Monday, November 14, 2011

Canada's Citizenship Guide Was Not Written for Immigrants

In 2000, John Aimers, the Dominion Chairman of the Monarchist League of Canada, spoke at a Senate Committee meeting, on Bill C-16, an Act respecting Canadian Citizenship, that in part discussed the role of the monarchy in our country.  In 2002, Aimers objected when John Manley, then Deputy Prime Minister, suggested that it was time to abolish the monarchy.

Seeing a political advantage, Jason Kenney stood up in the House and declared:
Mr. Speaker, I rise to join millions of Canadians in expressing profound dismay at the rude and thoughtless remarks of the Deputy Prime Minister this weekend ....  [he] has a high responsibility to lead Canadians in honouring our sovereign as we thank her for her 50 years of graceful and selfless service to Canadians and members of the Commonwealth throughout the world.
I doubt millions of Canadians thought much about it either way, and "selfless service" would be a bit of a stretch.  We are not talking about Mother Theresa.  Queen Elizabeth is a very wealthy woman who lives large at taxpayers' expense.  If she was truly selfless, she would give some her fortune away to her "subjects" who are suffering because of cuts to essentials, like healthcare and education.

Personally, I hadn't really thought much about the Queen.  Some Canadians love the tradition of the Royal Family, and I never questioned that.  However, after first being made aware of the Monarchist League, once led by John Aimers, an Orange Lodge member with dual Canadian/U.S. citizenship, I'm now taking a very keen interest.

Jason Kenney not only showed his loyalty to the Queen, but also to the League, allowing them to all but write his new time warp citizenship guide.  The inducement for such a guide was not a desire for immigrants to have a better understanding of Canadian history, it was to present a guide to how all Canadians should be living, and to where our allegiances should be.

Aimers and his Orange Lodge were disgusted when Canada removed the loyalty oath that public servants had to take.  "I pledge allegiance to the Queen .... " and just as upset when the Citizenship oath, while still swearing allegiance to a foreign monarch, no longer included her "heirs and successors".

The "new" Oath of Citizenship reads:

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 fulfil my duties as a Canadian citizen

This was written for John Aimers, the Orange Lodge and the Monarchist League.  One supporter of the new guide wrote about how thrilled he was that his "8-year-old daughter [was] doing a school project on Henry Kelsey, a British fur trader, explorer and sailor who is credited as the first white man to discover the Canadian prairies."

"The first white man to discover the Canadian prairies?"  Why is this something we should celebrate?  Wow!

Who is John Aimers?

Aimers had been fighting for the Royal Family in Canada since the 1970s, when Trudeau sought independence from the Crown.  When not doing that, he was a teacher at several exclusive private schools.  A regular Mr. Chips.

However, the torch had to be carried by someone else, when it came to changing our rules of citizenship, because he was named in a sexual abuse case, while teaching at an expensive private school in Montreal.
According to the court documents, Mr. Aimers, a respected debating coach, allegedly offered to tutor D.J. at his home, where he plied the boy with liquor and marijuana.  "Thereafter, Aimers proceeded to fondle D.J.'s crotch and attempted to forcibly remove D.J.'s pants," the lawsuit reads. "Aimers kissed D.J. and forced his tongue into D.J.'s mouth and put his penis in D.J.'s mouth," the court documents say.
It cost Selwyn House millions.  Goodbye Mr. Chips.

Had the Liberals been working with a child molester to alter the social makeup of Canada, the Reformers would have been all over it.  Instead they've allowed his replacement, Robert Finch, to have crowns put back on uniforms, fly the red ensign (not YET our official flag), implement a citizenship guide reflecting "values" of the 1950s and place our navy and air force at the Queen's command.

Let the Games begin

Historian Margaret Conrad said of the new guide, that it “represents a new kind of Canada, one that is less sympathetic with my personal sense of a progressive, forward-looking nation, but the new slant is no doubt in keeping with the sentiments of the current administration in Ottawa ... It's kind of like a throwback to the 1950s, ... It's a tough, manly country with military and sports heroes that are all men."

Women were all but written out.

