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The Liberal MP from New Brunswick proposes that elected officials and senators can take an oath unrelated to the monarchy, if they wish.

Optional oath to the king: a draft law debated

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New Brunswick federal MP René Arseneault wants to make the oath to the king optional. (Archive photo)

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The second reading of a bill which suggests making the oath of allegiance to the king optional began Wednesday in Ottawa. It was tabled a few months ago by a Liberal MP from New Brunswick.

René Arseneault, the MP for Madawaska—Restigouche, proposes that the elected representatives of the Commons and senators have the choice of taking, if they wish, an oath of office , rather than swearing an oath to the King of England when they are sworn in.

This oath of office would be: I, [person's name] ‍, I swear that I will carry out my duties in the best interests of Canada and in accordance with its Constitution.

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René Arseneault, Liberal MP for Madawaska—Restigouche, chairs the Standing Committee on Official Languages, February 17, 2023 in Ottawa .

For this to be an option, Bill C-347 (New window) tabled by MP Arseneault calls for amending section 128 of the Constitutional Act of 1867.

In an interview on Thursday, Professor Érik Labelle Eastaugh, dean of the faculty of law at the Université de Moncton, explained that section 44 of the Constitution Act of 1982 effectively gives Parliament the power to unilaterally modify aspects of the Constitution which relate to the Senate, the House of Commons and the federal executive.

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There is still a downside. The changes cannot change the nature and fundamental role of the Commons or the Senate.

MP René Arseneault seems to be hopeful that the law can be changed the way he wants.

It’s not inappropriate for him to be confident, says Érik Labelle Eastaugh. The New Brunswick MP's bet is that the oath of allegiance be considered a question of internal management or procedure, which does not distort the institutions.

A person who would rather be of the opinion that an optional oath modifies the relationship of institutions with the monarchy could bring proceedings before a superior court to invalidate such a change to the law, underlines the dean of the law faculty.

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Érik Labelle Eastaugh is dean of the faculty of law at the Université de Moncton. (Archive photo)

The question that could be raised here, says Érik Labelle Eastaugh, is whether the oath of ;allegiance sworn directly to the monarch constitutes part of the fundamental nature of the House of Commons and the Senate? x27;advances, but there would be a reasonable argument to be made that the bill is unconstitutional, he argues.

There are precedents for the abolition of the obligatory oath to the monarch. The National Assembly of Quebec has no longer required it since December 2022, having adopted a law to this effect a few weeks after the death of Queen Elizabeth II and the swearing-in of elected officials of the 43rd legislature of Quebec.

< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">With information from Louis-Philippe LeBlanc

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