MONTREAL - Michael Ignatieff came out Friday in support of controversial Quebec legislation that would force veiled women to uncover their faces while receiving or delivering public services.

The federal Liberal leader said the law represents a "good Canadian balance" between religious freedom and equal treatment.

"There's always a balance that we have to keep," Ignatieff told reporters during the first of a three-day Liberal policy renewal conference.

Reasonable accommodation "means there has to be accommodation on both sides and it has to be reasonable. The Quebec government is trying to make sure that in civic and public space that freedom of religion is respected but, at the same time on the other side, citizens come forward and reveal themselves when they're demanding civic and public services."

While he said the debate in Quebec bears watching, the legislation seems to him to be "trying to find a good Canadian balance."

Quebec's bill, tabled Wednesday, would force anyone wearing a face covering -- from a simple veil to the head-to-toe burqa worn by some Muslim women -- to uncover their faces when obtaining or delivering public services, such as health care, language classes or driver's licences.

It has been denounced by some Muslim groups, as well as by some commentators in the rest of Canada, as a sign of intolerance in Quebec.

Ignatieff, the first federal politician to wade directly into the debate, said it's "ridiculous" to assert that Quebec is more intolerant than other parts of the country.

He said all modern societies are grappling with how to reasonably accommodate cultural and religious differences.

The Muslim Council of Montreal says there may be only 25 Muslims in the province who actually wear face-coverings.

The law makes no overt reference to any particular religion, but Muslim leaders say it's hard not to feel singled out.