Quebec Passes Law Banning Facial Coverings

The Quebec provincial legislature on Wednesday (Oct 18) barred people who are wearing face coverings from receiving public services or working in government jobs, a move that opponents criticised as unfairly singling out Muslims.

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.

Premier Philippe Couillard of Quebec, said: "We are just saying that for reasons linked to communication, identification and safety, public services should be given and received with an open face".

"By tabling this discriminatory legislation, the Quebec government is advancing a unsafe political agenda on the backs of minorities, while pandering to bigoted populism instead of practicing principled governance", Ihsaan Gardee, executive director of the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), said in a statement. "We are in a free and democratic society".

Originally, the law would have banned face coverings for anyone in the exchange of services with government departments or institutions receiving financial backing from the province.

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"The federal government has an obligation to accept the fact that the provinces have a right to pass their own legislation, but as you know full well, as a Liberal, at the federal level, I believe fundamentally in rights, in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and I will always defend that", Trudeau said, adding: "And that applies to everyone in Canada".

"We're talking about having the face uncovered. It is not acceptable to me, and it should not be acceptable to any of us", she said. Forcing someone to uncover, or forcing someone to cover: "for me that's not neutrality", she said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said while the federal government does not interfere with provincial laws and the rights of all Canadians should be "respected".

"It seems like a made-up solution to an invented problem", Ihsaan Gardee of the National Council of Canadian Muslims told the Guardian.

Bill 62 aims to "foster adherence to religious neutrality" and is a first ever ban on face veils on the North American continent.

  • Sonia Alvarado