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Canada’s only English debate to feature all major party leaders has come to an end, and Trudeau had at least one genuinely defining moment; worryingly for Singh, it occurred when Trudeau suugested he would oppose Quebec’s Bill 21.
For those not from Quebec, Bill 21 bans all religious symbols such as a headscarf, kippa, or cross, regardless of size, and affects municipal service workers such as public transit drivers, doctors, dentists, and midwives in public institutions, subsidized daycares, and those working for school boards.
The bill is based on the Bouchard-Taylor report published in 2009 which looked at sensitive areas of integration, but both Taylor and Bouchard have declared their opposition to the bill, largely due to its targeting individuals not considered to be holding authority, such as teachers or daycare workers and its willingness to invoke the notwithstanding clause.
It is also worringly popular in Quebec with up to 70% of the population supporting the bill, according to some polls.
During the debate, Trudeau, who must sweep Quebec in order to win, got perhaps some of his strongest footings when challenging Mr. Singh for his unwillingness to oppose Bill 21.
While the Liberal party leader faced an assault on almost every front throughout the debate when it came to many progressive voters this moment mattered.
“It’s a question of yes, it’s awkward politically, because as Mr. Blanchet says it is very popular,” Trudeau states.
“But I am the only one on the stage who has said yes… a federal government might have to intervene on this.”
While Trudeau used the word “might,” it was more than Singh could muster, and as a result, he set the stage for 2019 quite clearly.
Vote Trudeau or receive someone who will provide even less.
With the election rapidly nearing its ends, and some Canadians fearful of a “Harper/Scheer” government, that may be a good enough deal.
While this moment truly stood out, it also highlights the state of Canadian politics in 2019.
For many Canadians, standing up for minority rights this election involves voting for an individual who has a three-decade-long blackface hobby.