PQ minister Jean-François Lisée took some distance from controversial comments made Sunday by prominent feminist Janette Bertrand, one of the secularism charter's most prominent defenders.
The 89-year-old Bertrand, the head of a pro-charter group known as "les Janette", showed up at a PQ campaign stop in Laval Sunday, suggesting that "fundamentalists" — and "rich" McGill students — are "chipping away" at Quebecers' rights and at the notion of gender equality.
Lisée appeared Monday morning on CJAD's Tommy Schnurmacher show, in the latest of a series of round-table debates ahead of the April 7 election — this one dealing with the charter.
"I listened to these comments yesterday. My reaction was that this was not the best quote of the campaign, this was not the best argument for the charter," Lisée said. "But the woman is 89, so I'm going to cut her some slack."
He nonetheless continued to defend the essence of the charter.
"It's not acceptable that we treat people differently in the public sector," he added. "Of course we're not going to fire anyone. We're going to have a transition period."
NDG MNA Kathleen Weil, representing the Liberals, says no such slack should be cut for Bertrand, noting that premier Pauline Marois and Bernard Drainville, the architect of the charter, we both in the room when she made her comments.
"It's a result of this fearmongering that's been going on," Weil says. "The fear of the other. The fear of the stranger. Whether it's language or religion or simply identity. That's got to end. That's got to stop."
Noah Sidel, who's running for the CAQ against Weil in NDG, says the comments were another indication of how lackluster the PQ campaign has been.
"I think much like the image of PKP raising his fist for a country, the image of Pauline Marois linked arm in arm with Janette after she said this nonsense about people swimming in pools will be another one of the pull-aways that show the disaster that the PQ campaign has been," Sidel says.
Molly Alexander, the candidate for the the pro-independence, anti-charter Québec Solidaire party in St-Henri-Ste-Anne, referred to the charter as a "tactic of division for Quebec."
"It's not even about secularism anymore," she says. "It's really about let's scare some people into voting against diversity,"