PQ Leader’s Letter to Head of National Assembly
Mr. Siegfried Peters
National Assembly of Quebec
Dear Mr Secretary General,
I hereby wish to inform you of my intention to only take the oath to the people of Quebec and not to the King of England. The practice of the last few decades has been for elected officials to take the oath twice, once to the King of England and once to the people of Quebec. However, it appears from our examination of the legal corpus of the National Assembly, that only the oath to the people of Quebec is required by the Assembly’s rules.
The ritual of allegiance to the king does not derive from Quebec law, but from the British North America Act of 1867 (hereinafter the “BNAA”). Yet this ritual has already evolved organically without the need for a legislative amendment: note, for example, the oath in French that is now accepted despite the fact that the BNAA only provides for the oath in English, or the example of the solemn declaration that has become an accepted practice in place of the oath, for those who do not hold religious convictions.
In a recent 2014 ruling that addressed the meaning of the oath to the king, the Court of Appeal for Ontario stated that the oath is a symbol that should not be taken literally and is not about pledging allegiance to the person of the queen but rather to the government, its institutions and democracy. According to this principle, the oath already provided for in the standing orders of the National Assembly more than meets this criterion of loyalty to the government and democracy, making the oath to the king redundant and superfluous.
In my opinion, the concomitance of two contradictory oaths, one to the people of Quebec and the other to the British Crown, places both the elected representatives and the National Assembly itself in a conflict of interest and loyalty that is not tolerable in a democracy. One cannot serve two masters: the interest of the Quebec people is not that of the crown of a foreign country, and Quebec’s history is full of explicit illustrations of this, such as the hanging of the Patriots and the deportation of the Acadians.
Insofar as the responsibility of the National Assembly is not to interpret the Canadian constitution but to ensure Quebec’s democratic health, I ask this institution to recognize that my oath to the people of Quebec is sufficient to sit in the Blue Room. I also ask the National Assembly to refrain from imposing sanctions on me for having done this.
If other institutions are dissatisfied with my refusal to swear allegiance to the king, they can of course take the matter to court to debate this evolution in morals. However I do not believe that it is up to the National Assembly to substitute itself for the courts with regard to the interpretation of the constitution, nor to place loyalty to rituals imposed by the British crown ahead of loyalty to the electorate and Quebec democracy.
I ask that you kindly respond to my request before October 21, the date of my swearing-in.
Thanking you for your attention to my request, please accept, Mr Secretary General, my sincerest regards.
Paul St-Pierre Plamondon,
Member for Camille-Laurin
Leader of the Parti Québécois
(Translated from the original French)