The oath to the king is “a humiliation for Francophones”, says a Liberal MP

OTTAWA — The leader of the Bloc Québécois is not the only one who reluctantly pledged allegiance to Charles III. This oath that MNAs must take in order to be able to sit is “a humiliation for Francophones,” New Brunswick Liberal MNA René Arseneault said on Wednesday.

« For a francophone, are we comfortable taking an oath to the British monarch when in my situation, my story is that it was with the help of this oath that we deported the Acadians? ?, he continued. If we know his story, we are not comfortable with that.

Mr. Arseneault, like many of his Liberal colleagues, was questioned on Wednesday about the sincerity of his oath after members of his party demanded the day before that the Speaker of the House of Commons rule that Mr. Blanchet is not fit to sit since he declared that he was « not sincere » when he took the oath, which would be the equivalent of having « never taken it ».

Speaker Anthony Rota then invoked a precedent from 1990 when one of his predecessors was called upon to rule on the sincerity of a solemn affirmation by an MP who decided he was not qualified to wear a judgment on the sincerity of the oath.

After another parliamentary secretary pointed out to him that the Bloc leader had « clearly expressed his intention », Speaker Rota announced that he would study the matter and render another decision if he deems it appropriate.

Mr. Arseneault, who had fought and won a legal battle some 30 years ago not to take the oath in order to be admitted to the bar of his province, avoided on Wednesday to comment on the sincerity of his oath, asking rather to journalists what they think of Galileo who avoided « going to the stake » by solemnly denying his theory that the Earth is round and revolves around the sun.

The MP went even further, saying he would ‘absolutely’ support a motion which would make the oath to the British crown optional, even that he ‘would be prepared to work on that’. Besides, it would be “very easy” and it would not cause all the problems that a reopening of the Constitution would cause, he declared. An optional oath would be “extremely respectful of all sensitivities of all Canadians,” he noted.

Varying sincerity

Called to comment on the charge led the day before by parliamentary secretaries following Mr. Blanchet’s remarks, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau affirmed that the Bloc leader was duly elected and can continue to sit in the House of Commons despite his remarks. .

“The reality is that there are many people who take oaths to the Queen to become citizens (and) later withdraw them. Mr. Blanchet was elected by Canadians to serve in this House,” said Mr. Trudeau on Wednesday upon arriving at the weekly Liberal caucus meeting. As a result, he “thinks yes” Mr. Blanchet is fit to sit.

When questioned, some Liberals made it clear that they were sincere, such as the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, François-Philippe Champagne, and the President of the Treasury Board, Mona Fortier, but others carefully avoided answering the question directly.

« I am proud to represent the people of my riding and to sit in Parliament, » said Sports Minister Pascale St-Onge, for example.

The Minister of National Revenue, Diane Lebouthillier, for her part said that her oath, as an MP, was « for the Gaspésiens and the Madelinots » who are her « first priority » then for « all Canadians » when she was appointed. minister. “Then after that well came the oath so I took the oath to the Queen,” she noted.

The Minister of the Environment, Steven Guilbeault, for his part declared that Yves-François Blanchet should answer “to his constituents and to his conscience” for the fact that he admitted not having been sincere. “Are there many other things on which Mr. Blanchet is not sincere”, he launched.

As for the idea of ​​expelling an elected official because of the lack of sincerity of the oath, the deputies who spoke said that he should be able to sit.

After arguing that « this palace intrigue » is not important and being chastised that it was his party that raised the issue and thus made it an important issue, the MP for Outaouais, Greg Fergus, recognized that “it is not all the questions that we raise that are important”.

Among the Conservatives, MP Gérard Deltell affirmed that it will be necessary to let the Speaker of the House of Commons « judge the impact of this statement and then he [M. Blanchet] will live with the consequences of that”.

The day before, before the saga began, Mr. Deltell had been questioned about the sincerity of his oath. He replied that « it lasted what: between seven and eight seconds » and that he was taking an oath to the « institution ».

In the New Democratic Party, the deputy leader, Alexandre Boulerice, refused to say if he was sincere in his oath. “I was sincere in my desire to serve the population of Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie, to serve the people and do the work that I was asked to do to improve the living and working conditions of the people. “, he said in the foyer of the House of Commons.

Federal elected officials will have to vote on Wednesday afternoon on a Bloc Québécois motion proposing Canada’s independence from the British monarchy. The Conservatives and Liberals have said they will vote against, saying there are other priority issues. It will be a free vote for New Democrats.

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