Focus on the Winnipeg Jets, not Bill 21, Quebec Premier tells Manitoba
MONTREAL -- A political brawl has broken out between Quebec and Manitoba over Bill 21, Quebec's secularism law.
Quebec Premier Francois Legault is not taking kindly to Manitoba's efforts to woo Quebecers who may be affected by the law, which bans some public-sector employees, including teachers and police officers, from wearing religious symbols such as hijabs for Muslim women and yarmulkes for Jewish men in the workplace.
Responding to news that Manitoba has launched an advertising campaign to recruit Quebec civil servants, Legault told reporters in Quebec City Thursday that Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister would be better served in using that money to try to keep defenceman Dustin Byfuglien with the Winnipeg Jets.
"I think this money would have been better spent on French services in Manitoba," Legault said. "I think Mr. Pallister must work to keep his own people in Manitoba like Dustin Byfuglien with the Jets."
Watch it here:
Byfuglien, a veteran defenceman who is engaged in a contentious dispute with the Jets, was suspended by the team after he did not report to training camp this past fall.
Pallister told the Canadian Press Wednesday that the $20,000 campaign was a way for Manitoba to address a shortage of bilingual employees in some areas of its civil service.
"It is important not to be silent on issues of human rights, this is a bill that I find offensive," Pallister said on Wednesday.
Parti Quebecois interim leader Pascal Bérubé had strong words for the Manitoba premier.
"It's the same message for everyone – mind your own business," he said. "It's not your business. I don't feel that it's appropriate to do so, and every single time they're going to attack Quebec, we're going to respond stronger."
Canadian Relations Minister Sonia LeBel said she was not going to take part in letting the matter escalate, but recommended that the provinces look after their own areas of jurisdiction.
This week, Ontario's legislature passed a motion condemning the law, joining a growing number of voices against it - including the cities of Toronto, Calgary and Winnipeg.
As Manitoba tries to lure away Quebec-educated professionals, including teachers, Education Minister Jean-Francois Roberge said he's not worried about it.
"I think most Quebecers want to live in Quebec we have a nice society and they will be aware they can remove their religious symbols during the day," he said.
The Liberals, though, are taking the bid more seriously, worried the ads will work and Quebec's labour shortage could worsen.
"Manitoba, they want all the talents we have because there's a competition to bring talent to every single province," said Liberal MNA Marwah Rizqy.
On Monday, Legault will be meeting with all the premiers in Toronto – at this point, he says, he has nothing more to say to Pallister and doesn't expect Bill 21 to come up.
- With files from CTV News Montreal's Kelly Greig