Published: Thu, October 19, 2017
Markets | By Noel Gibbs

Contentious law on face covering debated in Quebec

Contentious law on face covering debated in Quebec

Quebec will ban face coverings for people giving or receiving provincial government services under a law passed on Wednesday that rights groups have criticized as marginalizing Muslim women in the mainly French-speaking Canadian province.

It follows up on an election promise in 2014 to address the issue after the Parti Quebecois' own controversial secularism legislation - the so-called charter of values - died after the party was swept out of power that year.

"Shane Martinez, a social justice and human rights lawyer believes the bill will pass and called it "sad and ironic" and added "(it) serves to play off of nationalism and exploit ignorance for the sake of political gains, mirroring what's happening south of the border in the U.S. and a throwback to what happened in France seven years ago" when the European country banned the face veil.

Ihsaan Gardee, the executive director of the National Council of Canadian Muslims, said the proposed legislation "further stigmatizes and marginalizes and vilifies" the Muslim community, which has been a target of hate crimes in Quebec.

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"It is actually targeting specific religious practices and neutral would be allowing people to practice their religion as they see fit".

Opposition parties felt the bill was not strong enough, and tried to amend the bill to ban all religious symbols among public servants, and to remove the crucifix from the National Assembly.

Gardee said: "The NCCM, in partnership with civil society allies, will be looking at all options now including legal avenues to defend the fundamental rights and freedoms of Canadian Muslims and, by extension, those of all Canadians".

Quebec's Liberal government has said guidelines on how to apply the law would be phased in over a period of several months after consultations.

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Denis Coderre, the mayor of Montreal, Quebec's largest city, has accused the provincial government of overstepping its authority by telling municipalities how they can administer public services. "We have niqab police as bus drivers?"

Bill 62 could go to a vote as early as Tuesday. Quebec's Bill 62 would ban face coverings for anyone providing or receiving a public service.

Transit workers also are demanding clear guidelines on the rules as they see themselves being put into an unpopular and hard position of policing such a rule.

"I think fundamentally, we can't have the state tell people what to wear, what not to wear", he told reporters. Regulations setting out how the new law will be enforced are yet to come.

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