Some Tory, Liberal MPs push for federal intervention in Quebec's secularism law
OTTAWA — The Liberal government and Opposition Conservatives are facing calls from within to mount a more direct challenge to Quebec's controversial secularism law after a teacher was removed from the classroom for wearing a hijab. Federal parties and their MPs have spent the past week reacting to the law, known as Bill 21, which bans some public servants deemed to be in positions of authority — such as teachers, judges and police officers — from wearing religious symbols on the job.
Saskatchewan Conservatives have rejected a move to expel Sen. Denise Batters from their regional caucus.
MPs and senators from Saskatchewan voted to keep Batters in their group, according to a source with knowledge of the decision who spoke on condition they not be named.
The senator would not comment on the vote. The group's chair, Conservative MP Kevin Waugh, told CBC News that he "can't talk on confidentiality issues in the Saskatchewan caucus."
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It's not clear what led to yesterday's vote but the effort to remove Batters from the regional caucus is the second failed attempt to sideline the senator since the fall federal election.
Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole kicked Batters out of the national caucus in November, a day after she launched a petition calling for an expedited review of his leadership.
While Batters was removed from the national caucus — the combined assembly of Conservative MPs and senators — Batters' fellow senators set the stage for the Saskatchewan caucus's decision by keeping her in the fold in the upper chamber.
The trouble began for Batters on Nov. 15, when she launched a petition to oust O'Toole as leader. She said she had lost faith in him after the Conservative Party suffered "significant losses" in the last federal election.
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Under the party's constitution, a referendum on any matter can be launched if five per cent of Conservative members sign a petition calling on the party to poll the membership on the topic through a referendum.
Batters said her petition was inspired by O'Toole's decision to change the party's positions on major issues such as carbon pricing, firearms and conscience rights during the election campaign.
Batters vs. OToole
"Mr. O'Toole flip-flopped on policies core to our party within the same week, the same day, and even within the same sentence. The members didn't have a say on that but we must have one on his leadership," Batters said in a media statement.
"We can't afford to see our party ripped apart again. When we're divided, the Liberals win."
While O'Toole presented himself as a "true blue" Conservative in the party's leadership race, Batters said he subsequently ran a federal election campaign "nearly indistinguishable from Trudeau's Liberals."
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Party rules require an automatic leadership review at the first national convention following a failed federal election campaign. Batters wanted that vote to happen in the next six months.
In December, Conservative Party president Rob Batherson said the party had formally declared the petition invalid under the party's constitution, despite it having gathered more than 6,000 signatures by that time.
O'Toole defended his swift decision to give Batters the boot last month, saying he could not "tolerate an individual discrediting and showing a clear lack of respect toward the efforts of the entire Conservative caucus, who are holding the corrupt and disastrous Trudeau government to account."
Batters fired back, calling him weak and posting online that she was "fired by voicemail." The senator accused O'Toole of trying to silence party members.
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