Several newly-elected Quebec opposition lawmakers on Wednesday declared they would not swear an oath to Canada’s head of state, King Charles III, as required by the constitution.
The 11 Quebec solidaire party members elected on October 3 joined three members of the Parti Quebecois who last week said they, too, would refuse to take the oath.
They chose instead to swear loyalty only to the people of Quebec, but it is unclear if that will be enough for them to take their seats in the province’s National Assembly.
Quebec solidaire spokesman Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois told a news conference its members had acted “with full knowledge of the facts.”
“We campaigned to change the era in Quebec and if we were sent to the legislature, it was to open windows,” he said.
Parti Quebecois leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon, meanwhile, had indicated last week that taking the oath would be “a conflict of interest” because “one cannot serve two masters.”
Moreover, the monarchy costs “67 million Canadian dollars a year” and such an oath is, according to him, a “reminder of colonial domination.”
Swearing allegiance to the Crown has always been contentious in mostly French-speaking Quebec, which held two failed referendums in 1980 and 1995 to split from the rest of Canada.
Reacting to the controversy, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters in Ottawa it was up to the Quebec legislature “to decide how they want to organize their swearing-in process.”
Constitutional experts offered mixed views.
Laval University constitutional expert Patrick Taillon opined that the Quebec legislature could simply pass a motion, a law or a regulation doing away with the need to swear allegiance to the Crown.
“The procedural solutions are numerous,” he said in a series of Twitter messages, “but they have limits.”
He also noted that “jurisprudence has established an equivalence between the monarchy, the state, its institutions and its laws. This is a margin of interpretation that (the National Assembly) could exploit.”
But Paul Daly of the University of Ottawa told AFP getting rid of the oath “would require a constitutional amendment.”
“The oath to the Crown is of national concern so modifying it would need broad support as it touches at the heart of the Canadian federation,” he explained.
Trudeau quickly poured cold water on that prospect, saying “there is not a Quebecer who wants us to reopen the Constitution” after past constitutional negotiations with all 10 provinces ended without consensus.