Quebec Bans Burqa

RANA OSSAMA is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Critics Call It Religious Discrimination

Quebec, a province of Canada, has passed an all-encompassing ban on all face coverings. This law prohibits everyone from wearing a burqa or niqab. This legislation also forces Canadian citizens to take off their veil on public transport or when receiving services from the government. It is believed this law is the first of its kind in North America.

The Bill 62 was subjected to a vote by the Liberal government on October 18 in the National Assembly of Quebec. It was originally earmarked for provincial employees. The law was later stretched to cover public transit workers and municipal employees in August. This bill, however, offers the chance of exception on religious grounds in case a few criteria are satisfied. Stephanie Vallee, the Justice Minister of Quebec, said that this law is a must for security and communication reasons. It will be used for identification purposes as well.

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard was defensive when questioned on this issue. He said that a democratic and free society exists in Canada. People should see each other’s faces when communicating. The bill was passed when Liberals voted to push the bill while other parties voted against. The former holds a majority in the provincial parliament.

When it comes to making exceptions to the rule, this issue remains unclear. Quebec will discuss with a number of public services, including public daycares, municipalities, and schools to create guidelines on how this rule will be actually enforced. The actual implementation of this law may not happen until the summer of 2018.

Bill 62 has its critics. One of them is Denis Coderre, the Mayor of Montreal. He has spoken publicly against the bill. He accused the Quebec government of surpassing its jurisdiction. He said the law went against the multicultural character of the city. Identity and religion became an important issue during the last elections. Matters came to a head after Parti Quebecois had forwarded a controversial proposal for the charter of values. This was the first inkling of banning government employees from wearing obvious religious symbols.

A statement issued by the National Council of Canadian Muslims expressed deep concern about Bill 62. The text said the council was highly concerned about the newly introduced bill. It went on to decry the dirty identity politics being played out prior to the provincial election scheduled to be held in 2018.

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