More calls for Hampstead mayor Bill Steinberg to apologize or resign over 'ethnic cleansing' remarks

Hampstead mayor William Steinberg's remarks about Bill 21 last week are still making waves and even prompting calls for an apology or his resignation.

Steinberg said the proposed law on banning religious symbols at work for those in authority amounts to "ethnic cleansing."

"This is ethnic cleansing, not with a gun but with a law," said Steinberg at a news conference of local politicians last week announcing an anti-Bill 21 demonstration for April 14 at Côte-St-Luc city hall.

Steinberg explained that he wasn't comparing Bill 21 to genocide but that the result would be the same - with Quebecers of certain faiths being driven out of the province or sending a signal that some people of certain religious or ethnics backgrounds weren't welcome here.

Liberal MNA for D'Arcy McGee David Birnbaum wants an apology, adding that they need to have a serious and rigourous debate about a bad law.

"To have that debate, one has to be disciplined and respectful in their comments and these comments do not pass that test," said Birnbaum in an interview with CJAD 800.

"The comments were deeply inappropriate, they were hurtful."

Lionel Perez, leader of the official opposition at Montreal city hall, Ensemble Montreal also called on Steinberg to apologize.

Liberal MP for Mount Royal Anthony Housefather, who was present at last week's news conference, had asked Steinberg to apologize on that day.

Hampstead councillor Leon Elfassy said an apology isn't enough for such inflammatory comments, adding he, too, asked Steinberg to apologize.

"He refuses to retract and apologize and he stands by his remarks and I think Mr. Steinberg should resign," Elfassy told CJAD800.

Ex-MNA and Journal de Montréal columnist Fatima Houda-Pépin also called on Steinberg to apologize or resign in a column published on the weekend.

But despite all this, Steinberg is standing firm, telling CJAD 800 that he "will not apologize for saying the truth."

"The words in Bill 21 are the real issue, not a phrase that is being misinterpreted to create headlines. Bill 21 discriminates against religions minorities and limits their job opportunities. It will lead to fewer of them coming to Quebec and to many already here, leaving. That will lead to a less diverse Quebec society," said Steinberg in an email statement.

"A law that targets minorities and uses the notwithstanding clause to get away with it, is odious and should be condemned in the strongest possible language. I will not apologize for saying the truth and calling attention to the effects of this immoral bill."

The Quebec Municipal Commission is looking into a complaint filed on the matter.