The Canadian Citizenship Oath Gets Set For A Revision

22 Mar 2023

New Canadians Will Soon Acknowledge and Honour Treaties With First Nations and Indigenous Peoples

As per the CBC, soon, new Canadians will promise to honour treaties with Indigenous peoples as part of their oath during Canadian citizenship ceremonies. This is all as per a mandate letter from Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen, who lists making the change to the swearing-in ceremony one of his key priorities. The proposed change is in line with the recommendations as set out in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action.

“We call upon the government of Canada to replace the Oath of Citizenship with the following: I swear (or affirm) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, her heirs and successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada, including treaties with Indigenous peoples, and fulfil my duties as a Canadian citizen.”

The current oath does not include the reference to the treaties as proposed to be changed. The call for action was among 94 recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in December 2015, all of which are intended to paint a more accurate and inclusive picture of the Canadian societal and historical fabric. Part of that would include information about the treaties and even the dark history of residential schools.

Independent Senator Murray Sinclair indicated that the final wording will likely see some adjustment, but welcomed the revisions to the citizenship oath as a way to educate immigrants about the country’s history and historical legacy.

“I think it’s out of step with the TRC’s own call to action to renounce the Doctrine of Discovery,” he said in reference to a group of 15th century decrees that were the basis of European explorers’ claims to Aboriginal land – Tom McMahon

Others don’t think it goes far enough. Tom McMahon, who served as general legal counsel to the TRC, said the government should take the opportunity to reword the entire oath. He said one that honours indigenous people but retains a mandatory allegiance to the Queen is incongruent with the “colonialist” past and today’s Charter rights.