NDP leadership hopefuls questioned on religion and identity issues

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The NDP hopefuls Manitoba MP Niki Ashton, Quebec MP Guy Caron and Ontario MP Charlie Angus and Ontario legislature member Jagmeet Singh were put on the hot seat when asked about the Quebec government’s proposed legislation that sets guidelines for accommodating religious requests.

The bill attempts to enshrine into law the policy that all people giving or receiving a service from the state must do so with their face uncovered.

Singh, who has come out against the bill, said he doesn’t believe the state should be able to dictate what people wear, but added he believes the province has laws in place to ensure rights are protected.

It was a road that outgoing NDP leader Tom Mulcair went that led to the NDP debacle in the last federal elections.

Ashton and Angus also disagreed with the idea that the state should be able to dictate what a person wears but refrained from criticizing the Quebec government.

Angus expressed a similar sentiment, saying it was important to understand Quebec’s fight for the separation of church and state during the quiet revolution of the 1960s.

The NDP currently holds 16 seats in Quebec — well below the 59 it claimed in its historic breakthrough in the province in 2011 under Jack Layton’s leadership.

Early questions focused on the wave of asylum seekers crossing from the United States, the government role in supporting the province’s aerospace industry, and Premier Philippe Couillard’s plan to restart cross-country discussions on Quebec’s role in Canada.

All four candidates criticized Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for rejecting any possibility of re-opening the constitution, with Caron and Singh accusing him of “slamming the door” on the province.

Members of the NDP will vote for the successor to outgoing leader Thomas Mulcair on September 18. – CINEWS

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