Quebec Bars People in Face Coverings From Receiving Public Services



The Canadian province of Quebec has passed a ban on face coverings for anyone receiving or providing government services, the first law of its kind in North America.

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

"It is actually targeting specific religious practices and neutral would be allowing people to practice their religion as they see fit".

Premier Philippe Couillard said he expects some people to challenge the law, but he defended the legislation as necessary for reasons related to communication, identification and security.

"I speak to you, you speak to me. You see mine. As simple as that".

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That means people who sit an exam will have to do so with their faces uncovered.

"This is an unnecessary law with a made-up solution to an invented problem", said Ihsaan Gardee, the executive director of the National Council of Canadian Muslims.

"In every piece of legislation, there's a risk of it being contested by those who don't agree with it", Vallee said.

"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".

"We were very careful for the whole process to be respectful of the rights that are protected by the charters".

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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. "We have niqab police as bus drivers?" Forcing someone to uncover, or forcing someone to cover: "for me that's not neutrality", she said.

Ronald Boisrond of the Canadian Union of Public Employees says the union wants proper guidelines.

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".

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". Regulations setting out how the new law will be enforced are yet to come.

"There's laws that exist that are in place to protect the rights that everyone should be entitled to", Singh said.

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A controversial proposed law is being debated in the Quebec provincial legislature this week.

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