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
Thursday, December 6, 2018
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