Archive | Canadian Politics

Government of Canada Invites Canadians to “Have Your Say” On Canada’s 150th Celebrations

Posted on 20 December 2013 by admin

The Honourable Shelly Glover, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages, launched pan-Canadian consultations to seek Canadians’ views on how they would like to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation.

 “Canada’s 150th celebrations will give us the opportunity to reflect on all the things that make Canada the united, prosperous and free country it is today,” said Minister Glover. “I invite all Canadians across our great country to tell us how they would like to celebrate in 2017.”

The Government of Canada will undertake extensive consultations, with meetings being planned throughout Canada. The consultations kicked off today with a roundtable in Toronto, where Minister Glover met with community leaders to discuss their perspective on Canada’s approaching milestone anniversary. Additional roundtables in other communities will be announced at a later date.

At the same time, Canadians are invited to participate in the consultations through an online questionnaire at Canada.ca/150 or Canada150.gc.ca.

Over the next four years, on the Road to 2017, celebrations will mark key historic milestones that have defined our country. In 2014, commemorations will include the centennial of the start of the First World War, the 75th anniversary of the start of the Second World War, the bicentennial of Sir George-Étienne Cartier’s birth and the 150th anniversary of the Charlottetown and Québec Conferences.

To learn more about the commemorations leading up to Canada 150 and to participate in the online forum visit Canada.ca/150 or Canada150.gc.ca.

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NDP MPs MEET SURVIVOR OF 1984 ANTI-SIKH POGROMS BIBI JAGDISH KAUR IN HONOUR OF INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS DAY

Posted on 20 December 2013 by admin

Members of the NDP Caucus hosted Bibi Jagdish Kaur and her son Bhai Gurdeep Singh as they shared their story of survival during the tragic pogroms of 1984 that targeted Sikh men, women and children in New Delhi and many other parts of India.

 “Bibi Ji is a powerful orator, her story is deeply moving and her strength to find justice is awe-inspiring,” said Employment and Social Development Critic Jinny Sims (Newton–North Delta). “As we mark International Human Rights Day Bibi Jagdish Kaur’s story is a reminder of why we must always stand tall for the principles of social justice.”

 Bibi Jagdish Kaur was accompanied on Parliament Hill by her son Gurdeep Singh. Gurdeep Singh, who was 6 years old in 1984, explained how he escaped the mobs by concealing his religious identity and cutting his hair, a visible identity marker of being a Sikh.

“Jagdish Kaur’s testimony is a real life example of why the NDP stands in solidarity with victims and with independent human rights organizations,” added Foreign Affairs Critic Paul Dewar (Ottawa Centre). “In all of this, there is space for love, hope and optimism – even during these dark days, Sikh victims found refuge and shelter from those of various faith backgrounds. Through unity we are hopeful the call for justice will prevail.”

Immigration Critic Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe also attended the meeting with Bibi Jagdish Kaur and Bhai Gurdeep Singh.

Under the leadership of Tom Mulcair, the NDP remains the only party to continue its calls for justice for the survivors and an explanation for why the Sikh community was targeted by organized mobs.

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Bill for closing gas plants will add $2 a year to hydro bill, says Bob Chiarelli

Posted on 14 December 2013 by admin

The cost of axing power plants before the 2011 election will be about $2 a year, Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli says

The hit on electricity bills from the $1.1 billion scandal over gas-fired power plants scrapped before the 2011 election will be $2.01 annually over 20 years, Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli said.

“It’s less than a Tim Horton’s cup of coffee a year,” he told reporters after coming under fire in the legislature’s daily question period over rising electricity prices in his long-term energy plan.

That set off a firestorm among opposition parties, which accuse the Liberal government of scrapping the plants opposed by residents of Mississauga and Oakville to save the seats of area Liberal MPPs in the 2011 election.

“By their logic they might as well go out and blow another billion dollars tomorrow,” said Progressive Conservative energy critic Lisa MacLeod (Nepean—Carleton), calling the claim “disingenuous.”

 “It’s simply outrageous.”

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said the debacle over the plants — which are being relocated to Sarnia and Napanee — is proof that major deals with private power companies are a bad idea.

“Whether you liken the gas plants scandal to the cost of a cup of coffee or not, the fact of the matter is it’s over a billion dollars of hard-earned ratepayers’ dollars,” she said.

