Law 21: Charest’s position makes Quebec react

The leader of the Parti Québécois, Paul St-Pierre Plamondon, is concerned to see the new candidate for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada, Jean Charest, opposing the Quebec Secularism Act, an “explicit attempt to deny Quebecers the right to decide for themselves,” he said.

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In an interview with LCN on Thursday, the former Liberal prime minister said that “the question of secularism for Quebecers is fundamental […] and that, you have to respect that”.

“It’s not me who’s going to run with lawsuits in court, I wouldn’t make a lawsuit in court. If the case goes to the Supreme Court, the federal government will speak out,” he added later.

This position contrasts with that of non-interference of his predecessor, Erin O’Toole, and caused a reaction in the National Assembly where the deputies reiterated, no later than last November, that this debate belonged to Quebecers.

Proof by absurd

Jean Charest thus continues “in his guideline of denying the right of Quebecers to decide for themselves”, a tradition he would have started in 1995 when he campaigned for the No side in the second referendum on sovereignty, said the PQ leader.

A potential race to lead the country between the federal Liberal leader, Justin Trudeau, and Jean Charest, both opposed to the State Secularism Act (Bill 21), would demonstrate “by the absurd” the uselessness of the collaborative approach with the federal government adopted by the Coalition Avenir Québec, he adds.

More nuanced, the deputy of the Liberal Party of Quebec (PLQ) Gaétan Barrette notes that Jean Charest is “on the fence” in terms of secularism. “At the limit, someone could say it’s contradictory,” he says. On the other hand, “it is a Quebec debate”, he decides, however.

While some PLQ MPs have already said they are ready to support their former leader in his attempt to be elected to head the CPC, such as Lise Thériault and Christine St-Pierre, these personal positions should not be seen as support of the party to the position of Jean Charest, explains Gaétan Barrette.

“Individuals who are also deputies have the opportunity to take a position as people, now at the PLQ we are not going to take a position in relation to anyone at the federal level,” said the former Minister of Health.

It will be settled here

For Québec solidaire, whose anti-Bill 21 position is well known, Jean Charest is only one supporter among “thousands and thousands to be against the ban on the wearing of religious symbols which prevents women from working”. But “regardless of his position, it will be settled here, in Quebec,” said party spokeswoman Stéphanie Guèvremont.

If he is delighted with the support of Jean Charest for the resumption of certain pipeline projects, the leader of the Conservative Party of Quebec, Éric Duhaime, is in opposition to his potential vis-à-vis the federal government in terms of secularism. .

“Quebec has exclusive jurisdiction over state secularism. The federal government must respect the choice of Quebeckers. The debate is closed,” he said on Thursday.

Only the Coalition Avenir Québec, though at the origin of the Act respecting the secularism of the State, refrained from commenting on Jean Charest’s position. The Prime Minister’s press secretary, Ewan Sauves, merely referred to a past statement by François Legault where he said he did not want to interfere in the race for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada.

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