Jeffrey Sachs had been preparing for over a year to swear his oath of citizenship. He only found out about Queen Elizabeth’s death while he was waiting for the ceremony to begin on Thursday.
Sachs said he “immediately began to wonder whether they would scramble to change the oath.”
Since 1947, the law has required new citizens to swear an oath to the monarch and their successors. While the wording has been changed on a few occasions since Queen Elizabeth’s reign began, new Canadians have been swearing their oaths to her for 70 years now.
That changed Thursday afternoon following her passing. Sachs and dozens of others attending a virtual citizenship ceremony were among the first to swear an oath of allegiance to the new monarch, King Charles III.
“To be a part of that changeover in such an abrupt way, it really was a remarkable experience,” Sachs said.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada says that when a monarch dies, the oath is changed to reflect the fact that Canada has a new sovereign.
“The reference to Her Majesty in the Oath of Citizenship was amended to refer to King Charles III. This change was made in accordance with the Interpretation Act and applies to all citizenship ceremonies going forward,” a spokesperson for the department told CBC News.
A photo of the late Queen Elizabeth II and now King Charles III standing on a balcony in London on June 5, the last of four days of celebrations to mark the Platinum Jubilee. (Hannah McKay/AP Photo)
The announcement of the Queen’s death came about an hour before Sachs and the others were to swear their oaths. Despite the short notice, Sachs said the ceremony carried on “seamlessly.”
Roberto Rocha, a reporter with the Investigative Journalism Foundation and a former CBC journalist, reported witnessing his friend take the oath in a series of tweets on Thursday.
“The presiding judge is mentioning the Queen now. Said the Monarch is now King Charles III, King of Canada,” Rocha said in one tweet.
Sachs said that, as an American taking Canadian citizenship, swearing an oath to a monarch felt “peculiar.” But he added that he’s “always had a great deal of admiration and affection for the Queen.”
His ceremony was topped off by a touching tribute to Canada’s longest-reigning monarch when the person presiding over the oath added, “The Queen is dead. God save the King” — which Sachs and the others repeated in unison.
“It was a nice little coda to the oath itself,” he said.