Tuesday, 20 February, 2018

Canada's Quebec province to ban face coverings in public sector

QUEBEC QUESTIONS 20170510 Canada's Quebec province to ban face coverings in public sector
Melinda Barton | 18 October, 2017, 23:42

NCCM Public Affairs Coordinator Eve Torres noted: "The constitution requires the state to be neutral towards religion so as to protect fundamental freedom".

Two women wearing a burqa, above.

The Quebec National Assembly will begin debating a controversial bill on Tuesday, that would ban face coverings for public servants and anyone who receives public services.

If the bill passes in Quebec, a working group will be struck to examine various scenarios and offer advice as to what service providers should do in cases where a face is covered.

Several Liberal elected officials in Ottawa expressed disapproval of the bill on religious neutrality adopted Wednesday in the National Assembly. You speak to me, I should see your face, and you should see mine. "It's as simple as that", he added.

A recent amendment introduced by the provincial government states that the law will also affect municipalities and public transit.

Vallee has not yet clarified how the face-covering ban would be enforced when it comes to people using municipal services. Forcing someone to uncover, or forcing someone to cover: "for me that's not neutrality", she said.

Under the legislation, an exemption is possible if someone has a "serious" request to continue wearing a face covering on religious grounds.

While accusing the provincial government of targeting Muslim women in order to curry votes ahead of next year's provincial election, critics have cited a 2016 survey that suggested that just 3 per cent Muslim women in Canada wear the niqab.

The proposal known as Bill 62, would ban face coverings when receiving government services, as well as banning public workers from covering their faces.

Ihsaan Gardee, executive director of the National Council of Canadian Muslims, said in a statement that the legislation is "an unjustified infringement of religious freedoms" that runs contrary to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. "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 government has said individuals will be able to apply for an exemption based on religious accommodation.