Quebec religious symbols law 'dangerous and un-Canadian,' says Manitoba premier
Brian Pallister intends to raise the issue at western and northern premiers' meeting Thursday
Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister says he will be seeking a joint response to Quebec's new religious symbols law when western and northern premiers meet on Thursday in Edmonton.
"That is, certainly to my mind, dangerous and un-Canadian and deserves to be opposed," Pallister said in an interview with The Canadian Press.
"We are not a two-tier-rights country.
"We're not a country that celebrates sameness. We celebrate diversity, and we need to make sure that we don't restrict people's freedoms, whether it's speech or movement or religion."
The Quebec law prohibits teachers, police officers and other public servants in positions of authority from wearing religious symbols, and critics say it unfairly targets Muslims, Sikhs and other religious minorities.
Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said it's not government's responsibility, or in its interest, to legislate on what people should be wearing. But he did not specify what action his government would take to protect minority rights.
Pallister said response from federal politicians has probably been muted in part because of the looming national election in October.
"They don't wish to irritate the province of Quebec, but Quebec is one province in a beautiful country," he said.
"Canada is a beacon around the world for supporting freedoms, not suppressing them."
Kenney to host
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney will host the premiers' meeting — his first since his United Conservatives won the provincial election in April.
He will host leaders from the four western provinces and the three northern territories.
It will also be the first time Kenney speaks face to face with B.C. Premier John Horgan since the Alberta election.
B.C. and Alberta have been locked in a dispute over the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. While Horgan has said he'll use every tool in his toolbox to oppose it, the federal government re-approved the multibillion-dollar project last week.
Kenney's first act as premier was to have proclaimed into law a bill to reduce oil and gas shipments to B.C. and elsewhere to forcefully push back, if necessary, against B.C.'s position.
Horgan's office, in a statement, said he anticipates a wide-ranging discussion at the meeting.
"Premier Horgan is looking forward to speaking up for British Columbians at the western premiers' conference, whether the topic is pharmacare, interprovincial trade, opioids and mental health, fighting wildfires, building our economy or protecting our coast," said the statement.
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said the meeting will be a key launch point to getting work done on issues prior to a meeting of all the country's premiers in Saskatoon July 9 to 11.
"These issues include reducing barriers to internal trade between provinces, encouraging responsible development of our sustainably produced energy resources, and reducing the red tape placed on our industries by working together on fair tax and regulatory regimes that are consistent throughout our provinces," Moe's office said in a statement.
Kenney has said he is focused on reducing interprovincial trade barriers and building national consensus on support for major energy projects.
Northwest Territories Premier Bob McLeod said in a statement that he will be advancing the importance of strengthening Canada's position in the Arctic.
Nunavut Premier Joe Savikataaq said his focus will also be strengthening the Arctic, along with climate change and addressing mental health and addictions issues.
Yukon Premier Sandy Silver said he looks forward to establishing shared priorities in advance of the Saskatoon meeting.