On­tario look­ing at law after In­dige­nous coun­cil­lor re­fuses oath to the Queen

Gae­tan Bail­largeon forced to va­cate coun­cil seat be­cause he wouldn’t pledge al­le­giance

StarMetro Calgary - - CALGARY - Colin Perkel

The On­tario gov­ern­ment said on Wed­nes­day it was look­ing into rules re­quir­ing all mu­nic­i­pal coun­cil­lors to pledge al­le­giance to the Queen after an In­dige­nous coun­cil­lor­elect re­fused to do so.

The is­sue arose in Hearst, Ont., where Gae­tan Bail­largeon said he was forced to va­cate the seat he re­cently won in a gen­eral elec­tion be­cause he wouldn’t take the oath.

“It’s in­con­sis­tent with my views re­gard­ing the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the Crown and the In­dige­nous peo­ple of Canada,” Bail­largeon said in an in­ter­view. “To me, the Queen rep­re­sents res­i­den­tial schools, the re­serves and the break­ing of all the treaties.”

Bail­largeon, of the Con­stance Lake First Nation just west of Hearst, said he be­lieved a pledge ex­emp­tion ex­isted for First Na­tions but the town clerk said no. He said the clerk told him he had to give up his seat or the swear­ing-in cer­e­mony on Mon­day would have ground to a halt — some­thing he said he didn’t want to have hap­pen.

“I would rather have pledged al­le­giance to Canada and its laws, On­tario and to the peo­ple of Hearst,” Bail­largeon Gae­tan Bail­largeon, who has the sup­port of Hearst’s mayor, said he wants to pledge al­le­giance to Canada and its laws, On­tario and to the peo­ple of Hearst.

said. “I want to pledge al­le­giance.”

Roger Sigouin, the mayor of the north­ern On­tario town of about 5,000, said the ball was in the gov­ern­ment’s court.

“We’re be­hind (Bail­largeon), 100 per cent,” Sigouin said.

Mu­nic­i­pal Af­fairs Min­is­ter Steve Clark said he was aware of the con­cerns and was con­sid­er­ing op­tions.

“We are look­ing into the mat­ter fur­ther,” Clark said.

Un­der Sec­tion 232 of the Mu­nic­i­pal Act, coun­cil­lors are re­quired to take the pledge in the form “es­tab­lished

by the min­is­ter for that pur­pose.” The cur­rent in­car­na­tion, set in 2001, reads in part: “I will be faith­ful and bear true al­le­giance to Her Majesty Queen El­iz­a­beth the Sec­ond (or the reign­ing sov­er­eign for the time be­ing).”

Sigouin wants the is­sue re­solved be­fore Dec. 18, at which point coun­cil would have to de­clare the seat .

Bail­largeon said he didn’t want to give up his seat.

“The peo­ple of Hearst voted for me,” he said. “If I can’t make any changes, then what use am I as a politi­cian.” On­go­ing is­sues with the oath at thes­tar.com/canada

THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

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