Following a move by three cities in France, opposition MNAs want Quebec to ban the burkini.

The head to ankle swim suit resembles a wetsuit with a skirt, but Parti Quebecois leadership contender Jean-Francois Lisée says it is "the ultimate symbol of oppression of women."

Coalition Avenir Quebec leader Francois Legault agrees, saying that like the burka or the hijab or niqab, it is a sign that men and women are not equal.

Speaking to mayors in the Laurentians, Legault said Quebec should carefully examine such symbols because sexual equality has taken a long time.

"I think we have to protect our values and this symbol of non-equality between men and women, we have to be careful to protect [against]. It's part of our values here, equality between men and women," said Legault.

He also cautioned that allowing women to wear restrictive garments could encourage Islamic extremists.

"We have to make sure also we don't have a bad signal to extremism," said Legault.

CAQ secularism critic Nathalie Roy said women are forced to wear the burkini because men believe that a woman's body is an object of temptation to be hidden. She callled the burkini a "symbol of radical Islam."

"I was on vacation in Mexico last year and I saw... the husband was swimming with the children. It was 35 degrees, I was in a bikini and the poor woman was covered from her head down to her toes and I was really sad to see that," she said. "You won't make me believe that she was happy and she was enjoying that, and it was her choice. I think that somebody put it in her head."

This week several women in France were fined for wearing burkinis on the beach.

Several years ago France banned women from wearing face-covering veils in public.

Meanwhile the Liberal party is not interested in discussing the issue, saying the debate belongs on the other side of the ocean.

Justice Minister Stephanie Vallée said she does not believe many women in Quebec make a habit of wearing burkinis, while pointing out that everyone in Quebec is free to wear whatever they want.

"It's a debate on the other side of the ocean, we'll leave it on the other side of the ocean," she said. 

Christine St-Pierre, the International Relations Minister, said the Charters of Rights and Freedoms in Quebec and Canada would make it "very, very difficult to ban" the burkini.  

With a file from The Canadian Press