Maria Mourani, who was kicked out of the Bloc Québécois caucus over her opposition to the Parti Québécois' proposed charter of Quebec values, says she has decided to quit the party.
Mourani told reporters gathered at a press conference in her home riding of Ahuntsic in Montreal Friday morning that she was very saddened by the turn of events, which have left her questioning her involvement within the sovereigntist movement.
"Was my expulsion from the Bloc the conclusion of a succession of events in which an election-driven strategy took precedence over the defence of basic human rights?" Mourani said. "I wonder."
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The MP reiterated her criticism that the proposed plan by Quebec Premier Pauline Marois is nothing more than an "electoral strategy," which is dividing all Quebecers regardless of political stripe.
Mourani told reporters she will stay in Ottawa as an Independent MP until the next federal election in 2015 to defend the rights and freedoms of all Quebecers and residents in her riding of Ahuntsic.
She did not say whether she would run again federally or whether she would contemplate a run at provincial politics under a different pro-sovereigntist.
Charter of values divides Quebec
"Firing women from daycare centres because they're wearing a cross or a scarf, or a man from a hospital because he's wearing a kippa or a turban — I can't adhere to such a policy," Mourani said.
Mourani pointed out that her position on the ban of religious symbols had not changed but that it was in fact the Bloc Québécois that changed its position this past week.
- LISTEN: Mourani speaks out on CBC's Radio Noon
The Bloc Québécois has always maintained that only public employees working in positions of state authority — such as police, judges, attorneys, and prison guards — should be barred from wearing religious symbols.
Mourani continued to support the Bloc's position before she was kicked out of caucus.
But the day after Mourani and a group of pro-sovereigntists signed an open letter denouncing Quebec's charter of values, the Bloc Québécois — led by unelected party leader Daniel Paillé — appeared to distance itself from its original position.
Paillé issued a statement saying it now fully supported Quebec's proposal, but made no mention of its 2007 position.
Quebec's controversial charter of values takes the Bloc's position further, as it would see all public employees banned from wearing religious symbols such kippas, turbans, burkas, hijabs and "large" crosses.
Under the proposed charter, public employees such as teachers and doctors wouldn't be excluded from the ban.
In an apparent move of solidarity with those opposed to Quebec's charter of values, Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney changed his profile picture on Twitter to one showing him wearing a Sikh head scarf — something public employees in Quebec would be forbidden from wearing should the charter of values become law.
The symbolic gestures rapidly spread through social media networks earlier this week, after the Quebec government issued a graphic illustrating examples of religious symbols that would either be accepted or rejected under the proposed charter of values.
On Thursday, after Mourani was expelled from caucus, Kenney also took to Twitter to applaud the Ahuntsic MP saying, "although we disagree on many issues, I respect Maria Mourani as a hard-working, principled & passionate Member of Parliament."
Kenney told reporters in Ottawa earlier this week the federal government has asked the Justice Department to review the proposed charter, and that it would not hesitate to challenge the Quebec government in court if it was found to violate the rights of Canadians.
Bloc loses only female, ethnic MP
Federalists are not the only ones questioning Paillé's decision to kick Mourani out of caucus, even staunch separatists questioned the wisdom in Paillé's move and rallied around Mourani — most notably the wife of former Quebec premier Jacques Parizeau.
Lisette Lapointe, in an interview with Radio-Canada on Friday, leaped to Mourani's defence, saying the Parti Québécois' proposed charter was dividing the sovereigntist movement, and the party ought to review it immediately.
Lapointe described Mourani as a "courageous women" who has integrated herself in Quebec society in an "admirable" fashion.
She also questioned Paillé's decision in expelling an MP for speaking her mind.
"I don't understand what is happening inside the Bloc Québécois," Lapointe said.
Mourani's expulsion from caucus leaves the Bloc Québécois with four MPs in Ottawa, including former NDP MP Claude Patry, who crossed the floor earlier this year.
Paillé, the leader, has yet to run for a seat in the House of Commons.
MPs will return to Ottawa on Oct. 16 after Prime Minister Stephen Harper officially had Parliament prorogued on Friday.
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