Here’s an idea. Why don’t we move to Japan, loudly announce our unwillingness to live by Japan’s rules, show utter disrespect for the Tenno, and file a lawsuit against the Japanese government demanding that Japan change its ways to accommodate us. How far do you think we would be able to get with that?
The answer is that we would not get very far at all because Japan has a far more sensible attitude towards this sort of thing than we do and would simply not put up with it. We could learn a lesson or two from the Land of the Rising Sun.
Recently the Canadian news media treated us to a story of how certain immigrants who had become permanent residents in Ontario had launched a legal challenge against our country over the requirements we impose on those who have moved here and desire and seek citizenship. It is the Oath of Citizenship that they take umbrage with and specifically the part of the Oath where the new citizen is required to swear allegiance to Queen Elizabeth II and her heirs and successors. These would-be new Canadians maintain that this is a violation of their rights and that they should be allowed to pledge their loyalty to the country without swearing fealty to its Sovereign.
It apparently did not occur to them that an oath of allegiance to the Queen would be implicit within a pledge of loyalty to the country of Canada. For Elizabeth II is Queen of Canada, Sovereign over our country through her Parliament in Ottawa. Our elected governors are her ministers, who are chosen by the people to govern in her name. That is the nature of our country and a pledge of allegiance to the Queen is therefore implicit in a pledge of loyalty to Canada. An oath of allegiance to Canada that did not imply allegiance to the Queen would be a worthless oath. The Canada that the person who swore such an oath would be pledging allegiance to, would not be the real Canada, the Canada that actually exists, but some fictional construction. What we are looking for in new Canadians, the reason we have an Oath of citizenship at all, is not loyalty to “my idea of Canada” or some such nebulous and self-referential concept but to the actual country.
Therefore, if these litigious would-be Canadians were to be allowed to swear loyalty to Canada without the explicit oath of allegiance to Her Majesty, either, a) they would not be swearing loyalty to the Queen in doing so and the oath would be worthless to us because it would not be a pledge of loyalty to the real Canada or b) they would be implicitly swearing loyalty to the Queen in swearing loyalty to Canada and would have gained nothing because the same objections they make to the explicit oath of loyalty to the Queen would apply as well to the implicit oath of loyalty to the Queen contained in the oath of loyalty to Canada.
That an oath of loyalty to the country would implicitly contain an oath of loyalty to the Queen is in a sense, even truer of Canada, than it is of the United Kingdom. The country of Canada is built upon the choice of the Loyalists to remain loyal subjects rather than join in the republican rebellion. That is our country’s history, roots, and tradition and it is a fundamental part of our collective identity. Our loyalty to the monarchy has played a significant part in the proudest moments of our country’s history, such as when the British army and the Canadians successfully fought off the American invasion together in the early 19th Century, and when Canada declared war on Nazi Germany to fight side by side with Great Britain, in the name of our common king, in the greatest armed conflict of the 20th Century.
Those who wish to eliminate the monarchy from our national identity create a vacuum which they must inevitably fill with the silliest of things. I have actually heard people say that it is our socialized health care that makes us who we are as Canadians and distinguishes us from the Americans. What a vapid and moronic thing to say! The Tommy Douglas health care system referred to, whatever else, good or bad, one might say about it, is less than one hundred years old, dating back to the 1960s. Our country was brought together in Confederation a century prior to that. One wonders what those people who think Canada’s identity is based on socialist health care are saying now that the United States has Obamacare.
But I digress. An argument one sometimes hears from those misguided souls who wish to downplay the monarchy and other institutions and symbols we have inherited from Britain is the claim that they are only of significance to Canadians descended from people from the British Isles and are therefore an insult to those whose ancestors came from other parts of the world. This argument is a non-sequitur – even if it were true, that the monarchy is only of significance to Canadians of British descent, it would not follow from this that the institution would be an insult to others. In fact, the real insult to Canadians of non-British stock is the suggestion that the monarchy should be downplayed so as not to offend them. This suggestion implies that they or their ancestors put no thought into what they were doing when they moved to Canada and came to the country in ignorance of the fact that it was a Commonwealth country, built on a history of Loyalism, with a parliamentary monarchy as its constitution. For if they or their ancestors were aware of these things about Canada when they chose to come here, then, in the act of coming here they chose to become a part of all of that and to accept the institutions of Canada, including her monarchy, as their own.
