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Parti Québécois leader insists he won’t swear oath to King before taking office

Parti Québécois Leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon speaks at a news conference, Monday, Oct. 17, 2022 at the legislature in Quebec City. Karoline Boucher/The Canadian Press

Parti Québécois Leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon is insisting he can take office without swearing an oath to the King — even if the secretary general of the legislature has told him otherwise.

The PQ leader has vowed not to pledge allegiance to King Charles III, to whom elected members must swear an oath before they can sit in the legislature. Members are required to swear two oaths before taking office: one to the King and another to the Quebec people.

St-Pierre Plamondon, leader of a sovereigntist party that advocates for Quebec’s independence from Canada — and from colonial procedures and traditions — told reporters Monday he sent letters to the leaders of the three other parties that won seats in the Oct. 3 election, asking for their support.

“We are faced with a question that goes beyond the usual divisions and traditional political parties,” St-Pierre Plamondon told a news conference in Quebec City, adding he was confident if each elected member was asked privately, the vast majority would find taking the oath “embarrassing and humiliating.”

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Read more: ‘Can’t serve two masters’: Parti Québécois leader refuses to swear oath to King

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“The King of England is the (head of) the Church of England,” the PQ leader said. “In what universe are we going to force an elected Quebecer from a state based on secularism to swear loyalty, an oath 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?”

In the past, elected members of separatist parties have all pledged allegiance to the Crown. Article 128 of the Canadian Constitution Act states that members must take an “Oath of Allegiance” to the King. Quebec’s National Assembly Act, meanwhile, requires that members swear allegiance to the “people of Quebec.”

There is no sanction in Quebec law for members who do not swear an oath to the King and no mechanism to block access to the legislature. It is unclear how St-Pierre Plamondon thinks Quebec can overturn federal law, but he said last week he has legal opinions demonstrating that the legislature isn’t obliged to take action against officials who reject the oath to the King.

St-Pierre Plamondon, who won his seat in the Montreal riding of Camille-Laurin on Oct. 3, said several times during the campaign that he would not take an oath to a foreign crown. The PQ leader also wrote a letter to Siegfried Peters, the legislature’s secretary general, requesting that the oath to the Quebec people be sufficient for members.

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In response, Peters told St-Pierre Plamondon — in a letter made public Monday — that federal law is “very explicit” and that the secretary general cannot modify the rules on his own.

“The possibility of modifying or abolishing the Oath of Allegiance has already been raised in the (legislature),” Peters wrote. “To date, however, the (legislature) has not taken any action in this regard, and it is not for me to take a decision on this subject.

“Therefore, until the law evolves … I must enforce the one that is in force.”

He concluded by saying he was hopeful “that these details will allow you to properly assess the scope of a refusal to take one of the two oaths at the start of the 43rd legislature.”

Elected members of the four parties that won seats in the Oct. 3 are scheduled to attend swearing-in ceremonies this week, with St-Pierre Plamondon’s turn coming Friday. The PQ leader has previously said he and the two other elected members of the party, Pascal Bérubé and Joël Arseneau, will all forgo the oath to the King.

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