Legault tells federal party leaders: leave Bill 21 alone

Francois Legault

As they launched their federal election campaigns on Wednesday, the three main party leaders all had something to say about Quebec's controversial Bill 21, which bans Quebec civil servants of all kinds from wearing religious symbols.

In Quebec City on Wednesday afternoon, premier François Legault told each of them to mind their own bees' wax.

"What I'm asking [the federal party leaders] is to commit, not just for now, but forever, to never contest the law," Legault emphatically told reporters at the National Assembly. "It's up to Quebecers to decide. Quebecers have decided. And federal party leaders who aspire to govern Canada must engage to never contest the law before the courts."

All of the main party leaders were asked during their campaign launches about their stances on Bill 21, but they all appeared reluctant to wade into Quebec's secularism debate.

"At this time, we feel it would be counterproductive for the federal government to engage in the process," Trudeau said. "But we will continue to monitor closely and evaluate our position,"

He reiterated, meantime, that he remains "deeply opposed" to Bill 21, saying it legitimizes discrimination, and adds he's pleased Quebecers themselves have moved to mount a court challenge against it.

Meanwhile, Conservative leader Andrew Scheer launched his campaign in Trois-Rivières, and he suggested he wouldn't touch Bill 21, either — adding that he wouldn't consider bringing in similar legislation at the federal level.

"People who are against this bill right now are making their case directly against this bill...and the courts will ultimately decide on that," Scheer said.

In London, Ont., NDP leader Jagmeet Singh was the most forceful of the three leaders coming out against the bill during his Q&A session with reporters.

"I think about a lot of the people I meet in Montreal, a lot of young women that I've met who love science and love teaching and want to become a teacher, and now because of this bill, can't," Singh said. "And it upsets me. It saddens me. It's a divisive law. It's state-sanctioned discrimination."