Quebec women's group dragged into controversy involving values charter

QUEBEC – The head of a Quebec government body on women’s issues is accusing the Parti Quebecois of political interference in the debate on the controversial charter of values.

Julie Miville-Dechene is complaining of government meddling after it appointed four pro-charter women to the group this week.

Miville-Dechene says the nominations come just one week before the Council on the Status of Women meets to discuss the government’s plan to forbid the wearing of religious symbols in the Quebec public service.

She said in a statement it is her job to defend the group, which is supposed to be non-partisan.

She called the nominations a serious blot on the independence of the council. One of the four women, Lucie Martineau, head of Quebec’s public service union, came out last week in support of the PQ plan.

Agnes Maltais, the cabinet minister responsible for the status of women, denied any political interference and justified the nominations by noting the council has twice come out in favour of banning blatant religious symbols in the public service.

Maltais also admitted she has had a difference of opinion with Miville-Dechene, who was named head of the council by the then-governing Liberals in 2011.

The appointments were also denounced by the Opposition Quebec Liberals, who want them withdrawn.

Francoise David, a member of the legislature for Quebec solidaire, also criticized the nominations, saying they are a flagrant attack on the group’s independence.

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