Fatima Houda-Pépin has left the provincial Liberal caucus after being given an ultimatum about her pro-secularism stance by party leader Philippe Couillard.
The MNA representing the electoral district of La Pinière quit the caucus early Monday evening, after Couillard made it clear that Houda-Pépin would have to toe the line or get out.
"At the end of the day, today, this is where the buck stops. At the end of the day we will have to all be in agreement," Couillard said earlier Monday, before going into a five-hour-long Liberal caucus meeting to discuss the party's stance on the secular charter.
"I am very serene. I defended my convictions and that, I will never regret," Houda-Pepin said.
Born in Morocco, Houda-Pepin is the only Muslim woman in the national assembly. She said the cause of secularism is one close to her heart.
“I’ve spent 30 years of my life fighting integralism [fundamentalism]. I can’t say that the door is open to everyone while at the same time continue fighting against integralism,” said Houda-Pepin.
Houda-Pepin has been outspoken about her position on the proposed secular charter for months.
“This is the straw that broke the camel's back," wrote Houda-Pepin in a letter to The Canadian Press last November. "Gender equality is a fundamental right in an era of fundamentalism. We must protect it, defend it and not put it at risk."
Couillard and the Liberals have recently been facing criticism over not taking a firm stand on the secular charter. He said he was disappointed in Houda-Pepin's decision to leave over the issue.
“I’m not happy. It’s not a happy event. But it had to stop," Couillard said.
She said she was disappointed in Couillard's ultimatum. She asked if she could remain in the Liberal caucus, but she said the party leader told her no, because he wanted all his Liberal members behind him.
"I feel very sorry because I am a Liberal, I am a strong Liberal and a strong federalist, and I worked so hard forthe Liberal Party for almost 20 years, and there is no space for me," she told reporters after leaving the caucus meeting.
She said she would continue to sit at the national assembly as an independent.