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Politics Bloc kicks out MP who spoke against Quebec religious-symbols ban

Bloc Quebecois MP Maria Mourani holds a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Wednesday February 16, 2011.

FRED CHARTRAND/THE CANADIAN PRESS

A sovereigntist Bloc Québécois Member of Parliament who spoke out against the Quebec government plan to ban some personal signs of religious faith from public workplaces has been kicked out of her party caucus.

Maria Mourani, who was one of only five Bloc MPs, was expelled Thursday. On Wednesday, Ms. Mourani described the Parti Québécois plan as discriminatory, probably illegal and strategically disastrous for a sovereignty movement that has struggled to convince Quebec minorities of the allure of national independence.

The Bloc's reaction to the plan has been confused. In a release earlier this week, it appeared to be at odds with the provincial party and adopting its 2007 position that only people in positions of state authority should be barred from wearing religious symbols.

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Bloc Leader Daniel Paillé appeared to back away from that position on Wednesday, saying he welcomed the PQ move.

Mr. Paillé said Thursday his tiny remaining caucus was unanimous in its decision to expel Ms. Mourani, saying her position "in no way reflects the position of the Bloc Québécois."

"Far from being electioneering, a grave strategic error of the sovereignty movement, or a demonstration of ethnic nationalism, it is, on the contrary, a necessary and fundamental process for the Québécois nation," Mr. Paillé said in a statement.

The Bloc leader said Quebeckers have the right to expect all federal parties to "respect their debate, their will to define themselves and to defend their values."

In an interview Thursday, before her expulsion, Ms. Mourani held on to the Bloc's more moderate stance, saying there was no rift within the Bloc but that the party was at odds with the provincial counterpart.

"We agree with rules, with a framework for accommodations. Where we don't agree is that it should apply to the entire public service. The position of the Bloc is clear," Ms. Mourani said.

Ms. Mourani joined 18 others, including former Bloc MP Jean Dorion, in signing an open letter decrying the PQ's plan for a Charter of Quebec Values.

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"Whether they like it or not, they are discriminating against minorities. It has never been easy to convince people from ethno-cultural groups that the independence movement is inclusive. The signal here is not very encouraging," Ms. Mourani said.

"In terms of strategy, this is grave. Independence is not going to happen without including everyone. And it most certainly isn't going to happen without Montreal."

"The unfortunate message is that it's Canada that will protect you, with its Charter."

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