Quebec separatists reap first casualty in religious symbol drive
By Randall Palmer
OTTAWA (Reuters) - The separatist Bloc Quebecois kicked one of its five members of Parliament out of its caucus on Thursday after she took a strong stand against a proposal by Quebec's separatist government to ban public workers from wearing most religious symbols.
Demonstrating how the controversial proposal has caused divisions even among those who want Quebec to leave Canada, legislator Maria Mourani and a group of other separatists said the Parti Quebecois government was making a big error with its proposed Charter of Quebec Values in a bid for short-term gains.
The Bloc Quebecois runs separatists in elections for the Canadian House of Commons, and Bloc leader Daniel Paille said Mourani had irreconcilable differences with the Bloc.
On Tuesday, the Quebec government unveiled the charter, which would prohibit public workers from wearing Muslim headscarves, Jewish skullcaps and large Christian crosses.
The stated idea is to create a more secular state in which people of all religions or no religion felt welcome, a move which has widespread backing in Quebec, but it has triggered criticism from Mourani and many others that it in fact would exclude many religious people from public life.
"It is a grave strategic error," read a declaration put out in French on Wednesday by Mourani and a group of other separatists who say they are for inclusive secularism.(link.reuters.com/kaw92v)
A separatist government should not drive minorities into the arms of federalists by making them think Canadian law is their last defense against oppression, they argued: "It is not enough to win the next election. For Quebec independence, a sovereigntist government most be the most inclusive possible and must therefore embrace widely."
In expelling Mourani, Paille said that far from being an electoral gambit or a grave error, the proposed charter "was a necessary and fundamental step for the Quebec nation." Continued...