Erin O’Toole says Bill 21 is a Quebec issue while some of his MPs take tougher stand

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Published December 9, 2021 at 2:32 pm

OTTAWA — Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole says a Quebec law prohibiting public servants from wearing religious symbols on the job is an issue to be dealt with by that province alone. 

Some of his MPs, however, appear to be taking a tougher stand. 

O’Toole discussed the Quebec law known as Bill 21 Thursday, in response to a report that a teacher in western Quebec was reassigned from the classroom because she wore a hijab. 

The Conservative leader says while he personally opposes the law and has raised it with Quebec Premier Francois Legault, he respects provincial jurisdiction and believes it to be “an issue that is best left for Quebecers to decide.”

O’Toole characterized his position as being the “exact same” as that of NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh as well as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who hasn’t ruled out the idea of federal intervention. 

While the Tory leader said the matter falls squarely within provincial borders, some of his MPs weren’t shy about drawing a harder line. 

“I cannot in good conscience keep silent on this anymore. This is an absolute disgrace,” tweeted Ontario MP Kyle Seeback, linking to a news story about the recent hijab incident. 

“It’s time politicians stood up for what’s right. Bill 21 has to be opposed. In court, in the House of Commons and in the streets.”

“100 per cent,” Conservative critic for Indigenous Services Jamie Schmale tweeted in response.  

Also on the social media platform, B.C. Conservative MP Mark Strahl said “Thank you for your leadership, Kyle. My views on this are the same as yours.” 

Alberta Conservative Chris Warkentin added that, “If government is free to limit religious freedom it will take liberties to restrict other freedoms.”

“I support freedom for every Canadian!”

On the Liberals’ side, Ontario MP Salma Zahid, who herself wears a hijab, tweeted she was “saddened and disappointed” by what she read about the Quebec teacher, saying “This should not be happening in Canada.”

“Nobody in Canada should ever lose their job because of what they wear or their religious beliefs.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 9, 2021

Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press

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