French-language leaders' debate: 5 feisty exchanges

The French leaders' debate included some heated exchanges on the niqab, the Clarity Act, pipelines and the mission against ISIS.

Heated exchanges on the niqab, the Clarity Act, pipelines

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper exchanges words with NDP Leader Tom Mulcair during the debate on Thursday night. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

The first French-language leaders' debate touched on a number of hot button issues — from Muslim women wearing the niqab at citizenship ceremonies to the NDP's stance on Quebec sovereignty.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair, positioned in the middle, was on the offensive throughout most of the debate, taking heat from all sides on these issues. 

We've compiled a list of the feistiest exchanges from the debate. 

1. The niqab at citizenship ceremonies

Justin Trudeau, Gilles Duceppe, Tom Mulcair and Stephen Harper debate the plan to ban Muslims from wearing the facial covering at citizenship ceremonies. 4:09

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper: "Our position for a long time has been when someone joins the Canadian family, we should not hide our identity and it's the reason for which we believe new citizens should take the oath without a covering, but Mr. Mulcair, I will never tell my young daughter that a woman should cover her face because she's a woman."

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair: "Attack the oppressors, don't attack women ... attack the oppressor if you believe there is oppression in there and have the courage to do so. But it's not by depriving these women of their citizenship and their rights that you'll be able to help them."

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May: "This is a fake debate, we're in the middle of an election campaign and we have real challenges in Canada. What is the impact of the niqab on the economy? What is the impact of the niqab on climate change? What is the impact of the niqab on the jobless? It is a false debate meant as distraction from the real challenges for Canada."

Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe: "The first bill the Bloc Québécois will introduce is forbidding voting wearing a face covering, oath of citizenship or granting services with a face covering."

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau: "Mr. Duceppe, the people at home know very well what you're doing, it's a challenge you want to push to distract them from the fact you can't make a difference in their lives. We have a plan to relaunch the economy, to invest in families, that's what we want to talk about."

2. The referendum on Quebec independence

Stephen Harper defends his record as Tom Mulcair and Justin Trudeau accuse his government of inaction on the Syrian refugee crisis 2:08

Mulcair: "I was dumbfounded to hear Mr. Trudeau open the debate in English that he didn't have confidence with Quebecers with the normal rules of democracy. These were the rules in 1980 and 1995 referendums; I was there. I battled to keep Canada united, I don't have any lesson to be learned from anyone because I think it's better for everyone to stay together. But I respect democracy, I am a democrat and I don't accept what was sufficient to break up Great Britain is not applied here. Mr. Trudeau says it'll take a lot more than a majority, but he refuses to say how much."

Trudeau: "I've said the same thing in French and in English. Mr. Mulcair likes to talk about it in French, but  he doesn't talk about 50 per cent plus one in English. For me, I follow the Supreme Court of Canada ... The Supreme Court has said unanimously that only one vote would not be enough ...

Mulcair: "Completely false ... pure invention."

Trudeau: "... separate Quebec from Canada, a prime minister should fight for the unity of the country, and it won't surprise anyone that's what I intend to do."

Mulcair: "It's false — the Supreme Court says it must be clear at a qualitative level — the question, the way of counting votes, the money spent and on a quantitative terms, in a democracy, whoever wins, wins."

(Arguing ensues between Mulcair and Trudeau)

Harper: "I took positions on all these questions 20 years ago ... since this time, 20 years, Quebecers have been clear: they don't want another referendum. I don't intend to re-open these debates here. The real debate today is on the economy, on our values, on security ..."

3. Right to die legislation

Harper: "Health care is delivered by the provinces and we respect their jurisdiction. As for the decision by the Supreme Court, we will continue to look at this decision. We've established a consultative committee to develop to response that respects the decision and protects the interest of doctors, patients, handicapped people, the elderly. Certainly, we must modify the Criminal Code in accordance with the Supreme Court decision and we will do so."

Trudeau: "The Liberal party supports this because we understand to what it's important to protect the most vulnerable, but also respect the rights and liberties of all. We asked the Harper government to launch the consultations right away and Mr. Harper dragged his feet and didn't want to look at the extraordinary example of Quebec that showed it could be done with respect."

Mulcair: "It's true it's a delicate case, but nothing stops the federal government from taking action, they are the ones responsible for the Criminal Code. I can guarantee you one thing, the NDP will have a free vote, never would I muzzle anyone on it. That's why it must be a consultation that is real, large and sincere."

4. Bulk water exports

Justin Trudeau and Tom Mulcair argue over Mulcair's record as Quebec's environment minister. 1:05

Trudeau: "We're speaking of oil today, but in the years to come there's a lot of concerns surrounding exporting water. Mr. Mulcair likes to talk about the fact that he was the environment minister here in Quebec. But as minister he was proposing exporting bulk water to the United States. I'd like to know: why would even think of doing that? 

Mulcair: This is spectacularly false. 

Trudeau: Not all. We have you saying it on tape! 

Mulcair: This shows that he totally lacks experience. 

Trudeau: You're on the tape, Mr. Mulcair! 

5. The Syrian refugee crisis and the death of Alan Kurdi

NDP leader Tom Mulcair and Liberal leader Justin Trudeau spar over the Clarity Act at the French language leaders debate. 1:34

Mulcair: "That little boy had a name. His name was Alan Kurdi and his family had attempted to begin the process through one of our members. All of this was given to the (Immigration Minister Chris) Alexander ... the reality is Alexander did nothing ... the reality is Chris Alexander has not told the truth to journalists, has not told the truth to Canadians since the beginning. The United Nations asked us to take in 9,000 from now until Christmas, the United
Nations asked us to accept 46,000 in the next four years, we will do it.

Harper: "This story from the NDP is entirely false and it has already been proven."

Mulcair: "That's not true."

Harper: "The NDP should apologize to Mr. Alexander."

Mulcair: "It's you who should apologize, Mr. Harper."

With files from The Canadian Press