Manitoba premier raises “uselessly restrictive” Bill 21 with Trudeau | Montreal Gazette

Manitoba premier Brian Pallister said he “came in peace” to Ottawa, but the outspoken premier on Friday used his first meeting with Justin Trudeau since the latter’s re-election to raise the issue of Bill 21 — the Quebec secularism law that forbids some provincial civil servants from wearing religious symbols.

Pallister expressed his concerns over the law, which he described as “dangerous” and “uselessly restrictive,” but stopped short of asking the prime minister to involve the federal government in a legal challenge.

The Manitoba premier acknowledged there is an “evident concern” not to aggravate divisions within the country. But he added it is not in his nature to “remain silent” before such an “erosion” of individual rights.

“I grew up on a farm, so I don’t like erosion,” he told reporters after his meeting with the prime minister. “And when I see the erosion of individual’s rights I think it’s important — whether it affects me or not … to say something. That’s what I’ve done and I will continue to do.”

Bill 21 was adopted last June, the Coalition Avenir Québec government cut off debate by invoking closure which became an issue that dogged Trudeau on the federal election campaign trail.

The federal Liberal leader said repeatedly he would not challenge the law “for the moment,” a stance that drew the ire of Quebec Premier François Legault and allowed the Bloc Québécois to campaign on the issue and win seats in the province.

In the days that followed the Oct. 21 vote, a simmering separatist movement in Alberta has gained momentum under the Wexit umbrella, a name seemingly created to mimic the Brexit movement aimed at separating Britain from the European Union.

The group’s founder, Peter Downing, earlier this week filed paperwork with Elections Canada to form a federal Wexit Alberta party that could, in his words, do for Western Canada what the Bloc Québécois does for Quebec.

Pallister said he sees frustrations building in the West, not just around a failure to build pipelines to get western energy products to international markets outside of the United States, but also over the perceived snail’s pace of getting just about any other project underway. He blamed it on federal regulations designed to protect the environment.

To alleviate some of those frustrations, Pallister said Ottawa needs to “get things done,” such as building infrastructure that will mitigate the effects of climate change.

“The mayor of Calgary, for example, has raised concerns as I have repeatedly about flood protections that we need to get built,” Pallister said.

Just before he and Pallister went into their private meeting, Trudeau told the premier he hoped the two leaders could work together on a number of fronts.

“Obviously there’s a need to continue to invest, to grow opportunities for Manitobans … through infrastructure including climate change mitigation and adaptation infrastructure,” Trudeau said during a photo op.

Pallister said he and the prime minister also spoke about ways to improve the lives of Indigenous Canadians in his province as well as the recent spike in the number of homicides and violent gang and drug-related crimes in Manitoba.

This content was originally published here.

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