Quebec prohibits face veils in public services

Aaron Brown
October 20, 2017

In the first such instance in North America, the Canadian province of Quebec has passed a sweeping ban on face coverings, barring public workers from wearing the niqab or burqa and requiring citizens to unveil when receiving government services, including when attending subsidized schools or even while riding public transit.

Quebec politicians have passed the provincial government's controversial religious neutrality bill with a vote of 66-51.

Defending the ban, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard earlier told reporters in the province's National Assembly, that it is merely a matter of "communication, identification and safety".

"As long as the service is being rendered, the face should be uncovered", Quebec Justice Minister Stephanie Vallee said, adding that a woman who normally wears a burqa or niqab would have to show her face for the duration of her ride. "We are in a free and democratic society".

Vallée said Bill 62 doesn't specifically target religious symbols, as the law would also apply to masked protesters.

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Doctors, midwives and dentists paid by the government are only allowed to cover their faces for occupational requirements. "It is not acceptable to me, and it should not be acceptable to any of us", she said.

"I think it is important to acknowledge that the Muslim community is facing a very significant amount of hate and Islamophobia, and it is up to all of us to stand in solidarity with the community", he said.

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

Some commentators on social media said that the ban is counter-productive, because it will "further oppress" women who wear face coverings by preventing them from accessing public services. It "boils down to ugly identity politics" before the 2018 provincial election, the councl's executive director Ihsaan Gardee said.

"By tabling this discriminatory legislation, the Quebec government is advancing a risky political agenda on the backs of minorities", said the rights group executive director, Ihsaan Gardee, in a statement. France and Belgium banned full face veils in 2011, Bulgaria and the Netherlands in 2016, and Austria in 2017, while Denmark is now gearing up to follow suit.

Other reports by Free-Prsite

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