Former PQ premier Jacques Parizeau slams Values Charter, Quebec politicians react

"Money and the ethnic vote."

Those, of course, were the infamous words of former Quebec premier Jacques Parizeau on October 30, 1995 — the night Quebec separatists lost their sovereignty referendum.

Ironically, the man who blamed that loss on visible minorities is standing-up for religious minorities.

In an op-ed published in the Journal de Montréal, on Thursday, Parizeau slammed the Parti Quebecois' proposed values charter -- a yet to be introduced piece of legislation that would essentially ban all public employees from wearing overt religious symbols in public institutions.

As explained by CBC News, Parizeau claims that the separation of church and state already exists in Quebec and that the ban against religious symbols should be limited to authority figures such as police officers and judges.

He suggests that the PQ government is overreacting to growing fear of Islam.

"For the most part, the only contact that most Quebecers have with the world of Islam is through these images of violence, repeated over and over: wars, riots, bombs, the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Boston marathon ... The reaction is obvious: We'll have none of that here!" he wrote, according to CBC.

In the column, Parizeau, 83, also weighs-in on the controversy over the crucifix currently displayed in Quebec’s National Assembly.

"And the crucifix at the National Assembly? Let’s hope that next summer, the speaker of the National Assembly, after consulting discreetly with the parties, will move it elsewhere in the building," he wrote.

[ Related: New poll suggests divisions, softening support for Quebec values charter ]

It appears, 16 years removed from public office, Parizeau's words still create a buzz.

CTV News' Max Harrold spoke to provincial politicians, in Quebec to get their reaction to his op-ed.

A comment from Quebec Premier Pauline Marois:

A comment by Democratic Institutions Minister Bernard Drainville:

And an opinion from the Quebec Liberals:

Federal Liberal leader Justin Trudeau also welcomed Parizeau's op-ed.

"I think when Mr. Parizeau becomes a voice of moderation in the debate the sovereignists have a real problem," Trudeau told CBC News.

"This charter which discriminates against citizens because of their religious beliefs is totally unacceptable and more and more people are realizing that. And I'm pleased to see the movement pushing back against this."

[ Related: Is the rest of Canada hypocritical about Quebec’s values charter? ]

A Leger poll released two weeks ago and published in the Globe and Mail, suggests that 43 per cent of Quebecers support the charter while 42 per cent are against it.

It's expected that legislation will be introduced in the National Assembly by next spring. Because the PQ only holds a minority of the seats in the legislature, however, they will need support from at least one of the opposition parties to pass the controversial measures.

(Photo courtesy of the Canadian Press)

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