Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

First penny, now Queen for Martin

Wants citizenship oath changed

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OTTAWA -- Look out Queen Elizabeth.

Manitoba MP Pat Martin's push to pitch the penny means billions of copper pieces bearing your likeness are being melted down.

Now, he wants you and that coming grandchild of yours gone from citizenship ceremonies, too.

Martin served notice Wednesday he intends to introduce a motion to change the wording of Canada's oath of citizenship, so new Canadians pledge their allegiance to Canada directly, rather than the Queen.

"It's a long-standing issue I've had," he said.

Time and again, Martin said, he attends citizenship ceremonies and notes new Canadians don't swear allegiance to their country. It happened again a week ago, at a citizenship ceremony at the Via Rail station in downtown Winnipeg. "It was a beautiful ceremony where 80 people of all ages from 21 different countries became Canadians," Martin said.

Well, he thought it was beautiful until they all stood up and read the Oath of Citizenship, which 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 fulfil my duties as a Canadian citizen."

"The first loyalty of any Canadian citizen should be to Canada, not to the hereditary monarch of England," Martin said.

Martin first tried to introduce a motion to change the oath in 2010, but he never got it further than the notice paper. This time, he said, he has private member's time coming to him this fall, and it will be used to introduce Motion 440. He hopes to drum up support during the summer for the motion that new citizens should swear allegiance to Canada instead of the Queen.

Martin said it is "wrong on so many levels" someone would swear allegiance to the Queen before they swear allegiance to Canada. What if England or the Queen are at odds with Canada's wishes, Martin said. What does a new Canadian do then? If you're going to take your oath literally, you would have to side with the Queen, he said.

He said he'd be open to compromising to have both Canada and the Queen in the oath, but would prefer it just mention Canada.

Martin acknowledged he hasn't had anyone standing on his doorstep demanding this change, but said he has heard of some people, such as those from Ireland, who simply don't become citizens because they will not swear allegiance to the Queen.

But he might not get support here.

In 2012, a Harris-Decima poll found 51 per cent of Canadians think the monarchy is an important part of Canadian and political culture and should be maintained, compared with 43 per cent who said it was a "relic of our colonial past that has no place in the Canada of today."

Support for the monarch was up six points from a similar survey done by Harris-Decima three years earlier. Manitoba and Saskatchewan had the highest love for the monarchy, with 63 per cent opting to maintain it and 32 per cent wanting to ditch it.

Manitoba junior cabinet minister Steven Fletcher, a strong monarchy backer, questioned Martin's judgment on this motion.

"I think it would be helpful if Pat Martin would focus on issues that are more relevant such as the economy," Fletcher said.

"He has one of the most socio-economic disadvantaged constituencies in the country and he's worried about constitutional issues?"

Ryan Cruz and his family took their oath of citizenship April 27, and he's "absolutely" got no problem with having pledged an oath to the Queen.

However, the native of the Philippines said with a laugh, "We just pledged it because we were asked to -- we just read it."

"As new Canadians, we understand the Queen is the symbol of Parliament and of Canada, and that's who we should pledge allegiance to," he said.

One woman who prepares recent immigrants for citizenship said Martin's idea is probably the least important issue immigrants and their support community face.

"What we need is money to provide services," said Linda Lalande.

Lalande said people who are preparing to be accepted as citizens are not going to say anything to criticize Canada's traditions.

Based on their previous countries, some continue to live in fear of being sent back.

Keith Roy is not about to agree with Martin. No huge surprise, Roy being the Monarchist League of Canada's representative for an area of Her Majesty's loyal subjects stretching from Manitoba to British Columbia -- emphasis on the British.

"People have never balked at this oath," Roy said from Vancouver.

"It's something they love, with all of our other traditions. People adore the Queen."

mia.rabson@freepress.mb.ca nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

OATH OF CITIZENSHIP, PLEDGING ALLEGIANCE TO THE QUEEN: "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."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 18, 2013 A3

History

Updated on Thursday, April 18, 2013 at 6:32 AM CDT: replaces photo

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