There is an important difference between traditional Canadian pluralism and the contemporary left-wing multiculturalism that is afflicting our country today. The former was all about integrating people of different backgrounds into Canada in such a way that without having to give up everything they brought with them from their ancestral lands, the British traditions of Canada, from the monarchy to the Rights of Englishmen, became their own. The latter was all about stripping Canada of as much of its British traditions as possible and downplaying the rest while encouraging newcomers not to give up anything and to keep everything they brought from their ancestral lands.
The great Canadian historian W. L. Morton, at one time head of the department of history at the University of Manitoba, and author of my favourite one-volume history of Canada, The Kingdom of Canada, explained the essential role of the monarchy in traditional Canadian pluralism:
[T]he moral core of Canadian nationhood is found in the fact that Canada is a monarchy and in the nature of monarchial allegiance. As America is united at bottom by the covenant, Canada is united at the top by allegiance. Because Canada is a nation founded on allegiance and not on compact, there is no pressure for uniformity, there is no Canadian way of life. Any one, French, Irish, Ukrainian or Eskimo, can be a subject of the Queen and a citizen of Canada without in any way changing or ceasing to be himself. (1)
When he said “there is no Canadian way of life” by “Canadian way of life” he meant a universal, cultural, homogeneity throughout the entire country. That has never existed in Canada at that level. At Confederation there were three major people groups with their own cultures and way of life – English Canadians who spoke English and were mostly Protestant, French Canadians who spoke French and were mostly Roman Catholic, and North American Indians. (2) There were varying degrees of homogeneity among these different groups, with the most homogeneity among the French Canadians who were united in religion as well as language and the most diversity among the Indians whose languages and religion varied according to their tribe, the degree to which they had adopted either the English or the French culture, and, of course, which one they had adopted. English Canadians fell in the middle. They were unified in language, but while they were mostly Protestant in religion, that included English Anglicans, Scottish Presbyterians, and any number of non-conformists sects. Allegiance to the Crown was the principle around which these vastly different groups were able to come together to build a country.
Allegiance to the monarchy meant something different to each of these groups. The people who became the English Canadians had originally been Loyalists, i.e., people who remained loyal to the British Crown when the Thirteen Colonies revolted, and fled to Canada to escape persecution for their stance, after the American Revolution. Allegiance to the monarchy defined who they were.
To the French Canadians, their decision to remain loyal to the king under whose sovereignty they had only recently come rather than to join the American revolution, had secured for them their language, religion, and culture. The American leaders had wanted to make Canada entirely English speaking and Protestant but the British government had promised the French government that French Canadians would be able to keep their language, religion, and culture when the French king ceded the sovereignty of Canada to King George III in the Treaty of Paris. This was one of the things the British government and the American leaders quarrelled over. On the eve of the American Revolution, the British Parliament passed and the king signed into law, the Quebec Act, making those same guarantees directly to the French Canadian people. Had Canada joined the American revolutionaries, or had Canada been ceded to the United States at the end of the American Revolution, the French Canadians would not have been able to retain their religion, language, and culture.
For the Indians, the Crown was and is the party with whom their tribes are in a treaty relationship. (3) This continues to be important to them to this day, a fact of which we were recently reminded. (4)
While each group had its own reasons for allegiance to the Crown, that were very different from the reasons of the other two, these reasons added up to a common allegiance as the basis upon which the three groups could come together to form a country. Loyalty to the Crown is absolutely fundamental to Canadian identity. It is entirely appropriate, therefore, that our country insist that those who wish to be integrated into Canada as citizens make a pledge of the allegiance that is the basis of Canadian unity.
In fact, most immigrants applying for citizenship have no objection to this requirement. The legal challenge to the oath requirement, which has been so widely reported, is not coming from some broadly supported movement but from three individual immigrants.
Why do these three object to swearing the oath?
One is a man of Irish origins whose father died in the republican cause and who therefore believes that it is a violation of his rights to be made to swear an oath to the Queen. Another is a woman who objects to the oath on the grounds of her Afrocentric Rastafari ideology and because of Britain’s historical involvement in the slave trade. The third is an Israeli of strong anti-monarchical, republican, sentiment.
Whether or not these are good and valid reasons for these three individuals to personally refuse to swear allegiance to the Queen, they are not, separately or collectively, valid reasons for Canada to set the oath aside as a requirement. The two men came here from countries that are republics with no crowned monarch. If republicanism is so important to them, they are welcome to return to Ireland and Israel or to move to the United States if that would suit them better.
