OTTAWA - The Bloc Quebecois expelled one of its five caucus members on Thursday after she ripped into Quebec's proposed charter of values and said it would hurt the sovereigntist cause.
The decision to kick out Maria Mourani came a day after she warned the charter would "create systemic discrimination... especially against women" and that it was a "very bad move for Quebec independence."
She said the independence movement has spent years courting minority groups and that the Parti Quebecois government's proposal risks undoing all that work.
Mourani, who was born in Ivory Coast and is of Lebanese origin, was also one of several sovereigntists to sign a declaration that said the charter would "stigmatize and exclude certain communities and especially some women."
The PQ plan would forbid Quebec's public employees from wearing more visible religious symbols — including hijabs, turbans, yarmulkes and larger-than-average crucifixes.
In commenting his decision to expel the 44-year-old Mourani, Bloc Leader Daniel Paille said her comments in no way whatsoever reflect the party's position on the controversial charter.
"The charter of Quebec values, far from being an election-driven manoeuvre, a serious strategic error on the part of the sovereigntist movement or, worse, a display of ethnic nationalism, is actually a necessary and fundamental step for the Quebec nation," Paille said in a statement.
Paille said the four other members of the Bloc caucus agreed with the decision to part company with Mourani, who will hold a news conference at her Montreal office on Friday morning at 10:30 ET.
Mourani did, however, receive support Thursday from politicians of radically different stripes.
Francoise David, a member of the legislature for the left-wing sovereigntist Quebec solidaire, slammed the expulsion.
"It's as though they're saying, 'There's a dissident voice, a voice that is issuing some warnings against certain aspects of the charter and there's a sovereigntist party that wants to silence this voice','' David said in Quebec City.
"It sends the wrong message...and it shouldn't happen like that."
At the other end of the political spectrum, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau took to Twitter to congratulate Mourani for her stance.
"Bravo to Maria Mourani for standing up to this divisive proposal,'' tweeted Trudeau, whose Papineau riding abuts Mourani's Ahuntsic riding.
"Mme Marois has seriously underestimated Quebecers' respect for each other."
Quebec Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard also chipped in on Mourani's dismissal, accusing sovereigntists of extreme rigidity and "absolutism."
"People are talking about fundamentalism these days," he said. "There seems to be another kind that is taking root within the sovereigntist movement. A kind of clerical atmosphere.
"Mme Mourani has been excommunicated and I suppose it will be the same thing for the next heretics."
The Quebec cabinet minister who is spearheading the values charter said he's not surprised that some sovereigntists are opposed to his plan.
"This is their right," said Bernard Drainville, the minister responsible for democratic institutions. "We should accept dissidents, we should accept people who disagree, we should accept all opinions."
_ With files from Lina Dib in Ottawa, Martin Ouellet in Quebec City and Donald McKenzie in Montreal