And we continue to be written out.
The appointment of female judges has diminished to a trickle under the Harper government, dashing any hopes that equal gender representation is on the doorstep. Only eight women have been appointed to the federal judiciary this year, compared to 41 men. Figures for 2010 were only slightly less skewed, with 13 women and 37 men being given judgeships.
The thought that Stephen Harper has appointed 99 judges in two years is frightening enough.  Paul Weyrich is cackling while dodging flames.

That citizenship booklet was a guide for us.  Welcome to Canada, unless you're a woman, a Muslim, a non-white, or anyone who reads the Toronto Star.

What we need is a completely new Oath:

I swear (or affirm)
That I will be faithful
And bear true allegiance
To Canadian values of tolerance
Equality and fairness
And join the fight to end poverty and homelessness
That I will recognize the full rights of gays and women
The rights of religion, including the right not to have one
And that I will faithfully observe
The multicultural makeup of this diverse country

Maybe we could even throw in in another one:  And I promise to never again elect a Reform Party government.  That one is for us, while we still have an us.


  1. Wow ... this is disturbing. And not just the sex abuse allegations. Aimers, a member of the Orange Lodge? What does he want to do next? Make Catholics walk on a side of the street opposite from Protestants (as was the case in relatively recent history)?

    I was also under the impression that when we say the Sovereign is "defender of the faith" or in the Canadian context, we interpret it to mean a defender of faith in general (not just the "Established" faith). Interestingly, Prince Charles is on record as saying would like the same in the UK -- changing fidei defensor to fidei defensoris .

    But I suppose that would be going too far for an antidisestablishmentarian like Aimers.

  2. Let's just be clear here - the Queen does not live at the expense of any taxpayers.
    It costs roughly 40 million pounds a year to maintain her public estates in the UK. However, her private estates generate (pre-tourism) roughly 60 million pounds per year. All of that money is placed in a public trust, which is then used to fund the public estates. Of the remainder, a small amount is given back to the royals as a stipend for functions carried out per year (Prince Phillip runs nearly 400 public functions each year), and the rest is tacked on to the UK budget.

    Here in Canada, we pay not a penny for the royals. Sure, we pay for their homecomings - but only the official ones. For instance, this past summer, Prince Andrew (who went to school in Ontario), came on a private visit to visit some old friends. They went on a series of canoe trips over a couple weeks.
    And what's wrong with paying for the visits? When a foreign dignitary visits, we cover their accommodation, security, food, even transportation. So when our own Head of State is present, or one of her official representatives (the status her family holds as far as Canada is concerned), you'd expect the level of hospitality to be at least that.
    And that's the beauty of the 16 Commonwealth Realms. Each has a Government House (like Rideau Hall), and when the Queen arrives at any one of them, she is automatically not a guest, but the hostess.

    The only money we shell out remotely related to the monarchy is the funds used to maintain Rideau Hall, Le Citadelle, the Government House in our province of residence, as well as the salaries of the Governor General and Lieutenant Governor (which is less than the salary of most MPs). I am okay with this - it's low cost, and the benefits are nice.

    There is a beauty in having a truly apolitical head of state and head of the nation - someone whose job is primarily to honour Canadians for their achievements with awards like the Order of Canada. Someone whose job it is to speak to Canadian values in a way no politician ever could. The Governor General accomplishes this task. And the Queen? Her and her family provide a continuity to the State which can never be provided by a government of the day. When Prince William has a child, we will effectively be sure of who our heads of state will be over the next 100 years.
    More than that, the use of a family as a model for the State is a rather lovely thing, but that's a completely different issue.

    To have the State embodied by a flesh-and-blood human being, and not some piece of cloth or abstract set of values that one may or may not agree on, is a very powerful thing. And I will choose apathy over an unelected monarch over disdain for an elected president any day.

  3. We do pay for the royals in other ways, including the maintenance of the Governor General. I'm breaking some of it down. The point is that we are an independant country, not a colony. There is no 'Queen of Canada' in most people's view, including mine.

    Catholics still cannot ascend to the throne and in the 21st century they are only now allowing women to? Convenient with two princes waiting in the wings.

    One single special interest group (The Monarchist League) should not have this much power over our culture and how our tax dollars are to be spent. How much is it going to cost for new uniforms alone? Will the League or the Orange Lodge kick in a few bucks?

