Worker pledges legal fight over oath to Queen

A federal civil servant in Alberta swears he won't take an oath of allegiance to the Queen, even though his job may be at stake.

Some of Pierre Vincent's ancestors were Maritime Acadians who were expelled by the British centuries ago.

He says being forced to pledge loyalty to Her Majesty violates his constitutional rights.

According to the Public Service Employee Act, federal government employees are supposed to sign the following oath:

I do swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs, and Successors.

But Vincent won't swear allegiance, pointing out that his ancestors were driven from Canada by the British monarchy about 250 years ago for refusing to take the same oath.

His complaint goes beyond respect for the past. He argues that it involves basic democratic rights enjoyed by all Canadians today.

"We have the right to think what we want to think, to speak and say what we want to say," Vincent says.

"The government doesn't have the right to come into our brains and force us to say things we don't want to say, to force us to think things and have political opinions we wouldn't have otherwise."

Take the oath or be fired

Vincent joined the civil service about four years ago. He worked for Environment Canada in Hull, Que., and refused to take the oath at that time.

The trouble began when he switched to the Department of Natural Resources and moved to the Canmet Western Research Centre in Devon, Alta., southwest of Edmonton.

Although he says his immediate bosses still don't care if he takes the oath, senior managers have insisted on it. The word from Ottawa is now also clear: take the oath or be fired, regardless of family history.

Still, some government members of Parliament think the case may be worth reviewing. Liberal MP John Bryden says Acadian descendants are not the only ones who might prefer a more updated oath.

"I don't want us to change our parliamentary system and become a republic," Bryden says. "But I really think Mr. Vincent strikes an absolute chord, in the sense that we should be swearing allegiance to Canada."

The federal government has decided Vincent can keep his job while it looks into his claim.

Although Vincent says he has no intention of ever taking the oath, he won't hesitate to take something else: the federal government to court if he's fired.