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Bloc Quebecois back leader

The national office of the Bloc Quebecois threw its support behind its leader on Saturday, days after seven of the party's 10 members of Parliament quit the caucus over Martine Ouellet's leadership style.

The party's administration made it clear that Ouellet had their support, despite an open letter published Friday in which more than 20 former Bloc Quebecois MPs called for her resignation.

"It is unanimously resolved that the national office renews its full and complete support of Martine Ouellet and relaunches the invitation she made to each of the resigning MPs to participate in a process to allow them to reintegrate the Bloc Quebecois caucus," Bloc member Benoit Lemieux said on behalf of the group.

Ouellet announced that the MPs who resigned will be able to keep their party memberships and are welcome to discuss returning to caucus.

"It was never a question of exclusion," she said at a news conference, flanked by the remaining party members.

"The resigning deputies can remain members of the Bloc Quebecois if they wish."

The seven MPs wrote a letter in Saturday's Journal de Montreal saying that excluding them from the party would contribute to its death.

The letter reiterated criticisms of Ouellet's leadership and said her choice to focus only on independence does not serve Quebec's interests.

"(Ouellet) adds, almost incidentally, that it is also necessary to defend the interests of Quebec, but that this is not the foundation of our presence in Ottawa," the letter read.

"On the contrary, we believe that to serve independence, the interests of Quebecers must be given priority. Without compromise. First and all the time."

But Ouellet remained steadfast in her commitment to independence on Saturday, adding that all the remaining members are on the same page regarding the party's future.

"A Bloc Quebecois that will work towards the promotion and preparation of independence, but also defending the rights of the Quebec nation," she said.

"For us, one doesn't go without the other."

The seven MPs who resigned stood by their position.

"We will meet in the next few days to evaluate all our options and to see how we can continue to serve Quebecers to the best of our capacity," the statement read.

On Friday, more than 20 former Bloc Quebecois MPs published an open letter in Le Devoir calling for Ouellet's resignation.

The letter, co-signed by ex-Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe, says Quebec's status is feeble within the Canadian federation, with a pro-Canada premier in Quebec City and an "intransigent" and divisive Bloc leader in Ottawa.



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