Paul Calandra: “The judge is required to see that the person is actually reciting the oath of citizenship.”
By: Jacob Schroeder on
Paul Calandra, Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and Conservative MP for Oak Ridges — Markham, in an interview on February 13, 2015
Paul Calandra said a judge is required to see a person reciting the citizenship oath. The Citizenship Act is not that specific. It says a person “shall take the oath of citizenship by swearing or solemnly affirming it before a citizenship judge.”FactsCan Score: False
The Federal Court of Canada recently ruled that a government ban on face coverings during citizenship ceremonies was unlawful. The Conservative government implemented the ban in 2011, arguing then that for citizenship candidates “to hide their identity from us precisely when they are joining our community is contrary to Canada’s proud commitment to openness and to social cohesion.”
On a CBC panel following the government’s decision to appeal the Federal Court ruling, Paul Calandra, the parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister, said that candidates “have to be seen by the judge to be taking the oath … the judge is required to see that the person is actually reciting the oath of citizenship.”
We assume Calandra is talking about visual confirmation of the person’s mouth moving during the oath, otherwise face coverings like the niqab wouldn’t be at issue. We also assume he’s talking about rules in the Citizenship Act and not the government’s ban, because that policy was struck down the week before on February 6. (The text of the policy can be found in Annex A of the court decision).
Are judges actually required by the Citizenship Act to see a person reciting the oath?
The act says a person who has been granted citizenship “shall take the oath of citizenship by swearing or solemnly affirming it before a citizenship judge” (section 19(1)). The law does not specify that a judge must see the person’s face, nor does it say that they must witness the person’s mouth moving.
In his decision to lift the ban, Justice Keith M. Boswell confirmed that section 19(1) “does not require that there be visual confirmation that the oath was said aloud.”
Boswell continued that, “any requirement that a candidate for citizenship actually be seen taking the oath would make it impossible not just for a niqab-wearing woman to obtain citizenship, but also for a mute person or a silent monk.”
The identity of someone wearing a face covering can still be confirmed as the covering can be removed in private with a citizenship officer present. If there was serious doubt about whether a person said the oath, Boswell suggested a microphone could be used to verify.
Asked about his claim, Calandra’s office told FactsCan the parliamentary secretary was “correct” but offered no relevant evidence. In an email, staff said “a judge or citizenship officer must be satisfied that a candidate has said the Oath aloud before receiving their citizenship certificate.” This is different than the claim that a judge must see the oath being said.
According to the Citizenship Act, and interpretation of the law by a Federal Court judge, Calandra’s claim is false. A citizenship judge does not need to see that someone is reciting the oath.