Montreal

PQ denied entry to Quebec's National Assembly after refusing to swear oath to King

The PQ had previously refused to swear allegiance to King Charles III, Canada's monarch — despite it being a requirement to sit in the National Assembly. The PQ chose to swear an oath to the Quebec people and the province's constitution instead.

MNAs argue oath to Quebec people alone should be sufficient

Man surrounded by repoters
Three Parti Québécois (PQ) MNAs, including the party's leader, Paul St-Pierre Plamondon, have been denied entry to Quebec's legislature. (Sylvain Roy Roussel/CBC)

Three Parti Québécois (PQ) MNAs were denied entry to Quebec's legislature on Thursday after refusing to swear an oath to King Charles III, Canada's monarch.

To sit in the National Assembly, MNAs must swear an oath to the monarch and one to the Quebec people. The PQ only did the latter.

When they approached the doors to the Blue Room on Thursday, the members were stopped by a constable and told they were not eligible to enter.

Véronique Michel, the sergeant-at-arms, briefly stepped out to speak with them. PQ Leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon explained that they had sworn the oath to the Quebec people — but they were still denied entry. 

There was no confrontation. St-Pierre Plamondon said he wanted to carry out a solemn and respectful gesture and that the sergeant-at-arms was just doing her job.

"We're making progress," he said, saying they did everything they could short of swearing the oath. All the elected Quebec political parties have agreed the requirement should be scrapped.

A woman confronts a man who holds a paper in his hand.
The PQ leader tries to convince the National Assembly's sergeant-at-arms, Véronique Michel, left, to allow the members of his party to enter the Blue Room, where the legislature sits. (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press)

Speaker stands by decision

As St-Pierre Plamondon waited outside, Speaker Nathalie Roy was on the other side of the door, reading out a statement regarding her decision to deny the PQ entry.

She reiterated a ruling made by her predecessor, former Speaker François Paradis, citing the Act respecting the National Assembly, the Quebec law that stipulates one must swear allegiance to Canada's head of state to participate in parliamentary proceedings.

"This is not a question of opinion, but rather, the state of the law," Roy said. 

"It's not up to the Speaker to change the rule. That role belongs to you, the MNAs, as legislators who were elected by the Quebec population."

Quebec Premier François Legault, speaking before the incident, said every elected official has to follow the rules.

"I don't like swearing the oath to the King," Legault said Thursday. "I think we're all in agreement that the requirement should be abolished."

Legault said allowing the PQ members in without following proper procedure could have had consequences. The laws they're voting on could potentially be contested, he said.

"The priority right now is to work to help Quebecers fight inflation. If the PQ has a different priority, that's their choice," he said.

In an interview with CBC News Thursday, St-Pierre Plamondon said having to swear an oath to the King was a "humiliation" and a vestige of British colonialism. 

"It's a reminder that we never chose our political system that continues from one generation to another in our National Assembly," he said. "So, at some point it has to stop and it has to change and for that to happen, we need to persevere."

Change to law likely coming

The PQ isn't the only party whose members didn't want to swear the oath. Québec Solidaire (QS) did not include an oath to the King during their MNAs' swearing-in ceremonies, until it became clear they wouldn't be allowed entry.

The QS MNAs swore the oath — behind closed doors — but said they would work to change the requirement as soon as possible. They presented a bill to that effect Thursday.

Legault said his Coalition Avenir Québec party will put forward a government bill to change the law next week. 

St-Pierre Plamondon said the bill QS MNA Sol Zanetti brought forward has made the issue a priority. 

"It generates, as well, a conversation on the importance of democracy and the space we want for democracy in Quebec." he said. 

The PQ leader said he believes the debate could spur other jurisdictions to do away with their mandatory oaths to the King.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Laura Marchand

Digital reporter

Laura Marchand is a digital reporter with CBC Montreal. Laura is focused on local news as well as municipal and provincial politics. She previously worked with CBC Montreal's morning radio show Daybreak and the Montreal Gazette. You can reach her at laura.marchand@cbc.ca.

With files from Cathy Senay and Franca Mignacca

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