A couple of weeks back the Ontario government said it was looking into rules requiring all municipal councillors to pledge allegiance to the Queen.
The issue arose in Hearst where indigenous councillor-elect 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 was quoted as saying in an interview. “To me, the Queen represents residential schools, the reserves, and the breaking of all the treaties.”
Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Clark was made aware of the issue and said the Ontario government was considering options.
It came up with a solution fairly quickly.
Clark phoned Baillargeon to say the province would provide an alternate declaration which will allow publicly elected officials to be sworn in without pledging allegiance to the Crown.
Baillargeon was sworn in on Dec. 11.
Section 232 (1) of the Municipal Act says councillors are required to take the pledge in the form “established by the minister for that purpose.” It 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).”
Clark initially had said in a statement that the declaration is established provincially and there is no local authority to amend the declaration.
“We’ve been following this story with interest,” said Malcolm White, Deputy CAO / City Clerk.
“The Declaration of Office is required by all members of Council prior to beginning their new term, whether re-elected or elected for the first time. To my knowledge no one has objected to the declaration locally.”
But there apparently was another objection in Hearst in 2011.
In that one the town formally appealed to then-Liberal municipal affairs minister Rick Bartolucci to drop the requirement after a francophone councillor raised the issue. Bartolucci refused, saying it was not a priority for the government.
Baillargeon pointed out other Indigenous politicians have been allowed to bend the rules in other situations by using Cree for a pledge or changing the wording.
The oath issue also surfaced a few years ago in a failed challenge to Canadian citizenship rules, which requires a pledge of allegiance to the Queen.
I am happy that this issue has been resolved but I am waiting to see what the new wording will be like.
It must not deal only with Indigenous people; it must deal with all.
I don’t believe an oath of allegiance to the Queen has any place in local politics. In fact, I don’t believe it has any place at any level of government in this country.
Canada is a member of the Commonwealth but as a sovereign nation. As such, its allegiance should be to the other members of that body, not to a titular head of state.
I HAVE AN UPDATE on my column of last week in which I said I thought police, Crown and a Justice of the Peace overreacted in regard to a client of local lawyer Don Orazietti’s law firm who had been charged with breach of recognizance.
He was arrested while sitting in a car in the Canadian Tire parking lot on Dec. 6. His surety, Michelle Boland, was apparently using a washroom inside the store at the time.
He had a bail hearing on Thursday and in her decision announced Friday, Justice of the peace Kathleen Bryant remanded him in custody. He will appear in a video remand court on Jan 3.
Orazietti said he and representatives of the federal and provincial governments agreed that
Bryant had a conflict of interest in hearing the case in that she signed the search warrant for the search of his client’s apartment in respect of the drug charges.
But he said she refused to recuse herself, saying she signs many warrants and does not recall anything about this one.
Orazietti said his client will therefore spend the holidays in jail but the real tragedy is that no one cares.
He said his client has absolutely no record for violence and is a unfortunately a very high functioning individual who, despite his age, 47, has aspirations of completing his medical degree. “There is no issue that he has become derailed because of substance abuse, but he has taken steps to rehabilitate himself in treatment facilities such as Elliot Lake,” he said. “He certainly has those issues and on the recent charges from early November it is the Crown’s position that he was in possession of drugs in sufficient quantity to infer trafficking.
“He has no criminal convictions, but he was granted three conditional discharges, i.e. a finding of guilt but no registration of a conviction, two for drug-related offences and one for a criminal code offence for violating bail. Discharges are granted usually in minor infractions of the law.
“All that said, the narrow legal issue here is that once he was granted bail by a lawyer Justice of the Peace on Nov. 2 after a full bail hearing, which was not appealed by the Crown, does the violation of bail by sitting in the car without his surety mean he forfeits bai?
“He has served the equivalent of 21 ( 1.5days X14 ) days jail. What would a reasonable person think is a proper sentence for that kind of breach?” Orazietti asked.
Orazietti also questioned, with two Crowns involved in the matter of bail for his client, “where was all the gusto in the “big sell-out” in the Hallam case? When it was time to draw the line in the sand the Crown ran for the exit and folded like a cheap tent and even had to bring in outside Crown to do the plea for “the big fix.
“So I find it sad that this is how the Crown uses its overwhelming power against an accused in a situation like my client finds himself in, on a breach of recognizance by sitting in a car.
“It is unfortunate that people like Wes Hallam, being a marginalized member of the drug culture, and his powerless family were left feeling they had been denied justice. And they were.”
Actually, I find it hard to understand why the police, Crown and Justices of the Peace seem to be so heavy in the pursuit of Orazietti’s client.
It would seem they would have enough bigger stuff: to keep them busy.
And then there are those who would throw aside the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, commenting that they would agree with putting people like Orazietti’s client in jail until a decision as to their guilt or innocence is rendered.
I guess I am becoming what is generally referred to as a bleeding-heart liberal.
But I just can’t see what is to be accomplished by keeping Orazietti’s client in custody over the holidays, which will probably mean he will spend more time in jail than he would have if he had pleaded guilty to the breach.
It will be interesting to see what comes down and where he goes, if anywhere, after he appears in video remand court on Jan. 3.