Quebec’s ban on face coverings for people giving or receiving provincial government services has received a mixed response.
Quebec’s Bill 62 states that the law defends modern secular traditions while its detractors say it encourages discrimination against Muslim women in the mainly French-speaking Canadian province.
The law, which was passed last week, has sparked a debate on how the new ruling would be implemented across the province.
While the law does not specify which face coverings are prohibited, the debate has largely focused on the niqab worn by some Muslim women, which covers everything but the eyes.
People affected by the law would include public-sector employees such as teachers, police officers, hospital and daycare workers.
“Throughout the whole bus ride, I have to uncover my face? What crime did I commit that I have my fundamental rights violated,” said Afifa Suleman, a resident who wears niqab.
The law allows for exemptions under certain circumstances, although it did not provide details. Regulations setting out how the new law will be enforced are yet to come.
“Even if you believe that the niqab is oppressive in some way. If that really is a problem cutting them out of public transit and access education and medical care is simply not the solution,” said Sarah Brand, a Bill 62 protester.
“It’s important to send a strong message that diversity. We can have a great principle, but we don’t want to perceive as we are stigmatizing anybody,” said Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre.
Like France, which passed a ban on veils, crosses and other religious symbols in schools in 2004. Quebec has struggled to reconcile its secular identity with a growing Muslim population, many of them North African emigrants. — Reuters