Eye On Regulation


the case

In some professions, professionals are required to swear an oath to gain entry to the profession.  In Alberta, this is the case for lawyers – there are three oaths required to be sworn by all lawyers who enter the profession: an Oath of Allegiance and an Official Oath, both under the Oaths of Office Act, and an additional oath required by the Law Society of Alberta.  At bar call ceremonies, all prospective lawyers must swear all three oaths before they become members.

In an interesting case from late 2023, Mr. Wirring, who is an amrithdhari Sikh, objected to the requirement to swear the Oath of Allegiance, which require prospective lawyers to “be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, her heirs and successors, according to law”.  Mr. Wirring felt that he should be allowed to be admitted to the profession without being required to swear this oath, as he has pledged an absolute oath of allegiance to Akal Purakh, the diving being in the Sikh tradition.

The case includes a deep dive into the requirement of the three oaths and their legislative and regulatory history.  The Oath of Allegiance, the element focused upon by both Mr. Wirring and the Court, is based on Canada’s constitutional democracy which has as its head of state the monarch.  The Court found that this oath “represents not only a promise to abide by Canada’s form of government, but a promise to maintain and uphold the rule of law and the Canadian constitutional system” (para. 118).  There is also a consideration in the case of other refusals to pledge oaths in other contexts, such as citizenship requirements, and how those were addressed. 

Ultimately, the Court held that the Oath of Allegiance required to enter the profession required an oath to the Queen (now the King) which was purely symbolic, and not an oath to an entity which would be problematic for Mr. Wirring.  As the Court wrote, “The reference to the Queen may have once been to an individual, but over time has become a symbolic reflection of our form of government, a constitutional monarchy: …  In this case, I also find the reference to the Queen in the Oath of Allegiance has evolved and is purely symbolic” (para. 131).

The Court also considered whether the requirements to swear the Oath of Allegiance breached Mr. Wirring’s constitutional rights, and found that it did not.  The Court dismissed Mr. Wirring’s Statement of Claim and kept the oath requirement in place. 

Although not all professions require the swearing of oaths for admission, this is an important case which reaffirms the Law Society’s ability to require the three oaths that it currently has in place for registration, and confirms that by requiring them, there is no breach of the constitution.  If your profession requires oaths to be sworn, and an applicant is objecting, it may be a good place to start to learn about the law of oath-swearing in Alberta.

our two cents for free

In recent hearings, our office has seen a trend of tribunal members desiring to know the quantum of actual costs being suggested, rather than a percentage.  This can be hard to estimate for regulators, but gives a tribunal an understanding of how much they are awarding, which they seem especially attuned-to in a post-Jinnah world.  In cases where there is a joint submission that relates to costs, tribunals seem to increasingly want a maximum cost amount included, or for the member to be aware of the quantum of costs, rather than just a percentage, which enhances transparency and comprehension of what the agreement actually entails.  


Has your organization given thought to bringing totals of costs spent to date to a hearing, or providing that information in advance?  Is there an easy way for your organization to keep tabs on growing costs, so that this information can be easily accessed, if necessary?  And in cases of joint submissions on costs, is there a maximum value included?

Eye on Regulation is RMRF’s monthly newsletter for the professional regulatory community. Each month we offer:

  • A Case: a (very) brief summary of a recent and relevant case;
  • Our Two Cents for Free: practical insight inspired by the files on our desks right now; and
  • A Question: something to get you thinking about ways to enhance your work.

This newsletter is for information only and does not constitute legal advice.

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