Why is Calgary Mayor Nenshi sounding off about Quebec’s Values Charter?

·Politics Reporter

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi has been very vocal over the past couple of days about Quebec's proposed values charter.

The charter is expected to ban all public employees from wearing religious symbols in public institutions. While specifics of the plan won't be released until next week, some reports suggest that visible crosses, yarmulkes, hijabs, niqabs, burkas and turbans would all be prohibited.

While most politicians have been guarded about their critiques of the proposed charter, Nenshi hasn't. Here is a segment from a CBC Radio interview, on Tuesday, where the mayor explains why he's speaking out about it.

Certainly, in terms of economic development, one thing that I have been focused on for the last three years is talent attraction. It's making sure that people from around the world know that this is a welcoming place here in Calgary, that we are allowing everyone to succeed here, to live a great Canadian life here regardless of what they worship or what they look like. So there was a little bit of..come here and we can use Sikh doctors and hijab-wearing school teachers, we would be thrilled to have them.

But, in reality, this is also about standing up for Canadian values. All this talk about this is about secularism or neutrality of the public service...we can't fall that line.

It's advantaging less visible faith versus people who have a visible faith so it's actually the opposite of neutrality.

I've got an MLA who happens to be a damn fine cabinet minister. He also happens to wear a turban. So, we're basically saying to that guy growing up: 'don't think about being a politician, that job is closed to you. If you happen to be a very bright turbaned Sikh man and you wanted to become a lawyer, great but you can't be a crown prosecutor. You can't be a judge.'

What we're actually...saying is 'certain jobs are not available to you because of your faith.'

And that is not about neutrality and that is not about Canadian values as far as I'm concerned.

There are some on social media, today, telling Nenshi to mind his own business and stay out of Quebec affairs.

Nenshi isn't backing down.

[ Related: Unwelcome by PQ Values Charter? Come to Calgary: Mayor Nenshi ]

Nobody should question Nenshi's sincerity about this issue. Minority rights are something that he has long been passionate about and he's never been afraid to speak his mind on any issue.

But, by speaking out, Nenshi has once again catapulted himself on to the national scene and is buoying his own personal brand across the country. (Like he did during the Calgary floods).

[ Related: Naheed Nenshi’s handling of Calgary floods lauded by news media, twitterverse alike ]

There continues to be chatter — in Alberta and elsewhere — about his political ambitions. Some have suggested that he would like, one day, to run provincially or even federally for either the Liberals or New Democrats.

In an interview with Yahoo! Canada News earlier this year, we asked him about his future goals.

"I was thinking marrying the Duchess of Cambridge but I understand she’s already married," he quipped

"You know what, I have got the best job in Canadian politics. Being the mayor is the only role where you are elected by all the citizens and as such you get the chance to kind of hold the hopes and dream of the entire city in your hands.

"I can’t imagine that there would be any political job better than that."

That somewhat coy response coupled with his boldness to chime-in on a controversial national issue could lead one to believe that, one day, Nenshi will be a prominent figure, in either the provincial or federal political sphere.

Any future run for provincial or federal politics, however, could be years away. Nenshi has already begun his reelection campaign — Calgarians go to the polls in October.

(Photo by Andy Radia)

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