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PQ, QS members must swear oath to King to sit in national assembly: Speaker

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Refusing to swear an oath to the King is going to cost some Quebec MNAs their seat in the national assembly, according to a ruling from the Speaker of the legislature.

National assembly speaker François Paradis said in a decision released Tuesday that members who don't pledge allegiance to King Charles III will not be allowed to sit in the Salon Bleu and can be expelled.

The decision was delivered to the leaders of the Parti Québécois (PQ) and Québec solidaire (QS), whose combined 14 members have stood firm against the parliamentary tradition. During the swearing-in ceremony last month, members from the two parties -- who both advocate for Quebec to be a sovereign state -- pledged allegiance to the people of Quebec. 

In the last session of the Quebec legislature, members studied a bill that would abolish the pledge of allegiance or make it optional, but the proposed legislation died when the parliamentary session was dissolved. Paradis said since the matter was left unresolved, swearing an oath is mandatory according to the current rules. 

"This question raises complex constitutional issues which it is not for me to decide. Suffice it to say that section 128 of the Constitution Act, 1867 is still in force in Quebec. In this context, the chair does not have the power to exempt a member from a constitutional obligation and cannot rule that a motion to override that obligation is in order," Paradis said in his decision Tuesday.

The speaker said members are free to change their minds should they choose to fulfill the mandatory requirements of the national assembly, but until then they are not welcome.

"I hereby give formal orders to the sergeant-at-arms to ensure that this decision is enforced in such a way that member of the national assembly who have not taken the oath of office are not allowed to take their seats in the national assembly or in any of its committees. In the event that a person refuses to comply with this order, the sergeant-at-arms shall have the right to expel him/her."

DECISION DOEST NOT REPRESENT NATIONAL ASSEMBLY, SAYS PQ LEADER

Reacting to the decision Tuesday, St-Pierre Plamondon appeared to downplay the seriousness of the order and accused the speaker of politicizing the issue. In a tweet, he said the decision does not represent the national assembly, but instead "outgoing president, who is no longer an elected official," he wrote, referring to Paradis, the former CAQ MNA for Lévis who chose not to run again in the Oct. 3 provincial election.

He then called it a "political order from the CAQ" when the party has previously said "they do not want to collaborate on the oath, nor provide their legal opinions against a motion," the PQ leader said.

In an interview with CTV News last month, PQ leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon said he was confident he could still sit in the legislature despite his adamant refusal to pledge allegiance to the Crown.

According to the party leader, there is a grey area in the understanding of the law, depending on which constitutional expert you talk to, which he believed opened the door to his members being allowed to fulfill their duties.

"There are many possibilities before us and it's indeed not clear at this point. What's clear is my undertaking not to take that oath for personal reasons, and for honesty, integrity reasons," he said in the interview on Oct. 19.

This is a developing story. More to come. 

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