A day after issuing a strongly worded statement condemning the mayor of Hampstead for comparing a provincial religious symbols bill to "ethnic cleansing" Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante said she's still "outraged" and that William Steinberg has become a distraction in the debate around Bill 21. 

"I'm upset with the fact that Mr. Steinberg's comments and remarks are taking us in a different direction," she said. "It shouldn't be about him."

Returning from a trip to South America a day before, Plante issued a statement demanding an apology from Steinberg, who compared the Coalition Avenir Quebec’s tabled Bill 21 to “ethnic cleansing.”

"Since the introduction of Bill 21, I have emphasized the importance of maintaining a healthy debate. I have also reiterated the importance for elected officials to stay above the fray. Last Friday, Mayor Steinberg made absolutely unacceptable comments. These comments sparked outrage throughout Quebec, with good reason,” said Plante. “Mayor Steinberg's comments have no place in this public debate. Mayor Steinberg's words and his refusal to apologize have diverted the debate from the proposed law on secularism to become the subject of the debate itself. This attitude is irresponsible and must be denounced.”

On Friday, Plante also said she'd spoken with Cote-des-Neiges-NDG Mayor Sue Montgomery and that the borough will enforce Bill 21 if it becomes law. Earlier this week, Montgomery told CTV News she would not tell people what to wear. 

Since making the statement at a news conference earlier this week, Steinberg’s comment has been criticized by politicians from across the political spectrum.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the comment “unacceptable” while Premier Francois Legault said the Hampstead mayor was being disrespectful.

Steinberg has said the quote was taken out of context and has refused to apologize.

In a Facebook post Thursday afternoon, he explained his comments, saying the result of Bill 21 “will be that Jews, Muslims and Sikhs will not come to a place where their job opportunities are limited. Ones who already live here will tend to leave so that their children’s employment prospects will not be limited. This is an attempt to remove those who practice minority religions leaving only non-believers and Christians. This is ethnic cleansing, not with a gun, but with a law. It is racist and despicable.”

He continued: "The fact that the government needs to use the Notwithstanding clause to override the Charter is a tacit admission that the law violates fundamental rights. These rights include the freedom to practice one’s religion without discrimination, the right to freedom of expression and the right to equal treatment under the law."

Read the statement in full: