Judge dismisses prospective Edmonton lawyer's challenge of oath of allegiance to monarchy

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A prospective lawyer’s challenge to the oath of allegiance requirement to become a lawyer in Alberta has been dismissed.

Edmonton articling student Prabjot Singh Wirring launched the challenge against the province and the Law Society of Alberta in the summer of 2022, arguing swearing an oath to the monarchy contradicts his religious beliefs. There are three oaths in total and no concerns were raised with respect to other oaths.

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The oath of allegiance requires lawyers in Alberta to swear or affirm that, “I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, her heirs and successors, according to law.”

Queen Elizabeth II is referenced throughout the decision because the case was filed before the law was amended changing the oath to King Charles III following the Queen’s passing.

Wirring is an Amritdhari Sikh, which means he has pledged an absolute oath of allegiance to Akal Purakh, the divine being in the Sikh tradition. He argued that the oath of allegiance to the Queen is incompatible with the oath he has sworn to Akal Purakh.

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The province held that Wirring’s religious objection is based on a misunderstanding of the oath of allegiance. It argued the oath is a commitment to a set of values, “that the oath of allegiance is a secular oath that is a symbolic commitment to the democratic system of governance, the Constitution of Canada and to unwritten constitutional principles including the rule of law. It is not an oath to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second as a sovereign or an entity.”

The Law Society of Alberta took no position on the application.

“I have found that the oath of allegiance is properly characterized as an oath to uphold and maintain the rule of law and the Canadian constitutional system,” said Justice Barbara Johnston in her ruling.

“Any reference to the Queen in the oath of allegiance is as a symbol of these values, and not to the Queen as a political or religious entity.”

Johnston, in her ruling, referenced a similar challenge to the citizenship oath in Ontario in 2014.

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