PQ Leader’s Press Conference – October 11, 2022 –
[I intend to swear an oath to the] Québécois people and not to the king of England and I ask the National Assembly not to punish me and to let me sit on the basis of this oath to the people of Quebec without mentioning the British crown.
Let me first go back to why I am making this commitment, why I am persisting in this commitment, and then I would like to explain why it is feasible and that there is a pathway to respecting everyone’s freedom of conscience in this process.
First of all, I would like to remind you that the monarchy in Quebec costs us $67 million per year and it is $67 million that I would describe as a squandering of public funds. Not only is the monarchy of no use to Quebec, but it reminds us in particular of colonial domination, a conquest, and therefore we are reminded that we are not masters in our own house. We cannot make our own decisions and we have an eloquent example in the case of an elected member of the National Assembly intent on sitting without swearing allegiance to the King of England. The British monarchy not only costs $67 million a year, it’s a reminder of the colonial domination that led to the hanging of the Patriots, the deportation of the Acadians, and that led to the Indian Act and Indian reserves, a law that is still in effect as a result of that British colonial regime. Within these circumstances, during the campaign — I did this on several occasions — I said that if I am elected I will not take the oath to the king. These are the reasons why I made this commitment and you must understand that the worst thing that could be imposed on me, once I’ve been newly elected, is to force me to say the opposite of the commitment I made before millions of Quebeckers. So I will keep my word and be consistent.
What is the state of the law in Quebec regarding this notorious oath?
Quebec law, and therefore the Standing Orders of the National Assembly, provide for an oath to the people of Quebec. Thus an oath where one swears fidelity to the people of Quebec and to the functioning of the National Assembly. There is no written law in the corpus of the National Assembly that requires swearing an oath to the king. The only document that requires allegiance and loyalty to the King of England is the British North America Act, the Canadian Constitution, 1867. So how the practice has evolved is that elected members are asked to take both oaths, one after the other. To take an oath of loyalty to the people of Quebec and then to take an oath of loyalty to the King of England. What I am telling you this morning is that on the face of it, it’s a conflict of interest. One cannot serve two masters knowing that these interests are in contradiction with each other. One cannot say on the one hand that I will be loyal and that all my work will be done in the interest of the people and at the same time say that I will be loyal and all my work will be done in the interest of the British Crown, a sovereign of another country, that conquered the territory of Quebec a long time ago. So there’s a conflict of interest and, from my point of view, one cannot serve two masters. In the same manner the question arises for the National Assembly: do we choose to recognize the democratic process overseen by Élections Québec and let someone who swears an oath to the people of Quebec enter the Blue Room and do his job, or do we choose loyalty to the British Crown and the British North America Act of 1867? The answer, in my opinion, is that the responsibility of the National Assembly is to look after Quebec democracy, the interests of the National Assembly, not the interests of the British Crown.
Now if the British Crown is not happy and there are lawsuits, I think that the courts will be able to hear cases initiated by Ottawa, initiated by the Governor General, or the Lieutenant Governor, but what I formally requested of the National Assembly this morning is to let me take only the oath to the people of Quebec and to consider that even federal jurisprudence says that the oath to the king is not specifically to the king but to democratic institutions. Therefore, insofar as I will have already taken an oath to the people of Quebec, I ask the National Assembly to not crack down, register my oath and to let me sit because I am duly elected. This is what Élections Québec will confirm.
I will conclude by saying that I will be sworn in on October 21. I have invited my friends, all the volunteers. I’m very clear with the National Assembly on my intentions and am simply asking our Quebec institutions to take care of their mission, namely to look after our Quebec democracy. And if British imperialism deems it necessary to intervene, to crack down, it will be up to those institutions to take the initiative, not the National Assembly, because the National Assembly is an institution with a civil law tradition, and in the tradition of Quebec law what is written in black and white must be followed, and what is written in black and white I will do, namely swear allegiance to the people of Quebec without saying anything whatsoever about the King of England. So that’s my intention. I wanted to inform you about it. And obviously I hope that this will stimulate some reflection. I don’t consider this to be the most urgent issue in Quebec, but for me it’s a question of coherence and I also think that if we want things to change, we have to act consistently and we have to stand up. And this folly of squandering $67 million a year on an institution that about 80 per cent of Quebeckers consider useless has simply gone on long enough. And I ask the National Assembly to respect the fact that I was elected and then we’ll see how the federal institutions react. That’s it.
Question: Are you considering not sitting in the House if they don’t let you?
Answer: I will be consistent and coherent. I expect that I will not be blocked from access to the Blue Room.
Question: This has been done in the past […] PQ members who refused to take the oath?
Answer: It wasn’t the same thing. They negotiated a certain way of taking the oath, Bernard Landry also did it, there were some changes made to the text. My intention, my commitment is to put an end to this allegiance to a foreign crown.
(Translated from the original French)