Former Bloc MP renounces sovereignty; says federalism is only way to protect rights
Maria Mourani, the one-time Bloc Quebecois leadership candidate who was tossed out of the party for opposing the proposed Charter of Values, says the separatist cause has become a tool to exclude and divide Quebecers.
In an open letter she states that the Parti Quebecois no longer cares about equal citizenship and after a lifetime devoted to the separatist cause she has come to embrace Canada as the only way to protect the rights of Quebecers and Quebec's identity.
The ease with which Quebec’s Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms can be changed, even abolished, has convinced me of the relevance of the Canadian federal system,” Mourani writes in a letter released Wednesday afternoon.
“I have come to the conclusion that my belonging to Canada, including its Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, better protects the Quebec identity of all citizens of Quebec. I am no longer an independentist.”
In an interview with CTV Montreal, she said she's more than a little bitter at her former sovereignist allies.
"Madame Marois said Mister Parizeau is just a simple citizen, so I realized then even those guys who did a lot for this movement, their opinion is like it's nothing. The Parti Quebecois decide to do politics on the backs of part of people of Quebec and this is, for me, the worst politics, the small politics. I don't like these kinds of politics," she said, adding that she worked hard for the sovereignty movement for 10 years.
In September Mourani, who is Catholic and always wears a cross around her neck, denounced the religious restrictions being proposed by the Parti Quebecois.
At the time she said that as an immigrant she had been proud to join the movement to create an independent Quebec, and had devoted her life to convincing non-francophones to support a new country -- but that by pushing for the removal of religious icons from public life, the PQ was tearing up decades of bridge-building.
Within days Bloc Quebecois leader Daniel Paillé had tossed her out of the party saying he could not "accept one of our members denouncing the promotion of secular values as ethnic nationalism."
One of only five Bloc MPs at the time, Mourani said that Pauline Marois's government was demonstrating its intolerance for anyone who was not of French descent -- or willing to erase all traces of their family heritage.
"I understand why people feel excluded by this policy and I think this was a bad long-term strategy for the independence movement," she said in September.
"The flagship of sovereignty is nothing like it was before"
Mourani has said before that extremists have always existed within the separatist cause, but have always been held in check by the spirit of René Lévesque and his decision to make Bill 101 subject to Quebec's Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.
"That is why I joined the independentist movement that, in my eyes, was inclusive and allowed all citizens, without exception, to be the founding people of Quebec," wrote Mourani.
Now, after three months of reflection, Mourani says the PQ has undergone a fundamental shift away from ensuring equality for all.
"Worse, the Parti Québécois has abandoned the customary practice in the National Assembly, since 1975, of amending Quebec’s Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms by consensus," wrote Mourani.
"The Parti Québécois is thus demonstrating that Quebec’s Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms is at the mercy of a political party, which, although having won less than 40 per cent of the vote, holds a majority in the National Assembly. Lastly, the Parti Québécois has launched a debate that is dividing and hurting Quebec families without first having checked the legality of its proposal, even though Quebec’s Commission on Human Rights believes that it does not hold water."
Mourani goes on to write that with the PQ demonstrating how easily rights that were thought to be fundamental can be altered or abolished, the only hope for protecting the identify of Quebecers is through being Canadian.
"I have come to the conclusion that my belonging to Canada, including its Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, better protects the Quebec identity of all citizens of Quebec. I am no longer an independentist."
Possible to work together
In her letter Mourani discusses a poll commissioned by the Bloc Quebecois in 2010 concerning the Meech Lake accord.
That poll showed that Canadians and Quebecers were, on the whole, still opposed on each measure in the document, a refererendum on which led to the formation of the Bloc by former Conservative MP Lucien Bouchard.
But that same survey "clearly indicated that 73 per cent of Canadians and 78 per cent of Quebecers still believed it was possible to negotiate an agreement satisfactory to Quebec."
Mourani wrote that she "still finds it surprising" that Bloc leaders and activists showed no interest in improving the Canadian federation, and believes it was the widespread recognition that the Bloc has no interest in making things better than led to the party's vanquishing during the 2011 federal election.