What’s the big deal about swearing an oath to the Queen?

An ongoing debate over whether new Canadian citizens should be asked to swear an oath of allegiance to Queen Elizabeth II has raised its head again, this time to be challenged in a court of law.

The Canadian Press reports that a group of Canadian residents (and would-be citizens) are challenging the requirement in court, claiming it is discriminatory to force them to pledge allegiance to the monarchy.

The Citizenship Act requires those applying for citizenship to affirm they will be "faithful and bear true allegiance to Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, her heirs and successors."

The argument goes that swearing allegiance to Canada should be enough.

Canada's relationship with the monarchy, aside from the whole Queen being our head of state thing, is one of vague indifference.

There are those who feel strongly in favour of keeping the system intact and those strongly in favour of cutting ties with the Royal Family entirely. The rest of us go about our day completely unencumbered by the tug-of-war, familiar with the Queen for her appearance on our money and familiar with the Royal Family for its appearances in tabloid newspapers.

[ Related: Would-be citizens set to fight oath to Queen as discriminatory ]

That new Canadians would have to swear an oath to the Queen is tantamount to them joining our club – a club with the single requirement of being aware. The Queen is Canada, Canada is the Queen. If and when republicans succeed in cutting those ties we can reconsider the oath.

The National Post's Matt Gurney makes the entirely reasonable point that if one were to have a problem pledging allegiance to the Queen, the best way to avoid the situation is to not move to a country that is part of her empire.

Gurney writes:

We don’t operate a stealth monarchy here. Anyone who’s chosen to move to the country, and has put in the time to get ready for the citizenship tests, will have had plenty of opportunity to learn about our system of government and how it came about. If anyone decides this isn’t the kind of system they want to be a part of, they’re certainly welcome to remain here as permanent residents. But you don’t get to skip on the monarchy part when trying to sign up with a constitutional monarchy.

Couldn't agree more. Canada's not forcing anyone to become a citizen; they are here on their own accord. It's like going to Tim Hortons and being angry when you can’t get a Starbucks coffee.

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But there is a simpler answer for those who are left with a sour taste: Just grin and bear it.

The only time swearing an oath to the Queen means anything is when the person who swears it actually means what they said.

Follow that? If you don't value the monarchy you should have no problem crossing your fingers, saying the words and dismissing it later. People who don’t believe in God aren’t too concerned about using the Lord’s name in vain.

Consider the oath similar to a like a math test. If you are asked for the sum of seven and six and don't say 13 because you are superstitious, you are still wrong.

After all, the oath is not a contractually binding agreement to take a bullet for Elizabeth II, should the need arise. It's just a statement that lets the people in charge of issuing Canadian citizenship know that you understand that Canada is a member of the Commonwealth and the Queen is our head of state.

If someone doesn't agree with that, then they don't understand the circumstances of modern Canadian society and shouldn't receive citizenship.

(Photo courtesy Reuters)

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