Friday 31 October 2014

No oath, no passport. It's quite simple. Or is it?

Published 18/08/2014 | 02:30

Those taking out Canadian citizenship are expected to swear an oath of allegiance to Britain's Queen Elizabeth
Those taking out Canadian citizenship are expected to swear an oath of allegiance to Britain's Queen Elizabeth

It's the age-old Irish story - a person leaves these shores, goes to a new country and falls in love with their new home. They respect the fact that this new country offered an opportunity that was obviously denied to them in the place of their birth and they want to pledge their allegiance to their new sanctuary by becoming a citizen.

Emer O'Toole is such a person. A self-described 'hairy feminist', she is an assistant professor of Irish performance studies at the School of Canadian Irish Studies at Concordia University, which must be nice.

But as she pointed out in the pages of The Guardian (where else? I hear you cry) last week, she is unhappy about the prospect of taking Canadian citizenship because she objects to the part of which requires her to declare: "I swear (or affirm) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada . . . "

O'Toole has been living in Montreal for the last year and she graciously concedes that: "I'm impressed by the grassroots social movements. The arts scene mixes world-class talent with community feeling and flavour . . . "

But - and there's always a 'but' - she also argues that: "I want to be a citizen of Canada. But I don't want to swear an oath of allegiance to the queen. As a socialist, hereditary power is anathema to my conscience. As an Irish person I'm aware of the historical oppression of my people and culture by British imperialism."

I'm sure the average native of Montreal will be delighted that the artistic endeavours they offer are enough to impress Ms O'Toole. But it seems they are rather less than impressed with her attitude towards the oath.

The Toronto Sun carried an op-ed on the issue last week which provoked a veritable tsunami of outraged Canadians who are sick of the newly arrived who want to tailor the rules to suit their own political tastes. If you don't like it, was the general consensus, then go somewhere else.

O'Toole is not the first person to object to the idea. In fact, she's not even the first Irish person who wants to take Canadian citizenship, but only on their own terms.

Ontario Supreme Court recently ruled that requiring potential citizens to take the oath was not, as had been claimed, a 'violation of their constitutional rights to freedom of expression and religious freedom.'

That case was taken by a Rastafarian who believes the queen is 'the head of Babylon', an Israeli mathematician who says such loyalty is 'repulsive' to him and an 85-year-old Irish republican, Michael McAteer, who has lived in Canada for 50 years but thinks he's being victimised by being asked to doff his cap, if only symbolically, to Brenda and her brood.

All the objectors have one thing in common. They've been infected by a most virulent strain of 'rightitis'.

This is a chronic condition which results in the patient suffering from an endless obsession with, 
and an exhaustive knowledge of, their perceived rights and a complete ignorance of their responsibilities.

They have every right to refuse to swear an oath to the queen.

But they seem incapable of accepting that new citizens of any country have a responsibility to abide by the rules and expectations of their new home.

Whether it be the 85-year-old republican, the hairy feminist, the Rastafarian priestess or the 
Israeli maths dude, they are all united by their capacity for self-delusion. Because Canada is doing them a favour, not the other way around.

Another Canadian paper published a defence of the monarchy, which prompted O'Toole to huff that: "If you don't agree, you don't get in. I don't agree. I guess I don't get in."

Still, there's always America, Emer. Just head a few miles south and you won't have to compromise your oh-so-important feelings.

After all, as we see from their other border, they will let anyone in these days.

Irish Independent

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