One of the reasons they are giving for their demand that the oath to the Queen be removed is that it is “discriminatory”. They claim that it is discriminatory because it discriminates in favour of those who have no problem swearing loyalty to the Queen against those who do. They claim that it is discriminatory because only immigrants applying for citizenship are required to swear the oath, not those who are born here or are born to Canadian citizens abroad.
Since progressives, over the last sixty years or so, have successfully conditioned most of us to shut our brains down, curl up into the fetal position, and cry uncle at the sound of the word “discrimination”, some explanation will be required of what should be common sense and obvious to anybody.
In the most basic sense of the word to discriminate simply means to distinguish, to make or to observe a distinction or a difference. If you can tell the difference between apples and oranges you are, in so doing, discriminating. There is nothing wrong with discrimination in this sense of the word.
Discrimination is also used in a narrower sense to refer to the act of making a distinction which is to the advantage of one or some against others. There is nothing necessarily wrong with this kind of discrimination either. All laws are by nature discriminatory in this sense. The law that says that is a criminal act to kill your neighbour, discriminates in favour of the non-murderer against the murderer. The law that forbids theft discriminates in favour of people who don’t steal against those who do. Even scientific laws are discriminatory. The law of gravity discriminates against those who jump off a cliff and in favour of those who don’t.
When is discrimination wrong?
Discrimination is wrong when it is unjust and discrimination is only unjust when those who have a legitimate right to be regarded as and treated the same are instead regarded as and treated differently. If the law forbids littering, and prescribes a certain penalty for littering, then you, your neighbour Bob, and everybody else who lives under the authority of the law, have a legitimate right to be treated the same under that law. If you and Bob are both guilty of littering and are both caught and arrested you have the legitimate right to except that you will receive the same sentence as Bob. If, the judge slaps you with the full penalty but lets Bob off because Bob is a member of all the same clubs the judge belongs to, this is a case of unjust discrimination.
Those who do not wish to swear the oath to the queen, and who claim it is discriminatory that they be required to do so, would like us to believe that it is this last kind of discrimination. People who are born into Canadian citizenship are entitled to all the benefits of Canadian citizenship without having to swear an oath to the Queen whereas those who have moved here from elsewhere have to swear the oath to obtain the benefits. If, however, this constitutes unjust discrimination, then so would the requirement that immigrants swear an oath to Canada before becoming citizens. In fact, placing any requirement of any sort on those who apply for citizenship that is not also placed on those born into citizenship would qualify as unjust discrimination if the requirement that they swear an oath to the Queen is unjust discrimination.
If a requirement placed on those applying for citizenship in a country is unjust discrimination because it is not also placed upon those born into citizenship that means that a country has no right to place requirements on people before they become citizens, that a society has no right to set rules as to how someone coming into the society from the outside can become a full member of the society.
Clearly that cannot be the case. If a society has no right to set rules as to how someone can join it from the outside then it is not a society. A society has every right to distinguish between those who are born into it and those who enter it from the outside at least up until the point where they are granted full citizenship. Unfortunately, liberalism, which teaches that a society is an artificial construction that exists for the sole purpose of serving the personal interests of generic individuals, has clouded the minds of many in this day and age as to the true nature of a society. A society is much more than this. It is a living organism, in which its individual members are joined into an organic whole like the cells in a body, in which generation succeeds generation the way new cells replace old, dying cells. As the body produces the new cells it needs to replace its old ones from its own genetic template, so the present generation of society gives birth to the next generation and raises it to take its place in the organic whole of the society. People can join the society from the outside, just as a branch can be grafted onto a tree or an organ can be transplanted from one body into another, but the tree can also reject the graft and the body can reject the organ. The more compatible the grafted branch or transplanted organ are with the hosts into which they are placed the more likely they are to be accepted. That is the nature of things.
In this case we have an organic society which began by the grafting of three different branches – the tree metaphor works better here as the body metaphor, thanks to Mary Shelley, would produce some unfortunate associations – onto a common trunk, the trunk of the monarchy, the parliamentary system in which the monarchy is incorporated, and the Common Law and rights attached to the monarchy, and of which the monarchy is a symbol. Now we have three wild branches, asking to be grafted into the tree, but in such a way that they are connected to the other branches, but not the trunk. That does not sound like the makings of a successful graft.
