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Letter of the Day

Swearing to the possibility

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Your April 19 editorial Canada's Queen conflates removing reference to the British monarch from our oath of citizenship with calling for the abolition of the monarchy altogether.

There is no constitutional requirement for a citizenship oath at all, let alone an oath that references the monarch. Regardless of the technical manner in which our institutions gain their power from the monarch, a sovereign country is free to grant citizenship as it feels -- it can be an oath, a handshake or a simple financial transaction, as is the case in some Commonwealth countries.

Of course, modern nation states like Canada and its citizens usually want something a bit more formal and public than that, hence the citizenship oath.

There are 16 countries in the Commonwealth realm that share the British monarch as head of state, and three of them have no reference to the Queen in their citizenship oaths. Neither do the republics of South Africa and India.

In 1994, Australia replaced its old oath with a pledge that "From this time forward (under God), 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." Clearly, Australia was able to jettison its reference to the Queen without mounting an insurrection, falling into a constitutional "brouhaha" or sinking into the sea.

Previous attempts in Canada to change our oath to something more reflective of our social values have been pilloried by reactionary, sentimentalist thinkers. Our legal head of state and what we as Canadians decide to pledge allegiance to are separate issues altogether. Conflating them hampers the ongoing discussion around our shared identity as Canadians.

PAT MARTIN

MP Winnipeg Centre

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 22, 2013 A10

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