MONTREAL — A prominent federal Green party candidate told an internet radio show Tuesday he wants Quebec to separate from Canada as soon as possible.
Pierre Nantel, who won his riding south of Montreal for the NDP in 2011 and in 2015, said if a Quebec independence referendum were held, he would vote yes.
The NDP expelled him in August after they learned he was courting at least one other party.
Green party leader Elizabeth May confirmed later that month that Nantel would run under the Green banner in the same Longueuil-Saint-Hubert riding he has represented for the New Democrats.
Nantel's comments about Quebec independence came during a conversation with host Benoit Dutrizac of QUB radio about the province's new secularism legislation, which forbids some public sector workers from wearing religious symbols on the job.
May has criticized the bill but said she would accept "dissension" within party ranks on the issue. Nantel said he made sure before joining the Greens that he could openly support Bill 21, adding that he had told May she needed to "defend the nationalism of Quebecers in Ottawa."
Following that statement, Nantel said: "Let's separate as fast as possible. But as long as we are here, let's defend Quebec in the Canadian context."
Dutrizac seemed surprised by the comment, asking Nantel him why he hadn't join the sovereigntist Bloc Quebecois. Nantel replied, "If I wanted to organize for Quebec independence, I would have gone into provincial politics. We're talking about federal politics here."
The Green party said in an emailed statement that the party does not exclude candidates who support Quebec sovereignty.
"Although the Green party has the utmost respect for the unique culture of Quebec, it does not support the sovereigntist movement," it said, adding that the party "does not whip votes and individual MPs are allowed to express their own opinions on this matter."