“That could well have been used in other parts of the system and instead was used to basically save Liberal seats. It’s a disgrace and I think people will see it that way.”

Chiarelli’s claims are adding insult to injury after his long-term energy planreleased Monday predicted household electricity bills would go up 42 per cent in the next five years, Horwath added.

That means a bill of $125 monthly now will rise to $178 despite the government’s moves to suspend plans for two new nuclear reactors at Darlington and cut the cost of renewable energy, measures that will save about $20 billion.

“People are pretty outraged by the power bills that they’re paying now . . . and knowing that they’re going to go up at such as steep rate for the next number of years is very worrisome,” said Horwath.

Chiarelli said opposition parties are attacking the $2 monthly figure for the relocated power plants, provided by the Ontario Power Authority at a legislative committee hearing, because of sour grapes. Some of the costs have already been covered by taxpayers.

“They don’t like the answer, they don’t like the number because they’ve been crying doom and gloom over the impact on prices” of the gas plant cancellations.

The cost of the new plants will be on electricity bills once they start producing power in a few years and remain while the plants are in service for about two decades.

“It’s over 20 years. It’s a minuscule percentage and it’s less than a Tim Horton’s cup of coffee a year.”

MacLeod said that is “little solace” to ratepayers.

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Mandela: Politics his profession, education his passion

Posted on 14 December 2013 by admin

NEIL TUROK

“It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mineworker can become the head of the mine, that a child of farm workers can become the president of a great nation.”

As a cosmologist, I find it amazing that we can accurately analyse and predict what is happening at distances ten trillion times greater than our solar system. For this, Albert Einstein is our icon and he showed us the power of the mind to understand the universe.

Equally amazing are our human qualities, our capacity to work together to better society, to provide for others, and to determine our destiny. In the arena of intelligent humanity, Nelson Mandela is the icon of the twentieth century.

My life’s course was strongly influenced by Mr. Mandela. My parents joined his struggle against apartheid, and were both imprisoned when I was a child. When my father was released, we fled as refugees to East Africa, and then the UK. With hindsight, this experience was the best thing that could have happened. It taught me to stand up for what is right and never give up. In the long run, the best ideas win.

But for me, Mr. Mandela’s greatest legacy won’t be his strength of character, or his capacity for forgiveness, or his towering intellect, or his passion for our homeland. What was most striking about him was his passion for education. He said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

Africa today stands on the threshold of economic takeoff. It has vast natural resources. It has a young, strongly growing population. According to recent estimates, Africa’s current population of 1.1 billion will grow to 2.4 billion by 2050. Most strikingly, a third of the planet’s young people will be African by then.

Mr. Mandela foresaw the potential of Africa’s children: “It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mineworker can become the head of the mine, that a child of farm workers can become the president of a great nation.”

I will never forget the day I introduced Stephen Hawking to Mr. Mandela. He seemed bemused by Stephen, whose voice emanates from his computer. But Nelson and Stephen have so much in common – their struggle against overwhelming odds, their exceptionally clear thinking and ability to communicate. And again, most of all, their unfailing belief in young people.

Africa’s future will be driven by science, technology and innovation. Africa’s development challenges demand homegrown solutions implemented by skilled young Africans. Africa’s communities represent a vast untapped pool of scientific and technical talent, talent which is urgently needed for the future.

The beliefs we share with Mr. Hawking and Mr. Mandela drove me and my colleagues to found the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) and its Next Einstein Initiative. Our mission is to enable Africa’s brightest students to flourish as independent thinkers, problem solvers and innovators capable of propelling Africa’s future scientific, educational and economic self-sufficiency. We will build a pan-African network of 15 centres by 2021. It will graduate 750 students annually who will have the mathematical, research and scientific skills to serve Africa’s development needs in academia, industry and government.

Our goal is to create the conditions in which the next Einstein can emerge in Africa. We want to turn development on its head, to see Africa not only for its problems, but also for the great positive contribution it can make to the world. Realizing the talents of its young people will drive progress on the continent, and bring new energy, vitality and diversity into science, stimulating discoveries whose consequences we can only imagine. Let Africa do for science what it has already done for music, art and literature. Einstein with Mandela. Let Africa be the place where we connect our intellect with our humanity.

Neil Turok is the director and Niels Bohr chair at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ont., and founder of the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences.

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Ontario proposes sweeping new law to protect workers

Posted on 14 December 2013 by admin

 Advocates for vulnerable workers are pleased with sweeping new Ontario legislation that proposes to strengthen workplace protections.

 The Stronger Workplaces for a Stronger Economy Act, introduced by Labour Minister Yasir Naqvi, would better protect workers hired by temporary help agencies and unpaid interns, co-op students and trainees.

It would also bar employers and recruiters from charging recruitment fees and seizing personal documents from all temporary foreign workers.

The measures for migrant workers expand on a 2009 law that bans recruitment agencies from charging fees to live-in caregivers.

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However, advocates for migrant workers say the proposed labour legislation falls short by failing to establish a registry of employers and recruiters. In Manitoba, a registry requires employers and recruiters to contribute to a bond that would compensate abused workers.

As in other provinces, the number of temporary foreign workers in Ontario — from farm workers to meat packers, live-in caregivers, general labourers and chefs — has skyrocketed from 91,000 in 2008 to 120,000 in 2012.

Despite the 2009 law, Lisa Draman of Toronto’s Caregivers Action Centre said recruitment fees are still rampant.

“Again, it all goes back to how the law is going to be enforced and implemented. Migrant workers are afraid to lose their jobs by speaking up and nobody is monitoring,” she said.

“We have filed complaints to the ministry but they are dismissed because they said the transactions were made outside Canada.”

The proposed act will also eliminate the $10,000 cap on the recovery of owed wages and increase the period of recovery from six and 12 months to two years for employees.

And it will make temporary help agencies and employers jointly liable for employment standards violations and workplace safety. The move would help decrease the number of companies that hire temp agency workers solely to toil in unsafe conditions. It would also ensure those workers are properly paid.

“Our government recognizes that as our economy is changing, the nature of work is also changing,” Naqvi said. “And our laws have to keep up.”

Enforcement is also key, he said. The Liberals have already boosted annual spending in the area by $7.5 million and are committed to fulfilling their 2008 Poverty Reduction Strategy promise to raise it to $10 million, he added.

The changes, if passed, could help hundreds of thousands of Ontarians, said former Toronto temp agency worker Tom Wu, 58.

 According to a groundbreaking study by McMaster University and United Way Toronto, released last February, a staggering 50 per cent of Toronto and Hamilton-area workers at all income levels are engaged in precarious work, described as work that is temporary, with no benefits and often poorly paid.

 Naqvi, who attended a subsequent United Way symposium on the issue, said the group’s work, along with a report last summer by the Law Commission of Ontario, helped inform the proposed changes.

United Way President Susan McIsaac praised the government for responding to the changing workplace outlined dramatically in the report.

“It is the right thing to do and I’m thrilled that they are really pushing through on this issue,” she said. “We still have more to do. This is not the end.”

Enforcement is key to the success of any changes, said Deena Ladd of the Worker’s Action Centre, a non-profit workers’ collective.

 The province also needs to raise the minimum wage to 10 per cent above Ontario’s poverty line or Low Income Measure, which is about $19,000 after taxes for a single person, said Deena Ladd of the Worker’s Action Centre, a non-profit workers’ collective.

 A provincial advisory panel studying the issue for the government is expected to report within the next two weeks.

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U.S. Border’s Canadian Health Records Access Of ‘Great Concern’ To Privacy Watchdog

Posted on 04 December 2013 by admin

Ontario’s privacy watchdog is probing reports that private health information is being shared with U.S. border services, saying it’s a matter “of grave concern” to her.

Her office “will investigate the matter and ensure that the personal health information of Ontarians is not being compromised by any organizations under my jurisdiction,” Information and Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian said in an email to Ontario’s New Democrats, who requested her help.

Cavoukian added that she’s already contacted the Health Ministry to confirm that no personal health details are being provided to U.S. border services.

NDP provincial health critic France Gelinas said she’s been contacted by three people who have been denied entry to the U.S. based on their personal health history.

One woman she spoke to, Ellen Richardson, has gone public with her story, saying she was turned away at Toronto’s Pearson airport by a U.S. customs agent because she was hospitalized in June 2012 for clinical depression.

Richardson attempted suicide in 2001 by jumping off a bridge, which left her a paraplegic. But her mental health has improved with medication and professional help from a psychiatrist, she said.

She said she travelled through the United States several times in recent years and never had a problem.

This time, the agent cited the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act, which denies entry to people who have had a physical or mental disorder that may pose a “threat to the property, safety or welfare” of themselves or others, she said.

“It’s ridiculous. It’s utterly ridiculous,” she said.

“I was never a threat to others. I would never harm anyone.”

Richardson, who takes medication to combat depression, said she provided the U.S. agent with the name and phone number of her psychiatrist, but it wasn’t enough.

She was told she would have to get “medical clearance” and be examined by one of only three doctors in Toronto whose assessments are accepted by Homeland Security, she said.

Richardson, who has a website and wrote a book about her struggle with depression, said she has no recollection of police being involved in her 2012 hospitalization.

She said she had become suicidal, wrote a suicide note and called her mother, who came over and called 911.

“I wasn’t a threat to anyone, other than myself,” Richardson said.

Gelinas said another person she spoke to told her that they had been turned away at the border over a physical ailment that had nothing to do with mental health.

She wouldn’t provide any details to protect the person’s privacy, but Gelinas said she was told that the U.S. agent in that case also mentioned a fairly recent, specific medical episode that happened in an Ontario hospital.

Gelinas said at first she tried to find some explanation for why U.S. authorities might have the information, such as police records. She asked many questions, but nothing seemed to explain how the Department of Homeland Security got the information.

“The amount of their personal information that is spit back at them is astonishing,” she said.

“I have no idea how this could happen, but it did. I believe those people. They have given me physical, tangible proof that this happened.”

A person’s medical history must remain confidential, she said. To hear that specific details of a person’s medical history is being shared with a foreign government is “extremely alarming.”

Health Minister Deb Matthews owes Ontarians an explanation, Gelinas added.

U.S. authorities don’t have access to medical or other health records for Ontarians travelling to the United States, said Samantha Grant, a spokeswoman for Matthews.

Government officials referred all other questions to police services, saying it was an operational matter.

Federal law allows personal information to be transferred outside Canada, even without the consent of the individual to whom the information relates. Once the information is in foreign hands, the laws of that country will apply.

Canada’s privacy commissioner has called for the federal government to re-examine the circumstances under which it allows personal information about Canadians to be processed outside Canada.

Mike Sullivan, the New Democrat MP who represents the Toronto riding where Richardson lives, says he has sent a letter to the federal privacy commissioner’s office asking for an investigation into the matter.

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Liberals Solidified Lead Over Conservatives, Poll Suggests

Posted on 04 December 2013 by admin

he battle lines for the next election could very well be taking shape as a new poll suggests Justin Trudeau’s Liberals have solidified their lead over the governing Conservatives.

Taken in the aftermath of last week’s four federal byelections, The Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey indicates Liberal support is at 34 per cent, down slightly from the 37 per cent recorded the week before.

The Conservatives are hovering at a consist 26 per cent, while New Democrats putter along at 24 per cent.

Pollster Allan Gregg says the latest numbers not only reinforce the split byelection results last Monday, but demonstrate a significant shift is underway in terms of both the Conservatives and Liberals.

“What you have is two things happening at the same time,” said Gregg. “You have the Liberal core constituency is coming back to where they always were and over the last year you’ve seen a fairly significant erosion of the Conservatives’ core constituency.”

He says traditional Liberals — the so-called professional class and women — are returning to the fold, while stalwart Conservatives — men and rural voters — appear to be wavering and expressing disappointment with the Harper government.

Gregg says some of the disenchantment might be related to the Senate spending scandal, but he says he believes the trend is more long-term and could lead into the next election in 2015.

Revelations of illegitimate expense claims, an RCMP investigation and allegations of a cover-up in the prime minister’s office involving Stephen Harper’s former chief of staff and ex-Conservative senator Mike Duffy have rocked the government on a daily basis since the spring.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau told CTV’s Question Period on Sunday “there’s reason to be optimistic” and that voters are connecting with his party’s message of support for the middle class and transparency in government.

The public is frustrated, but he cautioned there’s still a long way to go before the next election.

“What we have to be careful of is not to read too much into byelections (that are) two years away from any general election, but certainly we’re pleased with the kind of response we’re getting from right across the country,” Trudeau said.

The latest poll involved 2,000 people and is considered accurate plus or minus 3.1 per cent 19 times out of 20.

