Parti Québécois Leader Speaks About Significance of Oath of Office
On October 21, after swearing loyalty to the people of Quebec but refusing the oath of loyalty to King Charles III, Parti Québécois leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon addressed a press conference at which, amongst other things, he elaborated his views on what it means to swear an oath of allegiance.
“We are now in an era where consent is at the heart of many social debates, and rightly so,” Plamondon stressed. Here is an excerpt of what he said:
Parti Québécois leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon addresses press conference, October 21, 2022.
“I am very happy and very touched to see so many of you here together to celebrate our sincere oath to the people of Quebec. For an oath reveals a real meaning, gives meaning to our political commitment. Who would want to live in a world where nothing has meaning? Neither the word given, nor the flag raised, nor the symbols displayed, nor the past of one’s own grandparents, nor the future of one’s own grandchildren, a world where everything is relative, vague and unimportant. A world where promises can be broken, where convictions are soft, interchangeable and change according to the prevailing wind of the situation, fashion or ambitions. A world where it would be normal to say the opposite of what one thinks and to think the opposite of what one says.
“The Parti Québécois has a long tradition of public service, of serving the interests of Quebeckers. And as the 10th leader of this party, I wish to continue and further this political heritage. We are on the side of those who say that words have meaning. That when we give our word, make a commitment, sign a document or vote on a law, we commit our honour, we become responsible in the strongest sense of the word. Since the dawn of time, humans have imagined words that are stronger than all others, a solemn commitment, an oath. ‘To pronounce an oath is to put your soul in danger,’ said the writer Ken Follet.
“Unfortunately, for several decades, in Quebec we live in a straitjacket that condemns each elected representative of the Quebec people to hypocrisy. A straitjacket that forces democrats of all parties to take an oath they do not believe in and thus perjure themselves, to sully the very value of their words, and to do so in the first act they are called upon to perform as representatives of the citizens. The founding leader of the Parti Québécois, René Lévesque, took Quebec part of the way by inserting into the Act of the National Assembly another oath, the oath to the people of Quebec that you have just heard. And in doing so, he allowed all elected officials to take at least one sincere oath, but without exempting them from taking another one that must be characterized by the right word: false. And here I do not blame anyone. It is only in recent years that there are jurists who have awakened to the hypothesis that it would be possible to get out of this straitjacket by simply ignoring the oath made to the British Crown. One cannot serve two masters. The coexistence of the two oaths, the true and the false, has always been untenable; it is now indefensible.
“We are therefore finally at the time of decision. And as such, let us ask ourselves a simple question. When did Quebeckers, directly or indirectly through their elected representatives, consent to the existence of this oath to the King of England? When did Quebeckers even consent to a foreign royal family, the one that hanged the patriots, the one that deported the Acadians and the one that confirmed the unilateral patriation of the Canadian Constitution without Quebec’s consent, when did we consent to a foreign royal family being chosen to formally lead the Canadian and Quebec states?
“We are now in an era where consent is at the heart of many social debates and rightly so. So when did we say yes to the Queen and King, to this oath, to this exercise in humiliation and reminder of colonial domination? Certainly not in 1982 when the Canadian Constitution was adopted, renewing this act of submission without the agreement of Quebec, because at the time, the members of the government and the official opposition rejected this constitution, and therefore rejected these provisions of the king and the oath. So as we often say in this assembly, no consent. Not even 10 years later in 1992, when Quebeckers themselves, personally, said by 57 per cent that the improved version of this constitution would not be acceptable. So again, no consent.
“Would we have consented in 1867, when this constitution was written? None of Quebec’s elected officials had a mandate to approve this text because its existence had not been mentioned at all in previous elections. It was at the center of the election of 1867, which is the most fraudulent in our history. We know that at the time, a majority of Quebeckers were opposed to the constitutional text and to Quebec’s entry into Confederation. And again, no consent.
“We never said yes to the king and to this oath. And in fact, the legitimacy of King Charles III in Quebec, like that of all his predecessors, rests on one thing only: arms. The conquest, and the violence that came with it. And on the continuity that we, as Quebeckers, have been willing to give to all this, through our own passivity. Without arms, without violence and without conquest, there would be no king or oath in Quebec. Throughout the centuries, it is in the name of colonialism and British imperial domination that our elected representatives in Quebec have been forced to perjure themselves, and I think it is time to put an end to a past we never chose.
“To give meaning to the oath and to the ceremony we have today, we must henceforth take only one oath, the one to the people of Quebec, the one that speaks to the totality or the immense majority of the people we represent, and this is why I am reaching out to the other 122 democratically elected members of the National Assembly. Let us be the change we want to see in the world. Let us live up to the trust that the people of Quebec have placed in us by electing us, let us live up to history and the future.
“This brings me back to the election we have just lived through and to what will happen next. On October 3, more than 600,000 of you who are listening to us put your trust in us. More than 600,000 of you said that Quebec needed independentist members in the National Assembly, that you gave us the mandate to fight for fundamental issues, such as the future of French, the future of climate change, issues that are important to us. And so I would like to thank you again from the bottom of my heart, all of you who are listening to us from all over Quebec. We will strive to fulfill our mandate with all the pride, all the honesty and all the enthusiasm that we can muster. Although there are fewer of us than I would have liked, we must keep an eye on the big picture, remembering that we are certainly three elected officials, but we are also more than 2,000,000 Quebeckers who want Quebec to become a country. Our job over the next four years will be to increase that number and we will work on it every day.”
(Translated from original French by TML. Photo: Paul St-Pierre Plamondon facebook.)