the Queen cannot — or should not — be changed by the people and their Parliament. The very principles symbolized by the Crown guarantee the right of all Canadians to work through the constitutional system for this kind of political reform.

In fact, the oath of allegiance can — and should — be changed. Not because it violates any newcomer’s private political beliefs. It should be changed because a straightforward declaration of loyalty to Canada, its laws and traditions would be much more meaningful to the quarter million who choose this country every year.

Adopting an oath of allegiance to Canada would not affect the Canadian monarchy one bit. Elizabeth II would remain the Queen of Canada, and the Crown would remain the symbol of our constitutional, democratic system.

New citizens should pledge loyalty to Canada: Editorial


Oath to the Queen ‘repugnant’ to some, appeal court told

Yet another court case on the citizenship oath. I do not expect the plaintiffs to win given that the Crown is more in the institutional sense rather than literal sense (see Philippe Legacé’s The Citizenship Oath and the Nature of the Crown in Canada):

Oath to the Queen ‘repugnant’ to some, appeal court told – Toronto – CBC News.

While a case can be made for changing the oath, as Australia did, better this be done through the political process rather than by the courts.

The Queen and I find middle ground – The Globe and Mail

Nice piece by Ratna Omidvar on how one’s background influences one’s perception of the Monarchy and the citizenship oath. Warm embrace of our British heritage, despite the difficult elements of British Colonial history for some groups.

Despite the efforts of Discover Canada and related publications to explain the role of the Crown in the Canadian system, discussion tends to revolve around the question what should the wording of the Canadian citizenship oath be within context of our current system of government.

The Queen and I find middle ground – The Globe and Mail.