Quebec moves to ban burqa for third time in seven years

Lucie Lamarche

The law, if passed, would ban clothing covering the face, such as the muslim niqab, or burka, although it doesn't actually mention those items.

The Quebec provincial legislature on Wednesday barred people who are wearing face coverings from receiving public services or working in government jobs, a move that opponents criticized as unfairly targeting Muslims.

Defending the ban, Philippe Couillard, the premier of Quebec province, told The Guardian, "We are just saying that for reasons linked to communication, identification and safety, public services should be given and received with an open face".

"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.

Several Liberal elected officials in Ottawa expressed disapproval of the bill on religious neutrality adopted Wednesday in the National Assembly.

"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".

Experts and rights organisations have called the bill "racist", "Islamophobic" and "discriminatory", asserting that it is an "invented a solution for a made-up problem".

It was extended to municipal services, including public transit, in an amendment made in August.

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.

While the law, which takes effect by July 1, 2018, 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.

"What does it mean?" Coderre asked. "Will we refuse to provide them services if they are freezing with their children?"

According to Al- Jazeera, the bill on banning face veil is expected to be voted on next week. State neutrality requires an absence of both direct and indirect state coercion.

A spokesman for the union representing Montreal bus drivers, ticket takers and subway employees says it isn't interested in enforcing the law.

"I think fundamentally, we can't have the state tell people what to wear, what not to wear", he told reporters.

He also suggested court challenges to the new law will be successful.

"The human rights that people should have".

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