Chretien nixed axing oath to Queen at last minute, ex-minister says


TORONTO – New citizens would be swearing an oath to Canada rather than to the Queen had former prime minister Jean Chretien not gotten cold feet at the last minute, his former citizenship minister said Friday.

As three permanent residents and the federal government argued the issue in court, Sergio Marchi said he had been poised to scrap the pledge of allegiance to the Queen two decades ago.

“I was very much of the belief that while we’re a constitutional monarchy, we should be swearing an oath of allegiance to Canada,” Marchi told The Canadian Press from Geneva.

“We were very close to doing this.”

Under citizenship laws, would-be Canadians must pledge to be “faithful and bear true allegiance to Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, her heirs and successors.”

Marchi, who served as citizenship and immigration minister under Chretien from 1993 to 1995, recalled watching people’s eyes “glaze over” as they recited the oath, often pledging allegiance to her “hairs” instead of heirs.

More importantly, he said, changing to a pledge of allegiance to Canada — Australia had taken similar measures — would be a forward step in the country’s growth begun a decade previously with the patriation of the constitution.

Marchi took his views to the then-prime minister.

“I believe fundamentally this oath is outdated, but more than that, the amending of the oath would be another step towards Canada’s full maturity and independence,” Marchi said he told Chretien.

“He seemed to like it and buy it.”

With Chretien’s blessing, Marchi said he assembled a group of writers and poets in Vancouver who produced oaths to Canada he described as beautiful, simple, powerful and modern.

Marchi said he prepared a document for a cabinet committee reflecting the changes and believed the oath to Her Majesty would soon become a relic of Canadian history.

Until the phone rang.

“Do you think the timing is good?” Marchi said Chretien was asking.

Faced with the looming Quebec referendum that had thrown separatists and federalists into a pitched battle that threatened to tear the country apart, Chretien was having serious second thoughts.

“I’m not sure I want to take on the separatists and the monarchists at the same time,” Marchi said Chretien told him.

In response, Marchi said having a Canadian oath would benefit federalist forces in Quebec, even if many Canadians didn’t like the idea.

Besides, he said, polls showed most Canadians favoured the change.

Still, the PM asked his minister to “park” the measure and Marchi did, knowing it might never resurface.

“He’s the boss, so we deferred, and we never returned to it.”

Chretien could not be immediately reached for comment.

In Ontario Superior Court Friday, three permanent residents argued the pledge to the Queen is discriminatory and violates their constitutional rights.

They oppose the oath on religious or conscientious grounds, saying they would be happy to pledge allegiance to Canada.

The government argues the oath has been around since Confederation and is an important symbol of the country’s heritage.

Conservative MP Peter Goldring was adamant the current oath stays.

“I’m weary of a lot of these stories of people who come to a country seeking a fresh start (and) a fresh life and then not really wanting to subscribe into the type of society that the country is,” Goldring said Friday from Ottawa.

“If you don’t agree with it, return.”

Marchi said he still regrets the change was never made.

“History and traditions need to be respected but futures also need to be built.”


Chretien nixed axing oath to Queen at last minute, ex-minister says

  1. With all the Royal this and Royal that that Harper has been reintroducing, it will take a court decision or a change of government to drop the Queen from the oath.

  2. Chretien was wrong…badly wrong.

    • As a former RCAF member Emily you had to say an oath of allegiance to the Queen when you signed up. You’re a bit hypocritical aren’t you.

      • I was in the CAF, not the RCAF….and I’ve sworn on the Bible too, even though I’m an atheist.

        • Then by definition you are a hypocrite.

          • Absolutely agree.

          • I’m not the PM deciding for a nation.

          • Chretien didn’t decide for the nation. We hear about this today. There was no decision to be made on the table.
            However, it would be interesting to go back to the time of the patriation and see if monarchy was discussed at all.

          • He could have ended it right there.

        • I am Mennonite and have never sworn an oath Ms.Hypocrite

          • You’re not a christian either

          • Actually brian is a Christian. You on the other hand don’t stand for anything. I agree with the above statements that you are a hypocrite, and further more you should stop calling yourself a former CAF member as you too unbelievable to have served, especially with your beliefs.

          • No Brian is nothing like what Jesus told him to be. And you are just absurd.

          • Are just as all knowing of the bible as you are of the modern CAF? Brian is calling a spade a spade. As John said above you are by definition a hypocrite.

          • Bob, you have no idea what you’re talking about. Either about the Bible, the CAF or me… go find something useful to do for the rest of the day.

          • What would an atheist know about the teachings of Jesus by your definition why should you care?

          • Most atheists have read the bible….which is why they’re atheists.

            Which is how I know you haven’t.

          • And you are a clown atheist playing God

          • There is no ‘God’

          • There is difference between knowing something and being a laughable ” know-it-all.” You are living proof of that. Quit preaching Atheist

          • I don’t usually ever mention atheism….it’s so-called ‘christians’ who bring it up. Just can’t get their minds around the idea that not everybody believes what they do.

          • You do more preaching than most Christians

          • I don’t do any at all. Apparently you don’t understand what the word means.

  3. Was it before or after he strangled that dude? Or after he knowingly lied about scrapping the GST? Worst PM in history of Canada.

    • Actually 2nd best PM. Harper is the worst. Even got Mulroney beat.

      • people have short memories. Borden and Bennett were terrible!

        • Diefenbaker. Harper.

          • Trudeau, Chretien

          • Now you’re just being partisan

          • And you’re not? Those two did more to dishonour this country than your partisan choices.

          • No, I was PC for 30 years….then Reform and CA

            I gave up party politics years ago…when Stock became leader in fact.

            Now I’d prefer a technocracy.

            However Trudeau and Chretien were fine as leaders on the whole….and certainly didn’t ‘dishonour’ the country. That doesn’t even make any sense. A country has no honour to diss.

  4. What was Chretien’s alternative? Having new citizens swear on a brown envelope and swear allegiance to the Mafia?

    • Swearing loyalty to Canada, not some Englishwoman like Harper is so eager to do.

      • Why swear loyalty to Canada? An oath to respect the laws of Canada would be enough.

        • Laws change.

          I think oaths are idiotic to begin with….another medieval leftover

          • Indeed the laws change – I am not surprised you could think of an oath to respect only the law of Canada in force on the day that the new citizen is sworn in.
            There is a man going through our justice system these days who needed to understand that we are equal under Canadian law.

          • I meant it’s a vague concept at the best of times….precisely because of that reason.

            All incoming citizens need to sign a document [that they have read and understood] the main laws of Canada. Equality of rights being the primary one.

            Then we could try getting our born-citizens to understand that.

          • IMO, an oath of allegiance to the queen is an infinitely more vague concept than an oath to respect the laws of Canada.

          • Yeah, but then you think the provinces are sovereign too