Former NDP leader Tom Mulcair has castigated Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for his performance on defending human rights.
“When it comes to actually defending minority rights, Trudeau has failed completely,” Mulcair stated. “He is often invited to deliver speeches to minority communities across Canada. He talks a good game, showing real emotion when speaking on these issues. But he chickens out when it comes time to doing something to defend those rights.”
Mulcair’s assessment came as a scathing op-ed published in the Montreal Gazette. It focused largely on the prime minister’s reaction to a recent story out of Quebec where a Muslim woman was removed from her teaching job because she wore a hijab.
The teacher, Fatemeh Anvari, was removed from her Grade 3 classroom by school administrators in West Quebec for showing up in the religious garment. Anvari was reassigned from the classroom to an “inclusion and diversity literacy initiative” at the school.
Anvari afterwards wrote, “I sympathize with anybody else that it affects, anyone who chooses to wear any article of clothing based on their religious beliefs, their identity, their culture. This isn’t just an issue for Muslims; it’s a human issue.”
In Quebec, Bill 21 prohibits any public servant from wearing religious symbols while at work. Critics of the law have accused the Quebec government of being discriminatory towards minorities and those who want to practice their faith.
Trudeau has said that he will not step into the debate, which would likely lead to a fight with Quebec over jurisdictional matters.
“I think that it’s important, in the first stages of the work that’s being done right now, to not give the excuse of a fight between Ottawa and Quebec,” Trudeau said.
Mulcair criticized Trudeau for being all talk and no action when it comes to human rights.
“The No. 1 job of any prime minister is to uphold the Constitution. Want to have a heart-to-heart about the fact that Quebec has never signed the 1982 Constitution? Fill your boots. It’s a big honking issue that is the elephant in the room in all of these discussions. It just doesn’t change a thing about the fact that all Canadians have the same rights and that Quebecers have the same rights as all other Canadians.”
Mulcair also went after Conservative Party of Canada Leader Erin O’Toole for following in Trudeau’s footsteps, calling both leader’s positions “a timorous failure.”
In response to the Anvari incident, O’Toole said that the debate over Bill 21 was “an issue that is best left for Quebecers to decide” and that his position was the “exact same” as that of Trudeau and his counterpart NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh.