The Significance of Not Swearing Allegiance to the King

Since the death of Queen Elizabeth II, there have been many calls in Quebec to end the yoke of the monarchy in Quebec and the current constitutional order. The Marxist-Leninist Party of Quebec (PMLQ) has made its opinion known on this subject and writes: "One thing is certain, if everyone refused to take the oath of allegiance to a foreign monarch, it would become the de facto new tradition. Already, Quebec has refused to sign the Constitution Act, 1982 because it does not respect the rights of the Quebec nation, including the right to self-determination up to and including secession if it so chooses. Refusing the oath would take this further and be one step closer to resolving the constitutional crisis in favour of the people, in Quebec and across Canada."

The PMLQ received emails and comments in support of its proposal. Gestures that change the constitutional status quo offer the people the opportunity to participate in the establishment of their own democratic constitutional order.

Robert Dutrisac, in his article "Shake off the monarchical yoke" published in Le Devoir on September 13, also made his opinion known. He writes, among other things, that "it cannot be denied that the death of Queen Elizabeth II and her replacement by King Charles III are changing this context and rekindling the debate in Quebec -- and, to a lesser extent, in Canada -- on the advisability of cutting ties with the British monarchy. It is a debate that is also taking place in other Commonwealth countries whose head of state is still that foreign sovereign. This is the case in tiny countries like Antigua and Barbuda, but also in New Zealand and Australia. [...]

"It takes imagination to get rid of an illegitimate constitution and outdated colonial institutions while remaining subject to them. But the project of providing Quebec with a written constitution is not far-fetched. It is a necessary, if incomplete, act of affirmation that our National Assembly, exercising its parliamentary sovereignty, can perfectly well accomplish."

In his article, he shares the opinion of jurist André Binette, professor of law at the University of Sherbrooke, who wrote the book La fin de la monarchie au Québec. Pour une république du Québec dans le cadre canadien (The End of the Monarchy in Quebec. For a Quebec Republic in the Canadian Framework). Dutrisac summarizes Binette's thinking as follows: "The appropriate response to the patriation of the Canadian Constitution, 1982 without the consent of the Quebec nation is the abolition of the monarchy in a Quebec constitution. A majority in the National Assembly representing a majority of voters would be sufficient to adopt this text."

The jurist's proposal, writes Dutrisac, is that "in this constitution, the position of lieutenant governor appointed by Ottawa would be abolished; it would be replaced by a Quebec head of state appointed by two-thirds of the National Assembly or elected by universal suffrage. His or her role would be essentially the same as that of the lieutenant governor, including enacting legislation and dissolving Parliament when necessary. [...]

"Once the Quebec constitution is in place, through which Quebec would exercise its right to internal self-determination, it is expected that the federal government would maintain the office of lieutenant governor. Ottawa would take over from the Quebec government, which would have ceased to pay for the representative of the monarchy. Two possibilities then open up: Quebec would no longer submit laws passed by the National Assembly for the imprimatur of the lieutenant governor, and the new president of the republic would take over this task exclusively, or, for a time at least, the two competing functions would coexist and double up. In the first case, a constitutional crisis is guaranteed, and we'll see where that leads."

On the eve of the October 3 election, the call is for future MNAs not to endorse the succession by refusing to take the oath of allegiance to the king. It would be a gesture of respect to the voters to pledge allegiance to the people of Quebec, a gesture of affirmation of Quebec's right to self-determination and a break with the monarchy. It would shake up the status quo and the old constitutional order.

The Saint-Jean-Baptiste Society for its part has launched a petition for the abolition of the monarchy in Quebec.

This article was published in
Volume 52 Number 23 - October 2, 2022

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