Canada's Quebec province to ban face coverings in public sector

Cheryl Sanders
October 19, 2017

In 2010, the government sought to require people to reveal their faces before receiving any public services, while in 2013, a much stricter bill would ban public servants from wearing any "conspicuous" religious symbols including turbans, kippahs, and hijabs.

It was extended to municipal services, including public transit, in an amendment made in August.

It's estimated that between 50 and 100 women in Quebec wear a burka or niqab that covers their face.

He said the provincial government is simply playing with "identity politics". Forcing someone to uncover, or forcing someone to cover: "for me that's not neutrality", she said.

Following the adoption of the bill, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard said that in a "free and democratic society, public services should be given and received with an open face".

As per reports, the law was initially meant to ban face coverings for those offering or receiving services from government departments and provincially funded institutions, such as universities.

Noting that there is widespread confusion as to how the new law would be applied and who it would affect, Vallée says the province would now work with municipalities, schools and public daycares to establish clear guidelines.

Right-wing extremist groups and some local French-speaking media in recent years have targeted Quebec's Muslims as part of a broader debate on the accommodation of religious and cultural minorities in the province.

Bill 62, which has been dubbed by some as the "Burqa Ban", does include a clause that allows individuals to request an exemption for religious reasons.

He added that the bill and its clauses are "blatant violations of Quebec and Canadian Human Rights and Freedom Charters" and will "most likely be defeated in court".

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre has previously spoken out against the proposed rules, saying the provincial government doesn't have the right to tell the city how its employees should dress.

"We don't know how this is going to be applied and how it will be enforced", said Gardee.

Experts and rights organisations have called the bill "racist", "Islamophobic" and "discriminatory", asserting that it is an "invented a solution for a made-up problem".

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