Liberal MNA fights values charter, wears ostentatious religious symbol

QUEBEC CITY – Rita de Santis walked into work Wednesday wearing an ostentatious-looking cross around her neck. The Liberal MNA for the Montreal riding of Bourassa-Sauvé, who is Italian, said she was out to make a point.

“I’m not wearing this because I’m Christian, I’m wearing it because it is a piece of jewellery that I have,” she said. “If I came in with this scarf over my head rather than around my neck, why should it make a difference? On what basis are you judging me? Please judge me on what I have between my ears and how I conduct myself as a MNA.”

De Santis was ushered away by her PR people before she could finish her answer.

Emotions are raw at the National Assembly; the proposed Charter of Quebec Values is a highly volatile issue. Liberal opposition leader Jean-Marc Fournier had to repeatedly deny he compared the PQ to the Nazi regime. He said he only talked about “Crystal Night” to reaffirm the importance of religious symbols. He had this message for the Jewish General Hospital, which threatens to defy the charter:

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“I want to say to the Jewish Hospital and others who want to keep their kippa or other symbols- we will work so that you will never have to take that decision,” said Fournier.

At the other spectrum of the debate, Democratic Institutions Minister Bernard Drainville continued to defend his project.

“We’re saying through the charter the state should be neutral from a religious standpoint and should not have any religion.”

Drainville is now including PQ candidates. The party adopted a resolution Sunday stating all future PQ candidates must solemnly promise not to wear religious signs. Discriminatory and insulting, said Philippe Couillard.

“Citizens have the competency and the judgement necessary to make that judgement, government should not make that judgement instead of them,” he said.

Emotions continued to flare with the CAQ also weighing in.

“If they are elected in doing so they should be able to keep on wearing this symbol,” said CAQ Leader François Legault.

Which is exactly what Rita de Santis intends to do.

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