CTV News | Federal Election 2019
Trudeau wouldn't close door on intervening on Bill 21 'at a later date'
OTTAWA – Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau says that while current federal intervention on Quebec’s secularism Bill 21 would be "counterproductive," he is not closing the door on doing so "at a later date."
Facing questions from reporters at a Quebec campaign stop, Trudeau said that the process around the controversial law—which Premier Francois Legault says will ensure religious neutrality—is playing out as it should with Quebecers challenging it in court, but he isn't ruling out getting involved.
"We're not going to close the door on intervening at a later date because I think it would be irresponsible for a federal government to close the door to intervention ever, on a matter that does touch fundamental freedoms," Trudeau said.
But for now, "this is a discussion going on amongst Quebecers right now and their provincial government."
Bill 21 bans public service workers from wearing or displaying religious symbols or clothing while at work, including teachers. Legault has asked all federal leaders to "stay out of it" on the campaign trail.
"We're watching very carefully this process that is going on as the Charter lays out… and we are weighing whether to intervene," Trudeau said.
On the first day of the federal campaign Trudeau said he was "totally against" it and happy that Quebecers were challenging it, but he said it would be "counterproductive" for a federal government to insert itself into a provincial dispute.
"We will continue to monitor closely and evaluate our position," he added on Sept. 11.
The issue came up during the first English-language leaders' debate on Thursday night as well.
There, Leader Andrew Scheer said that a Conservative government wouldn’t intervene in the case, as it's up to the courts and those pursuing that avenue. Though he said it is "not something that we would ever think of imposing at the federal level."
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh called the bill "legislated discrimination," and said he can relate to people in Quebec who feel like they can't hold certain jobs because of how they look. He said he supports the legal challenge and peoples’ right to challenge the law.
"I'm hoping that I can send a message to people in Quebec that you can believe in who you are, you can celebrate or identity and contribute to society," Singh said.
May called it an infringement on individual rights and suggested a solution that includes leaving the province alone but finding jobs for anyone that Quebec takes off its payroll for wearing a religious symbol.
With files from CTV News Montreal and CTV News' Sarah Turnbull