Controversial comments from leader of 'Les Janettes'

Janette Bertrand, accompanied by PQ minister Bernard Drainville.
CTV News

A prominent supporter of the Parti Quebecois' values charter made waves in the provincial election campaign on Sunday, using the example of an apartment swimming pool to warn of the dangers of religious accommodation.

Janette Bertrand, the head of a pro-charter group known as the Janettes, argued the accommodation of religious minorities in everyday life threatens to erode the equality between men and women.

She tried to illustrate her point with a brief story.

Imagine, she said, two men come to a swimming pool in a Montreal apartment, and the sight of women in the water upsets them.

"Well, suppose they leave, and go see the owner," said Bertrand, an 89-year-old former actress and journalist, emphasizing that the owner would be happy to have such "rich" McGill University students in the building.

"Then they ask, 'Well, can we have a day,' and they will pay... And then in a few months, it's them who have all the pool time."

"That's what will happen if there is no charter."

Bertrand, who led a protest march in favour of the charter last fall, made the comments alongside PQ Leader Pauline Marois at what was referred to as a "secular brunch."

In recent days, the PQ has tried to turn attention toward identity issues such as language and the values charter as the April 7 election enters the home stretch.

The party's charter of values would ban public sector employees -- including teachers and daycare workers -- from displaying or wearing religious symbols such as the hijab.

It would also include a framework to deal with accommodation requests.

Marois didn't distance herself from Bertrand's swimming pool story, and instead accused Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard of not having a plan to deal with such issues.

"He doesn't have one. He will decide it case by case," she told reporters.

Marois said Couillard's ad hoc approach is exactly what previous studies of the issue, such as Quebec's 2008 Bouchard-Taylor report, recommended the province avoid.

The Liberal leader was grilled on a similar issue during last Thursday's debate.

Coalition party head Francois Legault peppered him with questions about whether a Quebec police officer should be allowed to wear a hijab.

Couillard didn't take a clear position and said he wouldn't speculate since the specific situation hasn't come up in Quebec.

Legault is also in favour of a secular charter, though it doesn't go as far. He said Bertrand's comments represent a fear many Quebecers have but she chose the wrong words to express it.

For his part, Couillard again Sunday accused Marois of practising the politics of division with her focus on the charter.

He said the Liberals are committed to "building" the province and focusing on "inclusion," not "exclusion."

"It's for all of Quebec that we will govern," he said.

From the beginning, protection of the French language and the values charter were expected to be key to the PQ's campaign, but they originally took a back seat to talk of whether there would be another sovereignty referendum -- an idea disliked by many Quebecers.

The proposed charter has been highly controversial but polls suggests it's favoured by a majority of francophones, a crucial voting group in the tight election.

With files from Melanie Marquis in Laval and Julien Arsenault in Boisbriand

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  1. jes posted on 03/30/2014 06:47 PM
    I keep hearing about how religious symbols like
    the hijab would be banned, and I would like to be
    corrected if I am mistaken... but I understand that the hijab
    is not a religious symbol. It is a cultural garment. before the toque, it was the headscarf that every nonna and Oma wore in my family....
    The kippa and turban, yes for sure religious symbols, but we keep talking about
    the hijab and I think it should be noted that it is not a religious symbol.
  2. Barcham posted on 03/30/2014 07:15 PM
    I notice that she's 89 years old and will probably be long dead before the youth of today's Quebec ever become as xenophobic and paranoid as she is. WAKE UP!!!! The year is 2014, not 1814!!! What is with these people? How afraid can someone be of the rest of the world? I'm stunned to read such comments in this day and age. If these are the values of the PQ, I hope they suffer a big enough beating on April 7th to permanently wipe the smug smile from Pauline's face forever. IF they win, I will do everything in my power to leave this province of xenophobes, bigots and racists as soon as possible.
  3. joeN posted on 03/30/2014 08:36 PM
    "Imagine, she said, two men come to a swimming pool in a Montreal apartment, and the sight of women in the water upsets them."

