Canada: Quebec to vote banning of face veil in public

Quebec lawmakers pursue ‘burqa ban’ for 3rd time in 10yrs

Quebec lawmakers pursue ‘burqa ban’ for 3rd time in 10yrs

Quebec has adopted a law that would force Muslim women who wear a niqab or burka to uncover their faces to use public services.

The new religious neutrality law, which was passed by the regional parliament on Wednesday, will effectively ban the the wearing of the niqab or burqa in a wide range of arenas, including public transport and doctors' surgeries.

Quebec Justice Minister Stephanie Vallee first tabled the bill in 2015 after several years of contentious debates in the province over religious symbols in the public sphere and the issue of religious accommodation for minorities.

"The message they're sending to those women is that you stay home and don't come out of your house because they are choosing to cover their faces and they can not board a bus or use any public transportation or receive any services", she added.

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The National Assembly of Quebec voted Tuesday to ban burqas, the full-face Islamic coverings, for all public servants and those receiving public services.

"You can not remove fundamental rights if the reasons are not real and urgent and it's impossible to explain that the problem we're trying to solve is either". It's a bill that is respectful of civil rights.

This included workers like teachers, medical staff, day-care workers, and anyone giving or receiving provincial government services, such as driver's licence offices, and even anyone riding on public transit.

Vallee said guidelines on how to apply the law - notably criteria touching on reasonable accommodation - would be phased in by next June 30 after consultations.

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Quebec resident Zayneb Binruchd, 21, says she would rather stay home than be forced to take off her niqab to ride a bus. "As long as the service is being rendered, the face should be uncovered", said Vallée.

That's not sitting well with many including the union of STM employees which has said it has no interest in enforcing a law banning face coverings.

Emmett Macfarlane, a political science professor at the University of Waterloo, said the bill is "a perversion of secularism because inherently it is not neutral".

Quebec MP Alexandra Mendès went so far as to say that Ottawa will probably have to get involved, because the legislation contravenes the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Regulations setting out how the new law will be enforced are yet to come. "Those are protected by existing laws in Quebec and I'm confident that the courts will continue to protect human rights".

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