All 11 members of Québec solidaire (QS) now say they will pledge allegiance to the King after refusing to do so for days.

The party is backtracking on earlier statements that it would not follow through with the parliamentary custom but is now going ahead with it so that it can table a bill to make the pledge optional as its first order of business, even though some constitutional lawyers say the national assembly doesn't have the power to change the rules. 

"Another way to put it, we're going to swear that oath of allegiance one last time to make sure in the future no one is forced anymore to do it," QS co-spokeserson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois told CTV News Thursday.

During their swearing-in ceremonies last month, the 11 elected members of the QS and the three Parti Québécois (PQ) members all swore an oath only to the people of Quebec and did not swear an oath to King Charles III — a requirement the QS says is "unnecessary and archaic."

To introduce and vote on a bill in the Quebec legislature, however, they must first the swear the oath in full to be considered a sitting MNA.

In a bid to settle the political debate, the speaker of the national assembly ruled in a decision released Tuesday that MNAs will not be allowed to sit in the Quebec legislature unless they swear the oath to the Crown. Refusing to do so will get them expelled by the sergeant-at-arms, Speaker François Paradis said in his ruling.

Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois


The PQ and QS strongly disagreed with Paradis' assessment. The PQ leader, Paul St-Pierre Plamondon, said it was the "opinion" of an outgoing speaker who is politicizing the issue. Paradis, a CAQ member who did not seek re-election on Oct. 3, will remain speaker until a new one is chosen when the fall session resumes on Nov. 29.

Quebec's justice minister, Simon Jolin-Barrette, came out Wednesday and told reporters in a scrum that the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) government will "quickly" introduce a bill to make the oath to the monarchy optional to "resolve the situation." Jolin-Barrette, along with his CAQ members, all swore their allegiance to the King in a ceremony on Oct. 18.

Yet, it's not clear how that will be accomplished. Some experts in constitutional law say Quebec cannot unilaterally amend the Canadian constitution. 

Nadeau-Dubois is confident he can make it happen. A bill, he said, will not challenge the constitution if it's adopted in the national assembly.

"The parliament of Quebec has the authority to change that Quebec law. Just like in the past, for example, the parliament of Quebec has abolished the Quebec Senate. It was a change in the internal constitution of Quebec. Quebec has such powers inside Canada so it is possible for elected officials in Quebec to change the way we work inside our national assembly," he said.


There does not seem to consensus, though, among experts in the field. 

According to Frédéric Bérard, a Université de Montréal professor who specializes in constitutional law, it's likely that Quebec might very well need all 9 other provinces and Ottawa on board to get rid of section of 128 of the Canadian constitution, which establishes the pledges of allegiance to the Crown for provincial legislatures.

"Good luck!" Bérard said, adding that amending the rules by unanimous consent, under section 41 of the constitution, would be nearly impossible.

Frederic Berard

He said Quebec has a second option: to pass a motion under section 45 of the constitution, which states that, "Subject to section 41, the legislature of each province may exclusively make laws amending the constitution of the province."

"What I would do if I were Quebec, I would try section 45, which says that Quebec can do it alone without the consent of the other provinces or the federal [government]. The chances are that this will go in front of the court and the court will tell them no, it's not section 45, it's section 41 — unanimity — or yes, it's section 45," Bérard said.

"If that works for the court, that will be perfect option for Quebec. It's even easier than passing a bill because a motion, you can do that in five minutes. That will be the best-case scenario," he said.

"We'll see what's going to happen, but for me, the costs are not that high to try that first option of acting unilaterally without the consent of the other legislatures within Canada."

But not all experts agree.

Benoît Pelletier, a constitutional law professor at the University of Ottawa, said a law — not a motion — is needed to change the rules.

"In my view [it's necessary] for Quebec's national assembly to adopt an act, to adopt a law, in order to modify, to amend the Canadian constitution," he told CTV. 

He admitted that the debate on the issue is fluid with differing opinions from both sides.

"There's a thesis that supports the point of view that there would be a need for the consent of the House of Commons, the Senate and the 10 provincial legislatures. I don't share that point of view," he said.

Nadeau-Dubois said he called the PQ leader Wednesday night to tell him he fully supports the political fight to change the rules.

The PQ declined an interview request from CTV on Thursday.