Quebec passes law banning people with face coverings from getting public services

Lucie Lamarche

A new law in Quebec may force Muslim women to uncover their faces if they want to receive public services.

Bill 62 could be put to a vote in Quebec's National Assembly this week and if passed, it would ban public workers including doctors, nurses, teachers and bus drivers from wearing face veils.

Proponents said the legislation would ensure state religious neutrality, and Quebec's minister of justice, Stéphanie Vallée, who sponsored the bill, said it would foster social cohesion.

Jagmeet Singh, leader of Canada's New Democratic Party, told the Huffington Post in August that Bill 62 "contravenes individuals freedoms" and would "disproportionately impact Muslims". You speak to me, I should see your face, and you should see mine.

The law was originally meant to ban face coverings for those offering or receiving services from government departments and provincially funded institutions, such as universities.

It would require citizens giving and receiving services to do so with their faces uncovered - something opponents argue directly discriminates against Muslim women.

"I think friends can disagree", Naqvi said. "We don't have a big issue right now with hordes of Muslim women in niqab trying to work in the public service or accessing public services with difficulty".

The niqab and burka are not mentioned in the legislation, according to CBC.

Hogben said women who wear the niqab or burqa are generally willing to show their faces if it's required, such as at airports or for any other identification purposes.

"By tabling this discriminatory legislation, the Quebec government is advancing a unsafe political agenda on the backs of minorities", said the rights group executive director, Ihsaan Gardee, in a statement.

In the USA, a Georgia legislator withdrew a bill previous year, which would have banned women from wearing burqas or veils whilst driving, or when their driver's license photos were taken.

Ali Hogben, executive director of the Canadian Council for Muslim Women, said she was dismayed to see such a political move at a time when Canada is striving to be a role model in respecting human rights.

France became the first European country to ban the full-face veil officially in 2010.

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