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NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says the newly appointed federal special representative to combat Islamophobia is being victimized by calls for her to quit over past remarks on Quebec.

“I think, for any woman seeing this, they look at this and see this looks really familiar, the piling on of a woman in particular, particularly a racialized woman, I think, is really troubling in general, and in this case, it seems to be problematic,” Mr. Singh told a Monday news conference on Parliament Hill.

Mr. Singh’s comments follow calls from the Quebec government for Amira Elghawaby to resign or be fired over a 2019 opinion piece she co-wrote in the Ottawa Citizen linking “anti-Muslim sentiment” to Quebec’s Bill 21, which bans certain government employees from wearing religious symbols at work. The column is here.

Mr. Singh said Ms. Elghawaby has clarified her remarks, and that the issue of Islamophobia is not relegated to one province or one community but is a problem for the whole country. “We need to take it seriously.”

In response to criticism over the column, Ms. Elghawaby tweeted on Friday, “I don’t believe that Quebecers are Islamophobic, my past comments were in reference to a poll on Bill 21. I will work with partners from all provinces and regions to make sure we address racism head on.”

On Monday, Jean-François Roberge, Quebec’s minister responsible for relations with Canada and for state secularism, said in a statement that the province had initially demanded an apology from Ms. Elghawaby, which he said did not happen. Now, he said, she has to go.

“All she did was try to justify her abhorrent remarks,” Mr. Roberge said. “That is not acceptable. She must resign, and if she does not, the government must remove her immediately.”

Ms. Elghawaby was appointed to her post by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Asked Monday about calls for her resignation, Mr. Trudeau told journalists before going into Question Period, “She is there to speak for the community, with the community and to build bridges across.

“Obviously, she has thought carefully over many years about the impacts that various pieces of legislation, and various political positions have had on the community. Her job now is to make sure she is helping the government, and helping everyone move forward in the fight against Islamophobia.”

He said he was satisfied with the clarification presented in Ms. Elghawaby’s tweet.

Elsewhere, Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet said, at a news conference of his own, that Ms. Elghawaby had associated Quebec with Islamophobia, “whatever the definition of that might happen to be.”

“I am not surprised that she is opposed to Bill 21, but Bill 21 is a Quebec jurisdiction about Quebec national identity, and it is the most absolute right of the Quebec National Assembly to make such a decision and to implement such a decision,” he said.

“But what she said in the past is not that she was in disagreement with this law, but that we were, basically, Islamophobic and racist. This s the problem.”

Meanwhile, an emotional ceremony took place Sunday marking the sixth anniversary of the Quebec City mosque shooting, held for the first time in the same room where many of the victims were killed. Story here.

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Ian Bailey. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you're reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter signup page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.


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