  4. It's funny how folk think that the per vote subsidy to political parties was a huge burden on the taxpayers, but a huge percentage of these folk think $50 million for some pomp and circumstance is money well spent.
    It is also then gut splittingly hilarious to here these same folk talk about how important democracy is, for others that is all the while destroying it here.

  5. Actually, there won't be any new uniforms issued, just new patches, and different letterhead (I'm assuming you're referring to the Canadian Forces). There are also no structural changes taking place. The cost of restoring the original names of the forces (which I think the average Canadian was unaware had been changed in the first place - I know I was, until recently) will be minimal.

    As for the 'Queen of Canada' notion - that isn't some idealistic aspiration I'm inventing. Canada hasn't been a colony since 1867, and we haven't been a Dominion of Britain since 1931. The 1931 Statute of Westminster turned what was the British Empire into the Commonwealth of Nations. Today there are 16 truly independent, sovereign Kingdoms which recognize Elizabeth II as head of state. She is Queen of Canada as much as she is Queen of Great Britain, Queen of Australia, Queen of New Zealand, etc.

    On the note of succession - yes, the primogeniture rules will no longer be male-preference. This is a change I support. They are also removing the ban on Catholics. Considering the need for that ban no longer exists, I think it's reasonable to do so.

    The Monarchist League does not speak for all monarchists (I myself do not hold membership in the League, I never have, and have no desire or intention to do so at any point in the future). The League is an activist group - I am no activist. When I vote, monarchy isn't an issue I consider. I vote on policy - and that's a different discussion entirely.
    The Monarchist League is a special interest group in the sense that it specifically works to promote and educate on the role of the Crown in Canada. But most people I know tend to be understanding, accepting, and generally happy with that role, even if they aren't 'flag-waving, chest-thumping monarchists.'

    Crown symbolism and influence is everywhere in our culture. The military, the police, arts, culture even our highways - everything has been touched at some point in the last 500 years by Crown symbols, be they English, British, or French. All this, quite apart from how deeply entrenched the Crown is in our constitutional law.
    I take comfort in our system knowing that, no matter the government, ultimately all that power to govern is temporary, given to them by an apolitical and non-partisan monarch, represented by various Governors General throughout history (each who bring their own unique flare to the role). And that authority to grant such power comes purely from the people. Ultimately, it allows us to absorb even the worst scandals - because the government is not the state. It is a reminder that we are not a wholly political people, and I love that. It keeps us quite separate from messes like the USA Presidential elections, where rifts run deep.

    It may cost some money, but an elected presidency would cost more, and benefit us less. 1931 began a process of decentralizing the monarchy from Great Britain. I believe the 21st century will see that process continue - see the monarch's time spent more evenly amongst all the Realms.
    As they say, 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it.' Our parliamentary system has evolved over 1000 years, and the monarchy has evolved consistently with it. Unless it starts actively inhibiting the needs of the people, I am opposed to its removal.
    As they say, Vivat Regina!

  6. Hmm this will be fun. First off: Any activities carried out my Mr. Aimers is irrelevant to his support of the monarchy. It is a logical fallacy known as Ad hominem (another example being Hitler was a vegitarian therefore vegitarianism isn't right).

    The Queen (and other members of the royal family) Give their name, time, and administrative duties to literally hundreds of charities. As for cold hard cash the Queen cannot as much of her wealth is tied up in endevours which are said to belong to 'the Crown' which she cannot use personally. She also pays taxes on her wealth even though strictly speaking she is exempt (which is quite different from our business class which likes to hide their wealth offshore like former PM Paul Martin). The Observer has already gone into the financial details so I will skip that except to point out that the costs of the governor general would exist without the monarch so your point there is invalid.

    Your assertion that Trudeau wanted independence from the Crown is interesting considering his actions cemented its place firmly in the constitution. But let us backtrack to the citizenship oath for a second. Despite adding 'new' to your description that is the oath that has existed since 1947. There was an addition of 'Canada' to the oath 3 times in 1977 and that has been the only change.

    "Women were all but written out." Oh please. The Supreme Court sits with a near 50-50 split. The Senate has edged up to 32% of the seats held by women. This being better than the 22% held by women in the Commons which while increasingly slowly is still increasing. Then there is the obvious observation that the Queen is a women. Is there room for improvement? Yes, of course. Regardless, I fail to see how other actions by the Conservatives have to do with the issue of the monarchy.

