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Opposition presses PQ to release public’s feedback on secular charter

CAQ Leader François Legault speaks in the Quebec legislature on Sept. 26, 2013.


The Parti Québécois government is being asked to share the feedback it received from the public on its controversial values charter.

The government has been gathering testimonials from citizens through a government website, with 18,000 written comments in advance of Tuesday's deadline, in addition to 1,000 phone calls.

Opposition parties want the PQ to make those comments public. While polls suggest the PQ plan is relatively popular, the opposition has also been vigorous and vocal.

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The government says it will share only an overall summary of the feedback.

"It's a lack of transparency," Coalition Avenir Québec Leader François Legault complained Monday. "Why won't he show us what people said on the site?

"Frankly, I don't get it. They say they want to consult the people – but they don't want to show us what the people said."

A spokesman for minister Bernard Drainville says a "synthesis" of the comments will be prepared by civil servants – and not by political staff, in an effort to be non-partisan.

He said Drainville did not want to betray the trust of people who had submitted their thoughts, by releasing each reaction publicly. Even if the names were deleted, he said, people might be identified by the details they shared.

"Some people went very far in sharing details on particular cases and could be identified if the e-mails were made public," said Drainville spokesman Bryan Gelinas.

The PQ wants to forbid public servants from wearing religious clothing in what would be the most sweeping ban of its kind in North America.

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That version of the plan appears stalled in the current legislature, leaving the minority PQ government with the option of watering it down or running with it in an election campaign.

The issue has overshadowed other political issues in the province. On Sunday night, it prompted a spirited debate amongst panellists on a popular TV show.

While TV viewers across North America were watching the Breaking Bad series finale, many Quebeckers were tuning into Tout le monde en parle – where pop star Corey Hart and human-rights activist Nazanin Afshin-Jam sided against the PQ idea.

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