To become a Canadian citizen a permanent resident must take an oath or affirmation to support the monarchical system of government. Indeed, even citizens must also take such an oath to hold elected office at any level. This oath states: “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 fulfill my duties as a Canadian citizen.”
Persons who believe that Canada’s Head of State should be democratically elected and not hold position by blood or birth, may find it impossible to take this pledge of allegiance to the Monarch and live by it. I have been a permanent resident for 50 years. My citizenship certificate was withheld when I refused to swear to be faithful to Elizabeth the Second, her heirs and successors. I have met many persons who, like me, are not citizens but are deeply involved in their communities.
Since 1988, I have been trying to effect legal change in this system so that permanent residents could gain citizenship without coercion of conscience or in violation of their freedom of thought. In my legal odyssey, I have appeared before four different superior court judges who have held on preliminary motions that the mandatory oath of citizenship violates the fundamental Charter rights of freedom of thought, expression, association and equality rights.
The Canadian Constitution prohibits permanent residents from voting at the provincial and federal levels. It does not bar them from voting at the municipal and school board levels. Permanent residents have the same obligations as citizens and must pay taxes. Allowing them to vote at the junior levels of government would be good initiation for their role as citizens.
Charles Roach J.D.