Quebec's Coalition Avenir Québec government tabled a bill on Tuesday that would make the oath to the monarch optional for members of the provincial legislature.
Jean-François Roberge, the minister responsible for democratic institutions, got a standing ovation from his colleagues as he introduced the bill in Quebec City.
The purpose of the legislation is to abolish the requirement for elected officials to swear an oath to the King before they can take their seats in the legislature.
To do so, the bill adds to the Constitution Act of 1867 a section exempting Quebec from the application of the section that requires the oath, Roberge said. The bill contains only one article, which modifies Section 128 of the Constitution Act to declare that it does not apply to the province.
Roberge said that once the bill is adopted, members will only be required to swear loyalty to the people of Quebec and to the Constitution. He said the bill could become law as early as the end of the week, because the party has waived consultations in order to fast-track it.
The minister told a news conference Tuesday that he doesn't expect pushback from Ottawa or legal challenges to the bill, despite the fact that it makes a change to the Constitution Act.
"We have the right to do what we did," he said, adding that his government feels the bill is legally solid. "We're democrats. We're not monarchists," he added.
The three Parti Québécois members who were elected in October were barred from taking their seats in the legislature last week after they refused to swear allegiance to King Charles.
Constitutional scholars are divided over whether Quebec has the power to unilaterally eliminate the oath requirement for its legislature or if changing that element of the Constitution requires the consent of all provinces and both houses of Parliament.
Up until now, elected politicians in Quebec have sworn two oaths: one to the monarch and the second to the people of Quebec. Over the years, several Quebec politicians have expressed discomfort with the constitutionally required oath to the King or Queen.
Roberge, who swore the oath in 2014, 2018 and 2022, said he always found it a "tough moment."
Québec solidaire, whose members swore the oath under protest, had also introduced a bill to eliminate the requirement that members swear loyalty to the monarch. All four parties in the legislature have expressed support for abolishing the oath to the King.
The interim leader of the Opposition Liberal party, which had initially asked for consultations on the constitutionality of the law, said Tuesday that his party would collaborate to ensure it is adopted by Friday, when the current legislative session ends.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 6, 2022.
Jocelyne Richer, The Canadian Press