Quebec MNAs who don't swear an oath to the King cannot sit in National Assembly, Speaker rules

Before they can take their seats in the legislature, newly elected members are required to swear an oath to the Crown and to the Quebec people. (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Before they can take their seats in the legislature, newly elected members are required to swear an oath to the Crown and to the Quebec people. (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press - image credit)

The Speaker of Quebec's National Assembly has ruled that all members must swear an oath to King Charles III — not just to the people of Quebec — if they wish to perform their duties.

Those who refuse will be expelled by the sergeant-at-arms, wrote Speaker François Paradis in a decision made public Tuesday.

Last month, MNAs from the Parti Québécois (PQ) and Québec Solidaire (QS) did not include an oath to the King during their swearing-in ceremonies.

The two parties' decisions called into question their eligibility to serve in the National Assembly. Both parties want François Legault's government — whose members hold 90 of the legislature's 125 seats — to adopt a motion, or a bill, that supports them sitting in the National Assembly anyway.

Paradis said he based his decision on the wording of the Act respecting the National Assembly, the Quebec law that stipulates one must swear allegiance to Canada's head of state — now King Charles III — to participate in parliamentary proceedings.

"As the law currently stands, this oath is not optional," Paradis wrote in his ruling.

"Members who have not taken the oath cannot sit in the National Assembly or in one of its committees. In the event that a person refuses to comply with this prohibition, the sergeant-at-arms will be authorized to expel them."

Shortly after the general election of Oct. 3, the PQ Leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon, stated that he and the two other elected members of his party would not swear an oath to the King.

"In what universe are we going to force an elected Quebecer from a state based on secularism to swear loyalty … to the King of a foreign state who, moreover, is the head of a church which, in my case, absolutely does not correspond to my ideas or convictions?" Plamondon had said during a news conference last month.

The 11 elected members of QS followed the PQ's lead, with QS co-spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois describing the oath to the King as "colonial, archaic and outdated."

No oath 'no matter what' says PQ MNA

Reacting to the decision Tuesday afternoon, Pascal Bérubé, the PQ MNA for Matane-Matapédia, said he and his fellow elected party members weren't going to swear an oath to the King "no matter what."

"The royalty imposed on Quebec parliamentarians is over. It ends this year. The Parti Québécois will stand up and not give in," he said in an interview with Radio-Canada.

Bérubé said secularism means not taking an oath to "a religious leader and a Commonwealth leader who constantly reminds us that he rules over us because he conquered us."

As for the order given to the National Assembly's sergeant-at-arms, Bérubé said, "we will see."

Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press
Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press

Bérubé argued the Legault government could quickly do away with the rule if it had the desire to do so.

In an interview on Radio-Canada's Le 15-18, Plamondon questioned the legitimacy of Paradis, the outgoing Speaker of the National Assembly who chose not to run again.

He said Paradis, who is also the former Coalition Avenir Québec MNA for Lévis, does not speak for the National Assembly as he is "no longer an elected official."

Plamondon also deplored his decision, calling it "a political order" from the CAQ government.

The office of the CAQ's parliamentary leader, Simon Jolin-Barrette, said it took note of Paradis's decision.

"The decision is clear: to sit, the deputies must respect the law which currently applies and therefore comply with the two oaths. The decision also confirms that a motion is not enough," the written statement reads.

"We have already indicated our intention to move forward with a bill to end the obligation to take the oath to the King. We ask for the co-operation of the Opposition in this regard."

QS did not comment on the decision Tuesday. The party said it wants to study the ruling before reacting publicly.