Montreal

Tory leader says he won't touch Quebec secularism law, supports Bill 101 expansion

Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole says Quebec's secularism law and the independence of its legislature should be respected.

Canada needs a government that respects provincial autonomy, Erin O'Toole says

Federal Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole, left, and Quebec Premier François Legault met in Montreal on Monday. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole says Quebec's secularism law and the independence of its legislature should be respected.

The Tory leader made the comments today following a meeting with Premier François Legault in Montreal — O'Toole's first in-person meeting with a premier since winning the leadership race in late August.

O'Toole said the country is facing a national unity crisis and the federal government shouldn't be interfering with the independence of provincial legislatures.

Quebec's secularism law, which bans certain public sector workers from wearing religious symbols on the job, has been criticized by the federal Liberals.

O'Toole also said today large, federally regulated companies such as banks, as well as airports, should be forced to adhere to Quebec's strict language laws.

Quebec's minister for the French language recently signalled he plans to subject federal companies such as Via Rail to the province's language law — known as Bill 101 — which would require them to operate in French.

"We have a national unity crisis at the moment — particularly in Western Canada — and I did speak to the premier about that,'' O'Toole told reporters following his meeting with Legault.

"We need a government that respects provincial autonomy and provincial legislatures.''

Regarding Quebec's secularism law, O'Toole said he served in the military with practising Sikhs who wore turbans "and I understand it's a difficult question.''

"But as a leader, we have to respect the Constitution and the partnerships we have in Canada.''

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