    The fiction spinners are at it again! Now we know where the mythical english speaking sales lady from Eaton's came from. Let's have faith that the majority of francophone voters are better informed than Jeannette who seems to be living in a different world than the rest of the Global Community.
  4. Jim posted on 03/30/2014 11:17 PM
    What a stupid example of fear mongering from Janette Bertrand, based on prejudice and ignorance. She is Québec's version of Chicken Little going around saying "the sky is falling ... the sky is falling !!!". The only people who will believe this garbage are the people living in remote areas who have no contact with other cultures to begin with; which, by the way, should not be a reasonable perspective to go by as they make poor judges of what they know not. Good example Bertrand of the blind leading the blind and, in Marois' case, of the ambitious leading the blind at whatever cost.
  5. wluis posted on 03/31/2014 06:55 AM
    Maybe they were thinking " Wow these women are hot, I shouldn't have used my speedo suit today. Let's go change. And since we are rich we should show off our fancy waterproof watches."
    Unless anyone else has something they believe these" rick McGill": student were thinking.
  6. Eric posted on 03/31/2014 07:43 AM
    Over the past months a very big deal has been made over Rob Ford's drug and alcohol use. I think the question should now be put to Pauline Marois and her cohorts and all the bigots she keeps pulling out of the closet and the paranoid delusions they keep coming out with. Do they smoke crack???? And if they aren't on drugs, perhaps they should seek medical help and start being medicated for their paranoid delusions. Enough is enough. Their constant attacks and racist comments against Anglophones and other ethnic minorities has gone way over the top now. They should be muzzled or at the very least brought to task in front of a judge or human rights tribunal for blatant hate speech and inciting hatred against visible minorities.
  7. Kari posted on 03/31/2014 07:47 AM
    My first thought ( after reading what she said five times ) was.....................what????
    Then I realized. Shes 89 years old and talking nonsense.
    Hmmmm, sounds like Alzheimers to me, but I'm no doctor.
    But the worst part was realizing that maybe its people like her who actually agree with the charter.
    Thats pretty scary.
  8. Joseph posted on 03/31/2014 07:52 AM
    I would be scared also if she is the woman in the pool.
  9. Mark Ardis posted on 03/31/2014 08:09 AM
    This is ridiculous, again, they are massaging a political climate to make Quebeckers ready for a referendum... PQ divisive scare tactics. Its never happened that a pool was bought by muslim students from Mcguill and will never happen. You do not need a charter to prevent these things from happening. Also the proposed charter wont even prevent such a scenario from happening.

    Please vote PLQ so we can concentrate on what really matters, Economy, Education, Health and Environment.
  10. Sandy posted on 03/31/2014 08:27 AM
    Collectively, Ontario and Quebec accounted for 60% of the value of Canada’s exports to Saudi Arabia in 2010, with exports worth $325.3 million and $256.3 million respectively...

    Say no more!
  11. earth3rd posted on 03/31/2014 09:08 AM
    What a load of crap.
  12. People Concern posted on 03/31/2014 09:10 AM
    Wow what 2 men to do with charter basically they have no clue. I believed they were ignorant for long time but now they are stupid.
  13. Meatplow posted on 03/31/2014 09:40 AM
    Marois and Drainville embrace these xenophobic and racist comments with a big grin on their faces but yet they are scandalized when they hear Couillard mentioning the world bilingualism??....It's scary that others feel the same way as this Janette character. How would these people react if americans would treat the french speaking quebeckers who flock in droves to Florida each year the same way?....
    1. Laurie Ann posted on 03/31/2014 10:17 AM
      @Meatplow This reminds me of a time I was shopping in Plattsburgh when a French-speaking Quebecer addressed the cashier in French about a product he was buying (at half the cost and far less tax than sold here). The poor girl was apologetic and told him she could speak English and Spanish, the language of the growing minority in the US. but not French. He threw a fit, then threw his merchandise down before berating her in French, essentially telling her she and other Americans should learn to "accommodate" their French-speaking next-door neighbors.

      The irony and self-involved hypocrisy is not lost on me.
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