The real problem here, however, is not the handful of immigrants who have demanded we change our citizenship requirements to suit them. While the current three are not the first immigrants to contest the oath requirement – they are continuing a challenge first launched by an immigrant from Trinidad who died last year and who started several such challenges beginning in the 1990s - the total number who have contested the oath is negligible. Most people have the sense to realize that if they wish to move to and become part of a society they will have to adjust to the ways, traditions, institutions and rules of that society rather than expecting it to change to accommodate them. Most people have the decency to understand that accusing the institution around which a country has been built of being a symbol of racism, tyranny, and injustice is inconsistent with a desire to become a part of that country.
No, the problem is not these immigrants themselves. The problem is with us. We are the ones who put up with this nonsense. We are the ones who are allowing a handful of malcontents to waste our courts’ time with these frivolous lawsuits. We are the ones who allow people to come here, insult the institution at the heart of our constitution, and demand that we change our country to suit them, rather than telling them that if they don’t like our country’s constitution, institutions, and rules then they didn’t have to move here, are free to go elsewhere, and are no longer wanted or welcome here.
Progressive thought is the root of the problem. A progressive or forward looking person is someone who thinks that to arrive at future happiness we must leave the road cleared, paved, and marked by the landmarks of the past and skip merrily blindfolded along down the road of social, cultural, political and technological innovation. The attitude towards the monarchy, which progressivism tends to produce in Canada, is at best one of ambivalence and indifference and at worst of outright hostility. The progressive emphasizes the democratic aspect of our constitution and tends to regard the monarchy as out-dated or irrelevant.
Ironically, in taking this position, progressives show their own thought to be outdated. An institution like the monarchy is classy, and therefore timeless, and can never be outdated. It is the championing of democracy against monarchy that is outdated. As the great Canadian humourist and political scientist Stephen Leacock put it:
Look back a little in the ages to where ragged Democracy howls around the throne of defiant Kingship. This is a problem that we have solved, joining the dignity of Kingship with the power of Democracy; (5)
The progressive view of immigration is also a problem. Progressives, whether of the liberal or the socialist variety, tend to be believers in the nonsensical and contradictory concept of universal nationalism – that their country is a “universal nation”, membership in which everyone in the world is entitled to. Whereas ordinary patriotic people regard their country and its institutions in high esteem, and except people moving into their country and joining their society to adjust to the society, progressives hold their country and its traditions in low esteem, and see large scale immigration as a means of changing their country and getting rid of its institutions and traditions. Ordinary patriotic people consider it a privilege and honour to live in their country and be a member of their society, and expect newcomers to take that same attitude. Progressives, on the other hand, think it is the highest privilege and honour for a country that even a single immigrant would deign to come to their country, and that the country should show its gratitude by bending over backwards to make whatever alterations are necessary to accommodate the immigrant. Progressives seem to believe that any disagreement with them on this matter can only come out of irrational prejudice towards and hatred of other people and do not hesitate to accuse anyone who expresses disagreement with them of the bigotry and racism. Meanwhile, they take great offence when their patriotism is called into question over their not-so-subtle contempt for their own country, its people, and its traditions.
There is a great deal of short-sightedness in the progressive position. Those who refuse to look deeply into the past will never be able to see far into the future and are oblivious to what is before them in the present. By dismissing our country’s history as our “colonial past” and our traditional institutions as “outdated relics” progressives blind themselves to both the continuing and contemporary importance and relevance of the monarchy and to the harm their approach to immigration has done, is doing, and will do to our country in the future.
The way to deal with the handful of immigrants who want us to change our citizenship laws is simple. It is to tell them that if they are not interested in joining our society on our terms, then they are no longer welcome to join our society on any terms, and we are no longer interested in having them as citizens.
Dealing with the progressive thought that has pervaded our country and which hinders us from giving the appropriate response to these immigrants will be more difficult.
(1) W. L. Morton, The Canadian Identity, (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1961, 1972) p. 85
(2) It is no longer fashionable to call this group of people “Indians” and many people consider the continued use of the term to be an insult to the people so termed. All other terms, especially the one currently in vogue “First Nations”, are to varying degrees politically correct. My intentional use of the term “Indians” is not based upon a desire to insult these people but rather a refusal to submit to the tyranny of political correctness.
(5) Stephen Leacock, “Greater Canada: an appeal”, in Alan Bowker, ed., The Social Criticism of Stephen Leacock (Toronto and Buffalo: University of Toronto Press, 1973), p. 9. The article first appeared in 1907 in University Magazine and was given as an address to the Empire Club of Canada in March of that year.