Quebec mayor slams Algerian-born candidate
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, flanked by Denis Lebel, left, Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities and Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, and the mayor of Saguenay Jean Tremblay, walk by a Coast Guard ice breaker at the Port of Saguenay Tuesday, January 17, 2012 in Saguenay, Que. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot)
Published Wednesday, August 15, 2012 12:44PM EDT
MONTREAL -- The mayor of Saguenay, Que., is at the centre of a controversy over remarks he made about a provincial election candidate who is originally from Algeria.
Mayor Jean Tremblay is upset at Djemila Benhabib, a Parti Quebecois candidate who came to Quebec in the 1990s.
The PQ candidate has in the past been opposed to keeping the crucifix in the national assembly, although now she accepts it and supports her party's position that the cultural symbol be left there.
The populist mayor says he doesn't like people coming from Algeria, telling Quebecers what to do. In a radio interview, he twice quipped that he couldn't even pronounce her name.
PQ leader Pauline Marois today called on Tremblay to apologize.
During a campaign stop north of Montreal, she told reporters the mayor's remarks are unacceptable and irresponsible.
Marois described Benhabib as an example when it comes to integrating into Quebec society, and proof that Quebecers are open, generous and tolerant.
At the heart of the dispute with Tremblay is the PQ's proposed Charter of Secularism, which would restrict religious displays in public institutions.
The policy would apply to the Muslim hijab. It would also forbid municipal councils from beginning their sittings with a prayer -- something Tremblay says is done in 400 Quebec municipalities, including his.
He also noted that the fleur-de-lys, the Quebec provincial flag, has a Christian cross on it and he wonders if it would have to be removed.