Ontario reviewing law after Indigenous councillor refuses oath to the Queen

Posted
December 6, 2018
Article Source
CTV News

The Ontario government said on Wednesday it was looking into rules requiring all municipal councillors to pledge allegiance to the Queen after an Indigenous councillor-elect 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 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 on Wednesday. "The only thing is we wait and see what government is going to do. We didn't have any choice because the law is there."

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 in a statement. "At this time, there is no exception to the requirement to take the declaration of office prior to taking your seat as a local councillor."

Read more: Ontario reviewing law after Indigenous councillor refuses oath to the Queen