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Manitoba premier to raise Quebec religious symbol law with western premiers

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister responds to questions during a news conference at the first ministers meeting in Montreal on December 7, 2018. Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister says he will be seeking a joint response to Quebec's new religious symbols law when western premiers meet Thursday in Edmonton.Pallister says Quebec's Bill 21 is dangerous, un-Canadian and deserves to be opposed. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

EDMONTON — Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister says he will be seeking a joint response to Quebec’s new religious symbols law when western premiers meet on Thursday in Edmonton.

Pallister says the legislation is dangerous, un-Canadian and deserves to be opposed.

He says Canada is not a country with two tiers of rights, but one that celebrates diversity.

The law prohibits teachers, police officers and other public servants in positions of authority from wearing religious symbols, and critics say it unfairly targets Muslims, Sikhs and other religious minorities.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is the meeting’s host.

Leaders are expected to discuss shared concerns that include health care and reducing barriers to interprovincial trade.

Leaders of the four western provinces as well as from the three territories are to attend.

Pallister, speaking in an interview, said he will make a proposal to send a joint response on Quebec’s religious symbols law.

“We need to make sure that we don’t restrict people’s freedoms, whether it’s speech or movement or religion,” he said.

Response from federal political leaders to date has been muted probably, in part, because of the national election in the fall, Pallister said.

“They don’t wish to irritate the province of Quebec, but Quebec is one province in a beautiful country,” he said.

“Canada is a beacon around the world for supporting freedoms, not suppressing them.”

— With files from Steve Lambert in Winnipeg

Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press