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Bill 21 is Quebec issue, O’Toole says as some of his MPs take tougher stand

Click to play video: 'Quebec elementary school teacher with hijab loses position over Bill 21' Quebec elementary school teacher with hijab loses position over Bill 21
WATCH ABOVE: Quebec elementary school teacher with hijab loses position over Bill 21 – Dec 9, 2021

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole says a Quebec law prohibiting some 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 secularism law, known as Bill 21, on Thursday, in response to a report that a teacher in western Quebec was reassigned from the classroom because she wore a hijab.

Read more: Quebec teacher’s removal for wearing hijab a ‘cowardly’ move, minister says

Bill 21 was passed in June 2019 and bans the wearing of religious symbols such as hijabs, kippas and turbans by teachers and other government employees deemed to be in positions of authority.

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.”

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While the Tory leader said the matters involving Bill 21 falls squarely within provincial borders, some of his MPs weren’t shy about expressing a different opinion.

“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 what happened to the teacher wearing the hijab.

Click to play video: 'EMSB clashes with Quebec over Bill 21 court battle' EMSB clashes with Quebec over Bill 21 court battle
EMSB clashes with Quebec over Bill 21 court battle – Oct 18, 2021

“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,” Jamie Schmale, the Conservative critic for Indigenous Services, tweeted in response.

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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!”

Read more: Quebec elementary school teacher reassigned from class over hijab due to Bill 21

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.

Unlike Trudeau, O’Toole said during the September federal election he would “never challenge” a provincial law.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said on Thursday that Trudeau has been clear about where the government stands on the issue.

Other Liberal MPs went online to expressly condemn the Quebec law, including a representative from that province.

Click to play video: 'The controversial Quebec question at the federal leaders’ English debate' The controversial Quebec question at the federal leaders’ English debate
The controversial Quebec question at the federal leaders’ English debate – Sep 10, 2021

Alexandra Mendes called it “outrageously discriminatory and absurdly counterproductive, at a time when we need all willing adults to join the workforce.”

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Ontario Liberal 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.”

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