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Wynne vows Ontario will remain ‘inclusive,’ criticizing Quebec's proposed charter

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne took some time for a media availability at Queen's Park in Toronto on Aug. 28, 2013. She answered questions about her upcoming trip to Ontario's north, her government's performance through the gas plant scandal, and was even asked wether she had ever smoked marijuana.

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has joined the chorus of voices criticizing Quebec's proposed secular charter, just days before the controversial document is set to be officially unveiled.

The Charter of Quebec Values, drawn up by the sovereigntist Parti Québécois government, will reportedly ban public employees from wearing religious symbols such as turbans, hijabs, yarmulkes and crosses. It is expected to be released next week. A draft of the charter was leaked to the Journal de Montréal last month.

Asked about the matter Tuesday after a meeting in Thunder Bay, Ont., Ms. Wynne did not directly name Quebec, but attacked the charter obliquely.

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"The diversity, our ethnicity is very important to our province. We are strong because we have a diverse population and for me, Ontario must be inclusive," she said, speaking in French. "Our schools must be inclusive. And our politics must be inclusive of all of our diversity."

The charter has whipped up debate in Quebec and attracted condemnation across the country. Quebec Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard called any potential ban "unreasonable"; third party Coalition Avenir Québec has floated a compromise that would ban religious symbols for some government workers but not others.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper pledged to make the country inclusive for minorities last week and, on Sunday, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi criticized the document's reported provisions as a "violation" of Canadian ethics. He said adopting it would discourage the best and brightest people from around the world from moving to Canada.

Ms. Wynne, who was in Northern Ontario for a meeting on job creation with local business leaders, picked up on the theme.

"It is very important to me that Ontario is a diverse province – that our laws and our policies reflect that diversity," she said. "I believe it is fundamentally one of our strengths, and as we talk about our place, Ontario's place, in the global economy, our diversity is part of that."

"Other provinces will make their decisions," she added, "but I see our strength as our diversity."

Ms. Wynne's government has already signalled its opposition to the PQ's stand, with Citizenship and Immigration Minister Michael Coteau firing off a riposte last month shortly after word of the charter's contents leaked.

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"We are committed to an Ontario where all people are respected while celebrating the differences of our diversity," Mr. Coteau said in a statement. "Our government would oppose the introduction of any legislation in Ontario to restrict or prohibit people's freedom of expression and religion in public places. Ontario's diversity and freedom of expression and religion is a model to the world – where we celebrate and respect each other's differences."

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About the Author
Washington correspondent

Adrian Morrow covers U.S. politics from Washington, D.C. Previously he was The Globe's Ontario politics reporter. He's covered news, crime and sports for The Globe since 2010. He won the National Newspaper Award for politics reporting in 2016. More

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