Quebec assembly to debate bill banning face coverings in public service
Sonja Puzic, CTVNews.ca
Published Tuesday, October 17, 2017 11:34AM EDT
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 passed, Bill 62 would prohibit public workers, including doctors and teachers, from wearing niqabs, burkas or any other face coverings.
Amendments to the bill introduced last summer also extend the ban to people receiving municipal services, including public transit. That could mean a woman wearing a niqab, for example, would not be able to ride a city bus or enter a library with her face covered.
Bill 62 could go to a vote sometime this week. The legislation is expected to pass since the governing Liberals have a majority in the Quebec National Assembly.
While Quebec Justice Minister Stephanie Vallee has said that the proposed rules are about religious neutrality and the notion of “le vivre ensemble,” or living together in harmony, critics say the bill unfairly targets Muslim women.
Ihsaan Gardee, the executive director of the National Council of Canadian Muslims, said the proposed legislation “further stigmatizes and marginalizes and vilifies” the Muslim community, which has been a target of hate crimes in Quebec.
He said the provincial government is simply playing with “identity politics.”
“Is this really the most pressing issue before the Quebec electorate in the lead up to the Quebec election (next year)?” he said in an interview with CTV News Channel on Tuesday.
“It seems like it’s a made-up solution to an invented problem. We don’t have a big issue right now with hordes of Muslim women in niqab trying to work in public service or access public service with difficulty,” he said.
Vallee has not yet clarified how the face-covering ban would be enforced when it comes to people using municipal services.
Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre has previously spoken out against the proposed rules, saying the provincial government doesn't have the right to tell the city how its employees should dress. He also raised concerns about women not being able to ride public transit because of their face coverings.
With files from The Canadian Press