A new law has been proposed by the local government in the Canadian province of Quebec according to which Burka or niqab that are worn by Muslim women will be banned on public transport. Any form of face covering for people offering and receiving public services will not be allowed.
Bill 62 could be put to a vote in Quebec’s National Assembly this week and if passed, it would ban public workers including doctors, nurses, teachers and bus drivers from wearing face veils.
“As long as the service is being rendered, the face should be uncovered,” the province’s justice minister Stéphanie Vallée told the Daybreak TV show. “This is a bill about le vivre ensemble (living together in harmony). It’s a bill about guidelines and clearly establishes neutrality of the state.”
She said the ban was needed for “communication reasons, identification reasons and security reasons”.
The law, which would be the first of its kind in North America, has received criticism over both the vagueness of its implementation, and its perceived targeting of Muslim women.
Under the legislation , an exemption is possible if someone has a “serious” request to continue wearing a face covering on religious grounds.
Critics say it is not clear how “serious” will be interpreted and how exemptions would work in reality.
Jagmeet Singh, leader of Canada’s New Democratic Party, told the Huffington Post in August that Bill 62 “contravenes individuals freedoms” and would “disproportionately impact Muslims”.
“I think it is important to acknowledge that the Muslim community is facing a very significant amount of hate and Islamophobia, and it is up to all of us to stand in solidarity with the community,” he said.
Responding to claims the law will not target religious symbols, as it would also apply to people wearing masks, a Canadian Council of Muslim Women board member said: “For me, neutrality would be everyone believes what they want to.”
“Forcing someone to uncover, or forcing someone to cover: for me that’s not neutrality,” she said