Army captain must salute queen, court rules

AN IRISH language campaigner has lost his battle to avoid the “institutional harassment” of a Canadian army pledge, which requires him to toast and salute Queen Elizabeth II.

Captain Aralt Mac Giolla Chainnigh objects to the Canadian army’s tradition to toast the British monarch and occasionally salute the song God Save the Queen.

The army captain had taken his grievances to Canada’s Federal Court, the equivalent of the Irish High Court, and Mr Justice Robert Barnes published its ruling on Monday.

Mr Justice Barnes said although Canadians were free to hold their own views on the queen, army officers had to pay her respect.

“The queen is, of course, Canada’s constitutional head of state and commander-in-chief.

“It cannot be seriously disputed that she is legally at the pinnacle of the Canadian Forces hierarchy, albeit in an emblematic role.

“The obligation of members of the Canadian Forces to display respect to one another and loyalty to their commanders is critical to the maintenance of good order,” he said.

Mr Justice Barnes said Captain Mac Giolla Chainnigh’s anti-monarchist views were always respected since he joined the army in 1975 at the age of 16. However, to ignoreofficial toasts and salutes would constitute a display of rudeness and disrespect, he said.

The army captain is a leading member of the Canadian Irish language movement, which last year opened the first overseas’ Gaeltacht — assisted by a €20,000 grant from ex-Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Minister, Éamon Ó Cuív.

The captain applied for a judicial review after an internal grievances panel refused to excuse him from salutes to the queen on the grounds of “institutional harassment”.

He said his issues were not with Elizabeth Windsor herself but rather her status as the symbolic Canadian head of state.

“I recognise loyalty to the people of Canada alone. I cannot in good faith toast her as the queen of Canada. In doing so I would be implicitly declaring the truth of a premise that I believe to be false,” he said.

The court ruled against him and said that the situation was “constitutionally entrenched” and Capt Mac Giolla Chainnigh would have to respect that.

UNLIKE Ireland, Canada has never moved to detach itself from the apron strings of the British monarchy.

In 1926 it joined 15 other Commonwealth countries to sign the Balfour Declaration to gain equality with Britain under the one crown. Canadian law refers to a monarch but it stipulates that at all times this person must be the same as the king or queen of the United Kingdom.

And so while we made our burst for independence Canada remained part of the British Empire and today Queen Elizabeth II is its head of state and commander-in-chief.

She or her representative in Canada, the Governor General Michaëlle Jean, carries out duties on behalf of the “queen of Canada”.

In 1982 Canada voted for constitutional independence but retained the queen as its figurehead.

At the turn of the millennium the Canadian parliament considered making a clean break but the public were overwhelmingly against such a move.

Queen Elizabeth II reigns over Canada’s 10 provinces and three territories under her official title: “Elizabeth the Second, by the grace of God, of the United Kingdom, Canada and her other realms and territories queen, head of the commonwealth, defender of the faith.”

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