Bloc MP expelled from caucus for denouncing Quebec's values charter
Published Thursday, September 12, 2013 12:22PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, September 12, 2013 11:39PM EDT
OTTAWA -- The Bloc Quebecois has expelled Maria Mourani from caucus after she spoke out against Quebec's proposed Charter of Values.
Mourani has denounced the charter in media interviews and in a letter she co-signed with a number of other sovereigntists, saying a ban on religious icons in the public service is equal to promoting ethnic nationalism.
In a statement announcing his decision to boot Mourani from caucus, Bloc Leader Daniel Paille said her comments "do not reflect the position of the Bloc Quebecois."
"The Quebec Charter of Values, far from being, as stated by Ms. Mourani an electoral process, a grave strategic error of the sovereigntist movement, or worse, a manifestation of ethnic nationalism is, however, a necessary and fundamental approach to the Quebec nation," Paille said.
Paille said he first asked Mourani to stop serving as a spokesperson for the group of sovereigntists who oppose the charter, but she refused, and so he had no choice but to dismiss her from caucus.
Mourani’s ouster from caucus drops the total number of Bloc MPs in the House of Commons from five to four.
Quebec's Parti Quebecois government is facing heavy criticism for its proposed charter, which would ban many public sector workers from wearing overt religious clothing, including turbans, kippas and large crucifixes. The charter would include some exemptions.
Earlier this week, Mourani said a ban on religious clothing undermines years-long efforts to convince non-francophones to support the separatist movement.
In an interview, Mourani said that "whether they like it or not, they are discriminating against minorities. It has never been easy to convince people from ethno-cultural groups that the independence movement is inclusive. The signal here is not very encouraging."
"In terms of strategy, this is grave. Independence is not going to happen without including everyone. And it most certainly isn't going to happen without Montreal."
Several politicians from different parties came to Mourani’s defence Thursday, slamming the Bloc’s decision to expel her.
"It's as though they're saying, 'There's a dissident voice, a voice that is issuing some warnings against certain aspects of the charter and there's a sovereigntist party that wants to silence this voice'," said Francoise David, a member of the legislature for Quebec solidaire, a left-wing sovereigntist party.
"It sends the wrong message...and it shouldn't happen like that."
Meanwhile, Quebec Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard accused sovereigntists of "absolutism."
"People are talking about fundamentalism these days," he said. "There seems to be another kind that is taking root within the sovereigntist movement. A kind of clerical atmosphere.
"Mme Mourani has been excommunicated and I suppose it will be the same thing for the next heretics."
Federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau offered his support to Mourani on Twitter, writing: "Bravo to Maria Mourani for standing up to this divisive proposal.
"Mme Marois has seriously underestimated Quebecers' respect for each other."
Antonia Maioni, political science professor at McGill University in Montreal, said Mourani “is someone that the Bloc Quebecois cannot afford to lose. She is a visage of modern Quebec.”
Maioni said Mourani’s views are actually in line with the Bloc’s position on religious accommodation dating back six years.
“The Bloc Quebecois’ position since 2007 has been: ‘Yes, we want to have a secular state and yes, we feel people of authority like judges and police should not be wearing religious symbols.’ But it’s never gone beyond that,” Maioni told CTV’s Power Play.
“She is probably closer to the essential tenets the Bloc Quebecois has always held so that’s why the situation is quite bizarre in political terms.”
With files from CTV Montreal and The Canadian Press