04/09/2019 19:05 EDT | Updated 04/09/2019 19:09 EDT

Premier Legault Wants Apology For Hampstead Mayor Steinberg's Views on Secularism Legislation

The contentious bill would prohibit public servants in positions of authority from wearing religious symbols on the job.

Graham Hughes/CO
Dr. William Steinberg speaks to reporters following a news conference in Montreal on April 5, 2019, where he called on Quebecers to oppose the Quebec government's newly tabled Bill 21.

QUEBEC — There are growing calls for a suburban Montreal mayor to apologize for comments last week equating the province's proposed secularism legislation to "ethnic cleansing."

Premier Francois Legault and several other provincial and municipal politicians called on William Steinberg, the mayor of Hampstead, to apologize.

Speaking last Friday about Quebec's Bill 21 prohibiting religious symbols for teachers and some other public servants, Steinberg accused the government of discriminating against religions whose adherents wear visible symbols.

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He said the end result would be certain minority groups would be compelled to leave Quebec and he labelled Bill 21 a form of "ethnic cleansing."

Legault was among those seeking an apology today, while appealing for calm as the province debates a bill that would prohibit public servants in positions of authority — including teachers, police officers, Crown prosecutors and prison guards — from wearing religious symbols on the job.

Even Liberal David Birnbaum, who opposes the Coalition Avenir Quebec bill and sent a representative to the news conference at which Steinberg made the remarks, called for an apology.

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