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‘Some people are racist,’ Quebec premier denounces Montrealer who told Jagmeet Singh to ‘cut your turban off’

Quebec premier denounces Montrealer who told Jagmeet Singh to ‘cut your turban off’
WATCH ABOVE: Speaking to reporters at the National Assembly, Quebec Premier François Legault says it was "racist" for a man to tell NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh to "cut off your turban" at Montreal's Atwater Market.

Quebec Premier François Legault says it was “racist” for a man to tell NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh to “cut off your turban” at Montreal’s Atwater Market.

“There are some people that are racist in Quebec. It’s not a systemic racism, but some people are racist and we have to fight against that,” the premier stated Thursday.

“It’s unacceptable. … It’s clear that people in the streets, they can wear whatever they can wear, religious signs like Mr. Singh. So it’s unacceptable that somebody says something like that.”

Singh was in Montreal on Wednesday ahead of the French-language debate on TVA. He is a practicing Sikh, wearing a turban as a sign of his faith.

Quebec premier criticizes Montrealer who told Jagmeet Singh to cut off turban
Quebec premier criticizes Montrealer who told Jagmeet Singh to cut off turban

READ MORE: Premier François Legault on being unpopular with Quebec anglophones

The debate over religious symbols is particularly contentious in Quebec. Earlier this year, the province passed its secularism law, Bill 21, banning civil servants in positions of authority, such as teachers, police officers and judges, from wearing religious symbols.

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Federal Election 2019: Man tells Jagmeet Singh he should remove his turban to ‘look like a Canadian’
Federal Election 2019: Man tells Jagmeet Singh he should remove his turban to ‘look like a Canadian’

Legault insisted the bill “only applies to about one per cent of the jobs in Quebec.” He said this would allow the government to focus on issues related to education, economy and health care.

“It’s clear now more than ever, 99 per cent of the jobs in Quebec you can wear religious signs,” he said.

READ MORE: Quebec plans to axe school boards but offers compromise to English institutions

However, when Global News asked whether he thought the bill was successful — given the recent incident between Singh and the man who insisted, “in Rome, you do as the Romans do” — Legault insisted Quebecers would come around and “it’s a bit like the Bill 101. I’m pretty sure that in three years from now, they will have forgotten about that.”

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READ MORE: Jagmeet Singh confronted by man who tells him: ‘Cut your turban off’

“People can wear a religious sign on the street, come on. That’s clear. What we are saying is that people in a position of authority, civil servants in a position of authority, they must not, in Quebec, wear religious signs, but in all the other cases, they can wear [them],” he said.

“I think that by putting parametres, we make sure that the racist people cannot have support in our society.”

Recently, there were at least three reports of newly-hired teachers at the Commission scolaire de Montréal (CSDM) — Quebec’s largest school board — who removed their religious symbols in order to accept a teaching contract.

EMSB votes in favour of launching legal action against Quebec’s Bill 21
EMSB votes in favour of launching legal action against Quebec’s Bill 21

At the time, Quebec Education Minister Jean-François Roberge said he saw it as a sign of the bill’s success.

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“I think it was a bit emotional,” Legault said of the debate surrounding Bill 21.

“The more they [Quebecers] see the application of the law, the more they will say, ‘Hey, it’s not that bad.'”

READ MORE: Party leaders fan out across Canada following first French language debate

The English Montreal School Board (EMSB) is currently challenging the validity of the religious symbols law in front of the Court of Appeal of Quebec based on Section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees minority language education rights to English-speaking minorities in Quebec.

rachel.lau@globalnews.ca