    And finally we come to your proposed oath. First thing first: Are we able to come up with a set of Canadian values that people from coast to coast could agree to without exception or complaint? What if there are other groups who want their spot in the oath? Might your proposed social additions offend those very muslims you feel the current oath does not welcome? The current oath simply says "And that I will faithfully observe The laws of Canada And fulfil my duties as a Canadian citizen" which says everything you did with fewer words and without the risk of becoming a laundry list.

    As a final thought. The idea that embracing the monarchy somehow takes us back to the 1950s only seems that way because the monarchy has been ignored by a succession of Liberal governments. There is no 'time warp' monarchy, the monarchy is timeless.

  7. Even if the royals are living off a "royal trust" and no longer accessing tax revenue, where the hell do you think those funds came from?

    But that's the UK's problem to deal with. As for Canada, we should want to take pride in our independence and not rejoice in being taken back to previous days of being a colony. In my family, we have never thought of the Queen of England as anything but an English thing. If England wants to maintain a monarchy, so be it. But I and many others don't see any value in it whatsoever.

  8. Wilson, Aimers "Ad hominem" is not about suggesting that everything he is associated with is bad. I brought it up because that is a tactic the conservatives use to discredit political opponents. You can be sure that if they weren't in government, and the Monarchist League was being given so much say over what we do, they would be all over it.

    As to Hitler, Leo Strauss, the godfather of the neoconservative movement, developed an argument 'Reductio ad Hitlerum', in which he suggested the same thing, using vegetarian, animal lover, etc. etc.

    I have a counter argument, however. Hitler was not a vegetarian. He loved sausages and only gave them up periodically on his doctor's advice. And a young visitor described a scene where he beat one of his dogs almost to death.

    The vegetarian, animal lover was part of his public persona, that made Germans believe that he was a saint.

    The Royal Family are no saints, despite the public persona.

    But as Beijing York says, it is an English thing. It is their identity. We are struggling to find our own identity, independant of the British Royal Family.

    My mother was an English war bride. I don't hate Britain, but they are still a foreign country to me. My mother's Canadian citizenship meant everything to her. She spoke well of the Queen Mother, but had no respect for her children when Princess Margaret was embroiled in scandal.

    I think she realized then that they were just people.

  9. I should also mention that Forbes magazine pegged Elizabeth's personal fortune at $450 million. Does she pay taxes?

  10. Emily, that fortune is not a measure of income. Much of that money is either given to the British government to hold in trust, or it's entrenched in her private estates. The Queen actually doesn't have a salary, and never has.

    It is worth noting that the Queen does not hold British citizenship. As will all the Commonwealth Realms, citizenship is issued in her name, thus it makes no sense for her issue herself citizenship. But when her family travels to a given Realm, they travel using the passports of that Realm.

    So when the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge travelled to Canada this past July, they did so on Canadian passports. You know, those lovely little documents which explicitly state 'the bearer of this document is a Canadian citizen.'

    It is also worth making a mention to Autumn Phillips, the Montreal-born bride of Peter Phillips (son of Princess Anne), and mother of the Queen's first great-grandchild. Not that it matters where any member of the Royal Family was born - we don't have rules regarding country of birth surrounding any of our political offices, nor should we.

    I agree with your statement 'the royal family are no saints.' This is very true - in fact, I'd say this is a good thing. Again, there is a beauty in having the State modelled on a human family. But it's hardly a family that does as they please.
    For 60 years of her life, the Queen has been obligated to put aside her personal beliefs, opinions, and core values, to represent what she believes her people want of her. She is bound to a job from which she can never retire or resign (or abdicate - once crowned, that becomes an impossibility without a major constitutional crisis), which she inherited after the stress of it basically killed her father before his time (George VI only started smoking truly heavily once he inherited the throne). In her Golden Jubilee year, her sister and her mother died within months of each other. But she didn't cancel the celebrations from the year, she didn't hide in grief - she did her duty. She presented herself as the people believed she should, even if she didn't want to.

    But the quality of Elizabeth R's reign isn't what you're contesting here, so the above is in many ways a digression. Let's again talk about sovereignty.

