Last Wednesday, the Quebec government passed legislation banning the wearing of face coverings for anyone receiving or giving a public service. This includes those who are riding the bus. Some call this a North American first.
As to be expected, this new legislation is causing a whole lot of controversy. Members of the Islamic community are saying that it violates the fundamental rights of Muslim and doesn’t allow them to express their religion.
“This has been a debate that’s been tearing Quebec apart for the past few years,” Premier Philippe Couillard said. “We need to hail this exercise. We need to remind people we are the only jurisdiction in North America to have legislated on this issue.”
The historical omnipresence of the Roman Catholic Church in Quebec is causing several activists to view the movement for secularism as the natural evolution of modern Quebec.
The two basic components of the new bill, titled “Bill 62,” are that it bans the wearing of face coverings for people giving or receiving a service from the state and it offers a framework marking the way that authorities should allow accommodation requests based on religious beliefs.
The Liberal government of Ontario believes that Quebec’s new law on religious neutrality opposes Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms and will inevitably cause legal issues.
Attorney General Yasir Naqvi won’t consider passing a similar bill because he believes that the government disagrees with the law passed by Quebec’s national assembly and the government must respect a person’s right to express themselves and their religion.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the House of Commons said the following regarding the controversy…
“I’ll continue to work to make sure Canadians are protected by the charter (federal Charter of Rights and Freedoms) while at the same time respecting the choices made by various parliamentarians at different levels. But here, at the federal level, we defend the rights of all Canadians.”
It’s still unclear how the law will be enforced, especially for bus drivers who will have to take on the role of fashion police.
By June 30, 2018, guidelines on how the law will be enforced will be phased in, according to Justice Minister Stephanie Vallee, who tabled the bill.
Vallee also shared how much this bill would affect those women who are riding public transit while wearing Islamic face coverings.
“The obligation to uncover your face is for duration of the public service rendered,” she said. “Not just for the veiled woman, but think also of hoods or tinted glasses.”
“What does it mean? We have niqab police as bus drivers?” Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre said, admitting that he feels uncomfortable with the legislation. “Will we refuse to provide them (women wearing face coverings) services if they are freezing with their children? I am aware of the past, but the past also tells us that women have come a long way but there is still a lot of work to do. This law does not add anything to the advancement of women in society.”
According to a National Council of Canadian Muslims spokesman, the organization is looking at its options, with regard to court challenge.