OTTAWA — Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister has caused a brouhaha in la belle province, enraging columnists and annoying his Quebec counterpart by pushing against hijab-ban Bill 21.
The clash over a newspaper ad has even prompted ridicule of the Winnipeg Jets and the Manitoba capital's mosquitoes.
In a full-page, French-language advertisement in Le Devoir, the Manitoba government lists 21 reasons "to build your career with the Manitoba public service," from craft beer to cheap housing, and "a truly four-season climate."
But it’s the last of the 21 reasons that drew the most attention: "Manitobans welcome diversity and know that multiculturalism is a strength for our communities and our economy."
Download Manitoba's Quebec recruitment ad
The ad features a smiling Muslim woman with a headscarf, a Jewish man in a kippa, and woman with a crucifix on her neck.
It is a clear reference to the Quebec secularism law, which the government of Premier François Legault passed in June. It bars anyone in a public-service position of authority, including teachers, judges and police officers, from wearing religious symbols.
Those who want such jobs must remove hijabs, turbans and kippas — prompting Pallister to accuse Quebec of making supervisors into "clothing police" who "erode" charter rights.
"Manitoba’s public servants are welcomed with open arms and celebrated, regardless of their religion or culture. In Manitoba, diversity is respected and valued," the ad reads.
Legault was not impressed, telling reporters he doubts many Quebecers will take up the offer.
"I think Monsieur Pallister would have been better off putting that money into French services in Manitoba," the Quebec premier told reporters, noting European countries have much stricter restrictions.
The ad did not appear in the populist Quebecor tabloid chain, whose columnists were the most aghast.
"Mind your own business, Manitoba," Jonathan Trudeau (no relation to the prime minister) told a radio show.
"To play on divisions to try to fill those jobs — you're really getting on my nerves," he said. "What a provocation!"
He was chafed by a growing chorus of councils and legislatures condemning the bill, from Winnipeg city council last month to the Ontario legislature Monday.
And of course, Manitoba and Quebec exchanged bodychecks in the hockey arena.
Quebec City residents still grieve the Nordiques’ transfer to Denver in 1995, while Manitoba’s ad cheekily references having "one of the loudest, proudest, and most exciting teams in the NHL."
In his comments to reporters, Legault suggested Pallister "start by keeping his own hockey players, including Dustin Byfuglien," who’s in a dispute with the Jets, instead of trying to recruit Quebec public servants.
A Manitoba spokesman said the province is spending $20,000 on ads in Le Devoir, social media and digital advertising.
"The ads will be targeting public servants, nurses and students and will run 80 per cent in French, with 20 per cent in English," the spokesman wrote.
The ad points to a website listing job opportunities.
The three people photographed in the ad are from stock-image databases, with the image "Muslim young woman wearing hijab" taken by an Italian photographer, "woman wearing a crucifix necklace" taken from an American firm, and "Jewish Caucasian man in city smile face portrait" being among a British company’s offerings.