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Thanksgiving and Being Canadian

Updated on October 9, 2016
Charles Roach, who used the legal system to argue that requiring immigrants to swear allegiance to the British monarchy before becoming Canadian citizens is unconstitutional.
Charles Roach, who used the legal system to argue that requiring immigrants to swear allegiance to the British monarchy before becoming Canadian citizens is unconstitutional. | Source
British monarchy. Three future Canadian heads of state.
British monarchy. Three future Canadian heads of state. | Source

Canada Has A Queen

One of the debates over the 2016 Thanksgiving weekend in Canada was the very notion of being Canadian, after the release of a joint CBC and Angus Reid Institute online poll that said 68 percent of Canadians feel that immigrants should do more to try and fit in.

The poll outcome, which was made public in October, came on the heels of Prince William and Kate Middleton’s September visit to Canada. According to the Constitution, the British monarch is Canada’s head of state.

Prince William, Prince Charles’ son will automatically become Canada’s king if he ever becomes King of England. Prince George, his three year-old son could also become Canada’s head of state in the near future.

Constitutionally therefore, being Canadian means loyalty to the British royal family, system of government and religion. It also means supporting all things British, not Irish or Scottish, but British.

The British monarchy is personified in someone called the Governor General and the present monarch, Queen Elizabeth 11 is represented by Lieutenant Governors in the ten Canadian provinces.

This constitutional state of affairs is proof that the Canadian tradition is not to fit in, but to retain what you brought from Europe. British and French settlers took the land but did not fit in the ways of the Innu, Anishinaabe, Cree, Dakota and many more First Nations.

Instead, they removed Aboriginal kids from their homes and kept them in residential schools to try and 'remove the Indian' in them. Survivors still find it painful to talk about it.

The sentiment that immigrants should do more to fit in should be specific. Fit into what?

Constitutional Law vs. Canadian Diversity

That is constitutional law. What is on the ground is something completely different. People who hold Canadian passports are as varied as animals on the Serengeti.

They were born inside and outside Canada. Languages spoken on the Yonge and Bloor subway station in Toronto or buses in Winnipeg are proof that the country does not have a language that can be deemed Canadian.

Fluency in both English and French, the official languages does not exempt immigrants from being told that they should try and fit in more.

Therefore, those advocating for newcomers to put an extra effort in trying to fit in, should provide a precise definition of being Canadian. Language as a criteria will not suffice.

Take India for example. The Constitution of India recognizes 22 languages, but we can safely guess that someone is originally from India. The following quote was taken from the source below.

There are as many as 880 languages spoken across India. 31 languages have been adopted by different states and union territories giving them the status of official languages. However, there is no national language of India.

That is not the case with Canada. We cannot look at someone and say she is definitely Canadian. We can perhaps correctly guess that she is Chinese, although that is also dangerous because she could be Vietnamese, Filipina, Japanese or Korean.

“Are you Jamaican?”

Black Canadians whose ancestors arrived in Nova Scotia in the 17th century find the question offensive. Therefore, we cannot use race to differentiate between real and pseudo-Canadians. That would be contrary to the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Canada and U.S.

Published comments about the differences between Canadians and Americans suggest that yes, there are similarities but the two neighbours are also different in many ways, such as the way they speak and their view of the world.

What is in short supply is the definition of ‘Canadian’. What is Canadian or what makes people Canadian? Do Canadians dress in a certain way? Do they speak more than one language? Do they have one religion or belong to different faiths? Do they have distinctly Canadian food and music?

Charles Roach Diaries

To Charles Roach, being a Canadian meant allegiance to the political entity and not the Queen of the British Empire.

If Canadian writers are true to history, they will have a chapter on Charles Roach in their books about Constitutional Law and how he died as a non-citizen because he refused to swear allegiance to the British Crown in order to be a Canadian citizen.

Roach argued that the provision under section 24 of the Citizenship Act that requires the oath to be taken is a violation of sections 2(a), 2(b), 2(d) and 15(1) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He argued that this is not a case about immigration but rather it is about freedom of conscience.

Charles Roach, a human rights lawyer based in Toronto until his passing in 2012, was born in Trinidad, a British colony. We are not constitutional lawyers so we can never fully grasp the constitutionality of the case, one thing for sure, citizenship is a one dimensional thing.

You take an oath to be true and loyal to one country, especially if you leave your country of origin, and seek a new life in Country B, Canada in this case.

Expecting Roach to swear allegiance to the British monarchy was tantamount to forcing him to endorse British imperialism, where this tiny country went all over the world, acquiring land through the barrel of the gun, the might of the British navy, fraud, deceit and religion.

Canadians. | Source

Canada a Garden

Canada is a garden of people, watered by the Amiskwi River, Athabasca and many other rivers. The way forward is to nurture all the flowers in the garden, and not yank some of them out from the ground by demanding that they should fit in more.

Canada has a foreign queen as the head of state because British settlers did not recognise the new land as home. They did not fit in, so newcomers to Canada should not be expected to do more.


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