There is a bit of a silver lining in some of the regional numbers for the NDP, Gregg said.

Opposition leader Thomas Mulcair remains a formidable political figure in Quebec, the NDP’s base of support, and the party continues to poll above its traditional range of 18-20 per cent.

But sustained returns like this could force New Democrats on to a different political tack, perhaps away from the moderate middle ground they’ve tried to cultivate, Gregg said.

“What the numbers say to the NDP is that they are going to have to differentiate themselves if the Liberals look like the most obvious alternative to the Conservatives in an environment where the electorate has said two things; one traditional Liberals have said I’m going home and traditional Conservatives are saying I’m pretty disappointed with these guys,” he said.

The latest survey also comes against a backdrop of Conservative MP Michael Chong’s bid to reform the Canada Elections Act and the Parliament of Canada Act.

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Job Programs For Vulnerable Ontarians At Risk

Posted on 28 November 2013 by admin

In tough economic times, our Employment Ontario offices and the support and training programs they provide are more important than ever. This is especially true for job seekers who might need a lot of guidance and support to get back into the workforce.

As well as help with a job search, the Ontario government offers a range of programs, including Literacy and Basic Skills Training, Second Career, Bridge Training, Pre-Apprenticeship Training – all designed to meet the needs of those who are trying to get back to work. These programs are funded jointly by the provincial government and the federal government.

But they are at risk, and the stakes are high.

In its 2013 budget, the federal government announced it would implement a new Canada Job Grant. This grant would take $232 million away from existing programs designed to help vulnerable workers get back to work in Ontario. These are people such as immigrants, social assistance recipients, persons with disabilities, Aboriginal persons and youth – those who are not eligible for Employment Insurance and most in need of support.

These are programs that work: 73 percent of Second Career graduates find work within six months. In the past year, the Employment Ontario network helped approximately 1 million people in our province, including 90,000 employers. In that time, more than 200,000 Ontarians obtained employment through our programs.

The Canada Job Grant proposed by the federal government would not help many unemployed workers. It would only help people who can find an employer to contribute money to their training. That really means people who already have jobs.

Brad Duguid, Ontario’s Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities met with his provincial and territorial counterparts on November 8 and reinforced to Jason Kenney, Canada’s Minister of Employment and Social Development, that the Ontario government isn’t interested in taking money away from our most vulnerable citizens. This stance was reaffirmed when the country’s premiers gathered at the Council of the Federation meeting on November 15. All of Canada’s provinces and territories agree – an untested and unproven program that takes money away from programs that are working is not a good idea.

In September, a resolution was passed by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce at their national conference “that the federal government, instead of implementing its own Canada Job Grant program, negotiate with the provincial/territorial governments to renew labour market agreements that are set to expire in 2014, in accordance with on-the-job training priorities”.

Ontario’s partnership with Canada over the past eight years has been working well, especially in supporting vulnerable workers. And the Ontario government agrees that creating better connections with employers to help improve training opportunities and our economy is a good idea – but it has to happen in a way that makes sense for everyone, and not at the expense of vulnerable workers.

The two governments need to move forward together to improve delivery of employment and training programs. When we help all people get the skills they need to find work and achieve their goals, everybody wins.

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Government Introduces Legislation to Crack Down on Cyberbullying

Posted on 28 November 2013 by admin

The Honourable Peter MacKay, P.C., Q.C., M.P. for Central Nova, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, introduced legislation to address criminal behaviour associated with cyberbullying. This legislation demonstrates the Government’s firm commitment to ensuring that Canadians are better protected against online exploitation. Minister MacKay was joined by the Honourable Steven Blaney, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.

“Our Government is committed to ensuring that our children are safe from online predators and from online exploitation. We have an obligation to help put an end to harmful online harassment and exploitation. Cyberbullying goes far beyond schoolyard bullying and, in some cases, can cross the line into criminal activity,” said Minister Mackay. “With the click of a computer mouse, a person can be victimized before the entire world. As we have seen far too often, such conduct can destroy lives. It clearly demands a stronger criminal justice response, and we intend to provide one.”

The legislation being introduced would:

•Prohibit the non-consensual distribution of intimate images; •Empower a court to order the removal of intimate images from the Internet; •Permit the court to order forfeiture of the computer, cell phone or other device used in the offence; •Provide for reimbursement to victims for costs incurred in removing the intimate image from the Internet or elsewhere; and •Empower the court to make an order to prevent someone from distributing intimate images.

