The Parti Québécois is throwing its support behind independent candidate Fatima Houda‑Pepin in La Pinière.

In a statement released Friday, the party said it made the decision after consulting with its executive committee in the riding.

Houda‑Pepin, a former Liberal MNA, was expelled from her caucus in January, after party Leader Philippe Couillard said her stance on the proposed secular charter was unwelcome in the party.

Houda‑Pepin is running against former CAQ star candidate Gaétan Barrette, who was wooed over to the Liberal camp. The PQ is not running a candidate in the riding and is telling its supporters to back the independent candidate instead.

"I want to particularly underline [Houda‑Pepin's] perseverance in the fight against religious fundamentalism," PQ candidate Bernard Drainville said in a statement. 

"She has defended with courage and devotion the values of equality between men and women, and the secularism of the state, which a large majority of Quebecers believe in. In the name of the Parti Québécois, I wish her the best of luck," Drainville said.