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Canada Oath to Queen a reasonable form of ‘compelled speech,’ judge rules

Britain's Queen Elizabeth is pictured in July, 2013. An Ontario judge has ruled that the oath of citizenship that new Canadians must swear to the Queen is not a violation of anyone’s rights to free expression.

STEFAN WERMUTH/REUTERS

The oath of citizenship that new Canadians must swear to the Queen is not a violation of anyone's rights to free expression, a Toronto judge has ruled.

Three permanent residents challenged the oath of loyalty to the Queen as an affront to their beliefs and one that made it impossible for them to gain the benefits of citizenship, such as being able to vote or run for office.

One was an Irish immigant who said his family fought for Irish independence and he remains opposed to a "hereditary monarch who lives abroad." Another said he sees the Queen as a symbol of elitism, and a third is a Rastafarian from Jamaica who views the Queen as the "head of Babylon," and who believes she would not be able to speak out against the monarchy if she took the oath.

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They received a history lesson from Justice Edward Morgan of the Ontario Superior Court, who said he believes the oath is a form of "compelled speech," but a reasonable one under the Canadian constitution.

"Once the Queen is understood … as an equality-protecting Canadian institution rather than as an aristocratic English overlord," any violation of free expression is minimal.

Citing the fears of Rastafarian Simone Topey that the oath would constrain her from opposing the monarchy, he wrote that Canada was "born in debate rather than revolution, reflecting a commitment to engaging even while disagreeing with each other and the governing Crown." Advocating abolition of the monarchy or the secession of a province is explicitly permitted by Canadian law, he said.

Reached after the ruling, Ms. Topey said, "I don't have anything against the Queen. I believe the best citizens of a country are those who adhere to the longevity of the principles of human rights."

Selwyn Pieters, a lawyer on the case, said he expects the ruling will be appealed to a higher court.

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