The proposed investigative powers to identify and remedy this and other cybercrimes would be subject to appropriate judicial oversight.

The Government worked closely with the provinces and territories in developing the report and recommendations on which this legislation is closely based.

“With this legislation, we are confirming that this type of behaviour is absolutely unacceptable and has serious consequences,” added Minister Blaney. “As part of Bullying Awareness Week, we are committed to reminding victims that they are not alone, and encouraging them to reach out to a teacher, a trusted adult, a parent or a friend. Bullying – whether online or off – is a problem that affects us all, and we all have a role to play in stopping it.”

Working with partners in the public and private sectors, the Government of Canada is taking action to address all forms of bullying through education, awareness and prevention activities.

For example, the Government is also supporting the development of a number of school-based projects to prevent bullying, as part of $10 million in funding that was committed in 2012 towards new crime prevention projects.

Other important projects that the Government supports to address cyberbullying include the Cybertip.ca and NeedHelpNow.ca websites operated by the Canadian Centre for Child Protection. Canadians can use these websites to report online sexual exploitation of children and to seek help for exploitation resulting from the sharing of sexual images.

In addition, through the Government’s GetCyberSafe campaign, Canadians can get the information they need to protect themselves and their families against online threats, including cyberbullying.

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Rift opens in Quebec Liberals over question of religious dress

Posted on 20 November 2013 by admin

A rift has opened in the Quebec Liberal party over the wearing of religious garb by their candidates, as debate in the province continues about the Parti Québécois’s proposed ban on religious symbols in the public service.

The Quebec Liberals oppose the public-sector ban because they say it goes too far. But on Friday, leader Philippe Couillard says he would never allow a candidate for his party to wear the chador, a type of cloak worn by Muslim women.

Mr. Couillard said his position was compatible with the party line that requires a women wearing a niqab to unveil her face to either work or receive services in the public sector.

In fact, he said, his position was not unlike the one taken by Liberal member Fatima Houda-Pepin, who initially broke with her party and publicly criticized a caucus colleague. Marc Tanguay said he would welcome Liberal candidates wearing the chador.

Mr. Couillard says the chador is a sign of religious fundamentalism and oppression that violates the fundamental rights of equality between men and women.

“I would never allow the wearing of the chador by a candidate. But this is a hypothetical situation. It will never happen. There is not much difference between the chador and the fully faced veil. … It is a garment that represents a total social withdrawal which is incompatible with our way of doing politics,” Mr. Couillard said in a news conference in Montreal on Friday, suggesting Mr. Tanguay made a mistake in making the remark.

Mr. Tanguay’s comments created a major rift within Liberal ranks after Ms. Houda-Pepin said she was “hurt” and “shocked” by the remarks. Ms. Houda-Pepin, the only Muslim woman sitting in the Quebec National Assembly, noted that the chador was the “ultimate expression of oppression of women” and a “radical symbol of fundamentalism.” She feared that the party was drifting away from its roots by failing to stand up for the rights of women in the face of the rise of religious fundamentalism.

“I am women of ideas,” she said in a Radio-Canada interview on Friday. Ms. Houda-Pepin said she was not breaking ranks with the Liberal party, adding she supported her party’s opposition to the contentious Parti Québécois secular charter bill which proposes to prohibit the wearing of overt religious symbols by public sector employees.

“On the question of the chador we both agree,” Mr. Couillard said in a news conference in Montreal. “I’m holding out my hand to Ms. Houda-Pepin for her to come to caucus and explain her position.”

Mr. Couillard said he had no intentions of expelling Ms. Houda-Pepin from caucus for publicly criticizing her colleague. But he added that it was up to her to take the first step towards reconciliation, otherwise she would be expelling herself from the caucus, he said.

The Liberal leader said his caucus is preparing a bill that will define the party’s views on secularism and will prohibit extremist and radical religious views from undermining fundamental rights, such as gender equality.

Ms. Houda-Pepin proposed to take the debate one step further by inviting Premier Pauline Marois to sit down with the other party leaders to draw up a compromise in order to define a non-partisan secular charter.

“I am for a dialogue on this issue that goes beyond party lines,” she said.

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