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What prompted you to focus on the queenie part of the citizenship oath, since you could have kept quiet like most people and taken your citizenship without hassle?
I was disgusted by the thought that I’d have to affirm my loyalty to what I consider to be a repulsive institution.
Civil rights lawyer Charles Roach started the Charter challenge many years ago, but by last year the case proceeded on behalf of Michael McAteer, Simone Topey, and yourself. We should also cite lawyer Peter Rosenthal as an active ingredient. How did you meet the others involved in this legal battle?
Peter Rosenthal is a mathematician alongside being a lawyer, and I’ve known him since my first days in Canada, back in 2002. One day in early September 2012 we had a chance meeting in the corridor at the math department at the University of Toronto. I mentioned to him that I’d been avoiding taking Canadian citizenship because of the oath. He mentioned to me that he was involved in a legal challenge to the oath. And the conclusion was obvious. I only met McAteer and Topey via Rosenthal.
There were some nasty comments about your decision to renounce the royalty part of the oath, including an adverse editorial in the Globe and Mail. Overall, what kind of support (or antipathy) have you received from colleagues, students, acquaintances, and the public?
You haven’t seen the worst. I never got explicit threats, but I did get “Hitler was right,” and "I hope you die of some horrendous disease," and various other profanities that my son had to translate for me. I also got (and am still getting) a large number of supportive messages, including the nearly 30 other people who added their disavowals to the web site I maintain, disavowal.ca.
My colleagues, students, and acquaintances seem supportive, some even very supportive. Though one never knows — there may well be people I know well who are very critical of me yet choose not to let me know.
Did you receive support, or at least encouragement, from any known political figures?
Do you accept the argument that the queen and her successors as spelled out in the oath are not meant to be taken literally as human individuals at the top of a social pyramid, but rather are meant to be taken as symbols of our form of government with its commitment to democracy, equality, etc?
Do note that the queen and her heirs and successors are not abstractions. They really do exist in our physical universe, and they really are privileged under the law, forever. Taking them as symbols to the exact opposite, namely to “democracy and equality”, would make George Orwell proud of his invention of “doublespeak.” Or perhaps, ashamed.