Quebec Liberal leader to Marois: apologize for comments about England

MONTREAL – Premier Pauline Marois is being urged to apologize for comments she made linking multiculturalism to social unrest and bombs in Britain.

Quebec Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard says he was astonished when he read the remarks by Marois in a newspaper interview and asserts they are unworthy of a head of government.

Marois told Montreal Le Devoir that England’s multiculturalism policy had led to people beating each other up and setting off bombs.

She made the remarks in an interview published today where she spoke about the proposed Charter of Quebec Values to be tabled next week.

While details of the charter are not known, elements leaked to the media suggest people working in the public service could be banned from wearing religious symbols such as the hijab.

Couillard says in an interview with The Canadian Press that he was so incredulous he had to read her remarks several times.

He says Marois’ comments are unacceptable for someone who leads a government and who is supposed to unite people.

The Liberal leader says she should rectify her comments immediately or apologize.

Couillard, whose party supports making the government secular but not inhibiting religious freedom, says Canada and Quebec has always debated the implementation of multiculturalism.

However, he said Marois’ comments are unacceptable.

Marois’ charter proposal has majority public support, according to opinion polls, however it has drawn some criticism from commentators normally friendly to the PQ.

Former Bloc Quebecois federal MP Raymond Gravel, in an open letter, described the idea as “worthy of a dictatorship.”

One column in Le Devoir newspaper suggested that the PQ might make some short-term electoral gains at the expense of its long-term goal: convincing Quebec immigrants to support independence.

The Liberals, meanwhile, have argued that the government is dragging out the issue to distract from an issue more Quebecers care about: a lagging economy.

In fact, politicians outside Quebec have tied the charter issue to the economy as well. The premier of Ontario and mayor of Calgary have essentially invited minority workers upset at the PQ policy to move to their jurisdictions.

Some members of cultural communities, quoted in Quebec media reports, have said that’s exactly what they would do if the charter is introduced as it was described in the leaked draft.

The province has already seen its demographic clout shrink within Canada in recent decades as Quebec retains a smaller share of immigrants than some other provinces.