Court of Appeal Confirms Canada Is a Constitutional Monarchy

While the headline to this post shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, it has made headlines. In a recent decision, the Court of Appeal of Ontario rejected claims that requiring potential Canadian citizens to swear an oath to Her Majesty was unconstitutional and reaffirmed that because Canada is a constitutional monarchy, it is acceptable to be required to verbally ascribe to what the Monarch represents. For those of us who are history geeks (me) and monarchists (also me), the decision is a fascinating read. It discusses our history, our Queen (she is the Queen of Canada) and the special role of the Crown in Canada. It also affirms the importance of the symbolism of the Crown and how it is not necessarily about the person wearing the Crown:

[54] Although the Queen is a person, in swearing allegiance to the Queen of Canada, the would-be citizen is swearing allegiance to a symbol of our form of government in Canada. This fact is reinforced by the oath’s reference to “the Queen of Canada,” instead of “the Queen.” It is not an oath to a foreign sovereign. Similarly, in today’s context, the reference in the oath to the Queen of Canada’s “heirs and successors” is a reference to the continuity of our form of government extending into the future.

Well said, Court of Appeal! While the trappings of the Crown and the concept of hereditary nobility may well be dated, the concept of the Crown and the freedom it now represents have become distinctly Canadian. While people are entitled to their Republican views and people are free to debate the issue, the Crown is the cornerstone of our constitution and I would hazard to guess that so long as our country remains a constitutional monarchy, Her Majesty and her her delegates will continue to play an important (if symbolic) role.


  1. How can one make a bona fide oath to “be faithful and bear true allegiance” to the monarch and her heirs and successors if one is a republican advocating, or planning to advocate, for a republic? Is this not degrading the validity and solemnity of the oath if people are not actually “faithful” or they do not bear “true” allegiance?

    From para 97:

    “The application judge correctly noted that the oath to the Queen has little effect on the appellants’ rights because, properly understood, the reference to the Queen in the oath is a commitment to democratic values, one of which is equality.”

    Can someone explain how the concept of a hereditary monarchy has ANYTHING to do with equality?

  2. It’s not the concept of a hereditary monarchy; it’s the concept of a stable democracy with a head of state – a symbol of the state – above the politics of the day. We could have a symbolic president rather than a symbolic monarch, but history and tradition and the sheer political impossibility of changing – at least at any acceptable cost in energy and acrimony – keep us HMQ’s loyal subjects.

    We can easily be loyal to the state but want to change the head of it. I don’t, but I don’t think that those who do should be, for example, disbarred for violating their oath.

  3. “How can one make a bona fide oath to ‘be faithful and bear true allegiance’ to the monarch and her heirs and successors if one is a republican advocating, or planning to advocate, for a republic?”

    Presumably because, in the Canadian constitutional orders, advocating the legal abolishment of the monarch is not considered an act of disloyalty but a legitimate exercise of the rights of Canadians. (Obviously, trying to overthrow the government of Canada by illegal means – launching a coup to establish myself as head of state, for instance – would be an act of disloyalty. But I don’t see much sympathy for someone who claims that the oath would restrain him from doing that, since trying to illegally overthrow the government of Canada happens to be illegal). For the same reason, Lucien Bouchard could swear an oath of allegiance to the Queen of Canada and serve as her “loyal opposition” while striving to (legally) separate from her dominion. There’s no inconsistency between those two views.

    By analogy, the US oath of allegiance, which requires immigrants (and others) to “support and defend the Constitution and the laws of the United States” (with the Constitution playing the role in the US that the Monarchy does here) does not preclude you from advocating that the Constitution be changed or reformed, it just mandates that you do so in a manner that is in keeping with the US legal and constitutional order.

    Moreover, to John’s point, the oath of loyalty is to the institution of the monarch as the embodiment of “Canada”. The Queen of Canada just happens to be the current holder of that office. As the court noted, it is open to Canadians to change the name and form of that institution.