April 4, 2019 4:25 pm
Updated: April 4, 2019 6:12 pm

Quebec Liberals accuse CAQ of dismissing concerns over secularism bill

WATCH: Quebec's official opposition party says the CAQ government is trying to ram through its controversial secularism bill, without leaving room for any debate at the National Assembly. As Global's Raquel Fletcher explains, the Liberals accuse the Legault government of dismissing concerns from the English community.

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There was another battle on Thursday between the Coalition Avenir Québec and the Liberals over the government’s secularism bill. The official opposition says the Legault government is trying to ram through Bill 21 and cut short debate at the National Assembly.

READ MORE: Will Montreal defy Quebec’s secularism bill?

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The Liberals also accuse the government of dismissing concerns from the English speaking community after Legault said opposition to Bill 21 reminded him of past opposition to Bill 101.

“I think that the premier has been trying first of all to divide,” said Pierre Arcand, the interim Liberal leader.

Christopher Skeete, the premier’s parliamentary assistant for relations with English-speaking Quebecers, said the anglophone community is not a “monolithic block.”

“The English community, like the French community, has divergent opinions on everything,” he said.

However, he said there is an interesting parallel between the Bill 21 and Bill 101 comparison.

“Ultimately now we see that the English community — even very militant English groups — agree with Bill 101 because they see what it’s done in terms of protecting the French language in Quebec,” he said.

READ MORE: Westmount High students, teachers form human chain to protest CAQ religious symbols bill

Earlier this week, anglophone school boards and west-end municipalities protested the proposed legislation to ban some public employees from wearing religious symbols. Some went so far as to say they will defy it if its passed.

On Thursday, Skeete told reporters that, like with Bill 101, he thinks hostility to the bill will die down if it becomes law.

“The anglophone minority feels it needs to rally around another minority because they see it as an expression of their own minority status, but I think once we get out of that no one is against creating a barrier between state and church,” he said.

READ MORE: Groups say Quebec bill on religious symbols violates minority rights

However, the Liberal Party said the CAQ government is trying to equate resistance to the bill with the anglophone community.

“I felt yesterday in his remarks, that the premier wanted to make this a thing between anglophones and francophones,” Arcand said.

The government says it wants to pass the bill by June, but the opposition accused the CAQ of deliberately limiting debate at the National Assembly in order to restrict criticism.

“We are asking questions; we have the right to do so and I think it’s very important that what the opposition has to say can be heard,” Arcand said.

READ MORE: Canadian Bar Association calls on Quebec to drop notwithstanding clause from Bill 21

“I hear the leader of the opposition trying to create problems,” François Legault fired back during a heated question period exchange.

He denied he is trying to pit Quebec francophones against anglophones on this issue.

“I know right now the population is divided, so that’s why our interests for the social peace in Quebec is to make sure we can adopt this bill as soon as possible,” Legault said.

“I think it’s time we turn the page.”

Legault added it’s time to end this debate that’s been going on for 11 years.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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