The Oath of Citizenship is a solemn promise to follow the laws of Canada and to perform our duties as Canadian citizens. It is a public declaration that you are joining the Canadian family and that you are committed to Canada.
Since 1947, Canadian citizenship legislation has required citizenship candidates 14 years or older to recite the Oath at a citizenship ceremony as the last legal step before becoming a citizen.
The proposed amendment to the Oath demonstrates the Government’s commitment to advancing the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It also reflects the commitment to reconciliation and a renewed relationship with Indigenous peoples in Canada based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership.
The proposed language adds in reference to the Aboriginal and Treaty Rights of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples:
“I swear (or affirm) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada, including the Constitution, which recognizes and affirms the Aboriginal and treaty rights of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples, and fulfill my duties as a Canadian citizen.”
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Final Report states, “Precisely because ‘we are all Treaty people,’ Canada’s Oath of Citizenship must include a solemn promise to respect Aboriginal and Treaty rights.”
The related Call to Action #94 calls upon the Government of Canada to add reference to “Treaties with Indigenous peoples” in the Oath of Citizenship.
The Department engaged with the three national Indigenous organizations – the Assembly of First Nations, the Métis Nation, and the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, as well as the Land Claims Agreement Coalition, an organization that represents Inuit, Métis, and First Nations modern treaty organizations and governments in Canada.
These organizations indicated that the phrase “Treaties with Indigenous peoples,” as was recommended by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, was not reflective of varied Indigenous experiences, given that not all Indigenous rights are sourced in treaties.
The proposed amendment in Bill C-8 expands the wording of the Oath to address the spirit of the Call to Action, responding to what was heard, and describing a broad range of rights applied equally to diverse Indigenous peoples, using language that is reflective of the language used in Canada’s Constitution.
Supporting facts and figures
In 2019, Canada achieved its highest level of permanent resident admissions in recent history with 341,180 admissions, and is targeting admissions over 400,000 per year for the next three years.
Between 110,000 and 250,000 individuals are naturalized yearly. In the 2019 fiscal year, Canada welcomed 247,803 new citizens.
Over the last 10 years, Canada has welcomed nearly 1.76 million new Canadians.
There are approximately 1,700 citizenship ceremonies held annually (pre-COVID). Between April 1, 2020 and April 30, 2021, the Department welcomed 62,087 new Canadians at virtual citizenship ceremonies.
The current wording of the Oath of Citizenship, included in the Schedule to the Citizenship Act, dates from 1977 and reads as follows: “I swear (or affirm) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada and fulfill my duties as a Canadian citizen.”
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action #94 states, “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 fulfill my duties as a Canadian citizen.”
The wording proposed in Bill C-8 is identical to the previous Bills C-6 (February 2020) and C-99 (May 2019).As with Bill C-6, this Bill has a preamble and the title and summary of the Bill have been expanded from those of C-99 to clearly outline that the Bill responds to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action number 94.
Reference to the monarchy
In Canada, citizens pledge allegiance to the Queen as a reflection of our system of government, which is a constitutional monarchy. When citizens take the Oath of Citizenship, they make a solemn promise to follow the laws of Canada and to perform our duties as citizens. In return for that allegiance, the Canadian state, represented by the Crown, grants the privileges of citizenship, including the right to vote and the right to run for elected office
Reference to the Constitution
The Constitution – which includes the Constitution Act, 1867, and the Constitution Act, 1982 – is the supreme law of Canada. It sets out the basic principles of democratic government in Canada, and includes Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 explicitly recognizes and affirms the existing Aboriginal and treaty rights of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada. Section 35 also indicates that the term “Aboriginal peoples of Canada” includes the First Nation, Inuit and Métis peoples of Canada.
Further, section 25 of the Constitution Act, 1982 protects the Aboriginal and treaty rights that are recognized in section 35 and ensures that no other provision of the Charter can take away or supersede those rights.
The revised text of the Oath uses wording that aims to mention in a succinct way the broad range of rights applied equally to diverse Indigenous peoples, as described in the Constitution Act, 1982.
Not including reference to “inherent rights”
The inherent rights of Indigenous peoples include the rights that derive from their political, economic, and social structures and from their cultures, spiritual traditions, histories, laws, and philosophies, especially their rights to their lands, territories and resources.
“Inherent rights” is not a term which is used in section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. In contrast, “aboriginal rights” is a term which is used in section 35, which is why the Oath makes this reference. Section 35(1) recognizes and affirms the existing rights of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada, providing those rights constitutional protection. It is important to note that the Constitution does not create aboriginal or treaty rights. Rather, s. 35(1) recognizes and affirms the existing rights and in doing so, explicitly recognizes that such rights existed prior to their affirmation in the Constitution and do not flow from it.
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