    I think one of the most beautiful and under-appreciated international relationships in the world is the relationship between the 16 Commonwealth Realms - the 16 countries which recognize Elizabeth R as head of state and head of the nation. 16 nations, all with separate governments, and separate policies, and separate legal crowns, all looking to the same individual as the embodiment of all authority.
    This is not centred around Great Britain - the people of New Zealand might as well complain that they are reigned over by the Queen of Canada, and the British could complain that the Queen of Australia reigns over them. There is a sharing of sovereignty which is inherent in that, but that doesn't make these nations any less unique.
    Again, I would ideally like to, over time, see the monarch's time more evenly divided among the Realms. Perhaps Britain will develop a 'Governor General' type roll to accomodate that - but perhaps not (they do, uniquely, have the rest of the Royal Family holding official status). The monarchy has always adapted to suit the world of the day, and the moment it ceases to serve the needs of its subjects, I'll be the first to support its abolition.
    But sometimes it's irrational to ignore that which seems irrational. Constitutional monarchy - and the unique way in which Canada approaches that monarchy - has proven to be very effective. Let's not change a good thing.

  11. Finally, I'd like to stress that the monarchy is not a 'conservative value.' Let's not forget the late Jack Layton (may he rest in peace), who always referred to his party as 'Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition.' Or the fact that it was the Liberal government under Pierre Trudeau which entrenched the monarchy in the Constitution Act in the first place - more than any other clause (need agreement from all 10 provinces to alter it's roll, not just the 6 or 7 that everything else requires)! Quite apart from that, I have friends who are far more left-wing than myself (some Liberals, others who voted NDP), who are also adamant monarchists.

    HM Canadian Government under Stephen Harper is doing a lot of things - some I agree with, some I oppose, others I have no opinion on.
    But why stress support for the monarchy? In short, because it's easy.

    The vast majority of Canadians are indifferent to things concerning the monarchy. I think it's estimated that <0.5% of the population has been in anyway involved in debate concerning the Maple Crown. But within the NDP caucus, the topic tends to be internally divisive. Harper, being the attack-dog politician that he is, is choosing to use both of the above facts to his advantage.
    Thus he can do something like restoring the original names of the CF branches (which many people - even my cousin, who was in the air force - didn't realized had ever disappeared), and it won't affect him in the polls either way. Meanwhile, on the Opposition bench, the response is mixed, and not at all unified, making the NDP look 'weak' to voters.
    Now, this prompts a different question - is it right for your ultimate agenda to focus on kicking the other parties while they're down, even though your party has a majority and is free to govern? I'd prefer the focus to be on policy - but that's a discussion for another day.

  12. The Queen may not have a salary, but I assume her holdings earn interest. And what about all the other royals, who earn pensions based on blood not merit?

    Besides, at issue, is whether Canada still needs the monarchy. What is their role and why on earth would we want to plead allegiance to them? The Queen of Canada??? Are you kidding me???

    Our allegiance should be only to our country and our democratic institutions.

    Her office didn't save us when Harper stomped on our democracy and shut down Parliament twice for his own naked self interest.

    Most of us like the traditions and formalities, just as we love any traditions, including ancient Native ceremonies. It's part of our heritage.

    This is not about Jack Layton or the Liberals or the fairy godmother. It's about 2011, a multicultural nation and an attempt to recreate a WASP hierarchy.

    You can practice your own religion so long as you recognize that the Queen's religion is the law of the land.

    Funny thing is that I never really thought about this at all, until the renaming of our military.

    When Louis St. Laurent was acting as secretary of state for external affairs, he held a dinner party in honour of Ernest Bevin, then Great Britain's foreign secretary. At the end of the meal, Bevin got up and made a speech, praising Canada for standing beside Britain in her hour of need. 'His compatriots, he said, would never forget the way their cousins across the Atlantic had come to their assistance during the darkest days of World War 11.'

    St Laurent was not impressed by the implication that Canada had entered the war out of loyalty to the mother country, rather than for reasons of principle.

    In his reply to Bevin he went out of his way to emphasize that Canada's declaration of war had been an independent decision made by the country's elected representatives, that it was prompted by the nation's determination to fight Nazism and had nothing whatever to do with helping Britain.

    He was right. We are heading in the wrong direction.

    If the Queen needed saving, we'd save her, as we would any ally. But we make our own decisions and our military is our own. NO CROWNS!