Quebec Premier François Legault says the Manitoba government should have used the money it spent on advertisements urging Quebecers to move to instead bolster French-language initiatives in the province and on Winnipeg’s NHL team.
The advertisements, which appeared in newspapers and online in Quebec on Thursday, are the latest bout of criticism from Pallister, who has been an outspoken opponent of Quebec’s contentious Bill 21. The ads, which are aimed at courting Quebecers concerned about the law, allude to 21 reasons to consider moving to Manitoba.
Bill 21 bars some civil servants — including teachers, police officers and judges — from wearing religious symbols while on duty.
The Manitoba government spent about $20,000 on the ads, with Pallister saying he was open to more depending on how it goes. When asked if he was worried about upsetting the province, Pallister said it was “too late for that.”
Legault, for his part, maintains the law is moderate and has support from the majority of Quebecers. He also questioned whether Pallister would run advertisements in parts of Europe that have secularism legislation.
“It’s up to Quebecers to decide,” he said.
While Legault argues the religious symbols ban is supported, the legislation is currently facing legal challenges in Quebec.
A group of Canadian civil liberties organizations has filed for an immediate stay of some of the law’s provisions before the Quebec Court of Appeal. They argue the law disproportionately targets women and harms minority groups in the province.
The Fédération Autonome de l’Enseignement, a union representing 45,000 teachers in the province, launched a lawsuit over the religious symbols ban earlier this month.
Both the Quebec government and its opponents have said they are willing to take Bill 21 to the Supreme Court if necessary.
Pallister is ‘making a mistake’
The move by Pallister is making waves in Quebec’s political sphere, where some parties that are against Bill 21 argue the Manitoba premier is doing more harm than good.
“He can do all the ads he wants,” said Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, the co-spokesperson for Québec Solidaire. “We’re in a free country, but if he thinks he’s helping in any way, shape or form people here in Quebec who are fighting against this unjust law, he’s making a mistake.”
The Quebec Liberals argue Legault needs to take the situation more seriously.
Manitoba is welcoming Quebecers who don’t feel they belong at home due to the secularism law, according to Saint-Laurent MNA Marwah Rizqy.
“We’re still talking about Bill 21 and there are major consequences,” she said. “And now we see that Manitoba, they want all the talents that we have because yes indeed, there’s a competition to bring all the talents in every single province.”
The Parti Québécois, however, had a strong message for Manitoba.
“It’s the same message for everyone: mind your own business,” said interim leader Pascal Bérubé.
— With files from Global News’ Raquel Fletcher and the Canadian Press