Independent MP Maria Mourani has definitely turned her back on Quebec sovereignty, abandoning the ideals of the Bloc Québécois and stating that Canada offers the best protection for minority rights in her home province.
First elected under the Bloc banner in 2006, the MP was ejected from the party in September for condemning the proposed Quebec charter of values, which would prevent provincial government workers from wearing visible religious signs such as veils and kippas at work.
Ms. Mourani said the ease with which the Parti Québécois government could limit minority rights turned her into a federalist.
"I have come to the conclusion that my belonging to Canada, including its Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, better protects the Quebec identity of all citizens of Quebec. I am no longer an independentist," Ms. Mourani said in a letter released in French and English on Wednesday.
She remains an Independent MP, although her new constitutional position opens the door to joining another party. NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair praised her shift, while adding that new members of his caucus must run in a by-election.
"She seems to be giving pretty strong signals that she is going to abandon the thought that it's good for Quebeckers to separate from Canada, and anybody abandoning the idea of breaking up Canada is good news," Mr. Mulcair said.
Ms. Mourani, a Catholic of Lebanese origin who often wears a small crucifix, described the proposed secular charter last September as discriminatory and strategically disastrous for the independence movement.
In her letter, she said Quebec's sovereignty movement has taken a turn for the worse, putting at risk its inroads with ethnic minorities.
"The flagship of sovereignty is nothing like it was before. There are still a few independentist leaders who advocate an inclusive vision of the Quebec identity, but they are clearly on the fringe," she said.
Ms. Mourani accused the PQ of wanting "to hold an election on the backs of believers and against the harmony of living together in Quebec."
Daniel Paillé, who retired this week as Bloc leader for health reasons, said when he ejected Ms. Mourani that she had made an inexcusable mistake by raising the spectre of "ethnic nationalism" in Quebec.
Other senior members of Quebec's sovereignty movement say the proposed charter goes too far, including former PQ leaders Jacques Parizeau and Bernard Landry and former Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe. However, they have limited their comments to stating that only certain civil servants – such as judges and police officers – should be affected.
The remaining four Bloc MPs in Ottawa released a joint statement condemning Ms. Mourani's letter and rejecting her arguments that the Canadian federation can be reformed from within.
"We've seen that movie before, it always ends with a straight-out refusal from the rest of Canada," the statement said.
The party added that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms has been used to restrict the rights of Quebeckers, notably when it comes to protecting French.
"The Bloc Québécois has been on the front-lines as the Canadian charter – imposed against Quebec's will – became an obstacle to the protection of Quebec's identity," the Bloc caucus said.
With a report from Gloria Galloway