Quebec passes new law banning the niqab

26th Oct 2017
Quebec passes new law banning the niqab

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard says Bill 62, which bans Muslim women from wearing the niqab is based on a principle shared by the ‘vast majority of Canadians’

(Photo: Asclepias/WikiCommons)


Ala Abbas

Muslim women will be required to remove the niqab to access public services, like riding a bus, under a new law passed on October 18 by the Quebec National Assembly.


“We are in a free and democratic society. You speak to me, I should see your face, and you should see mine. It’s as simple as that,” said Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard.


“We are just saying that for reasons linked to communication, identification and safety, public services should be given and received with an open face,” Couillard told reporters.


The new law, also known as Bill 62 or the religious neutrality legislation, forbids public workers and those who wish to access a public service from wearing a face covering, including the niqab and burqa. Public workers include teachers, day care workers and doctors.


The Bill was introduced in 2015 but was shelved after the shooting at a Quebec City mosque last January, where six Muslims died while praying.


Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, said the Federal Government does not interfere with provincial laws, but will work to ensure the rights of all Canadians are respected.


“I will continue to work to ensure that all Canadians are protected by the charter, while respecting the choices that different parliamentarians can make at different levels,” he said.


“Yet here at the Federal level, we stand up for the rights of all Canadians.”


Leader of the New Democratic Party, Jagmeet Singh, said he’s “completely opposed” to the law, and he’s confident the legislation will be challenged.


Couillard acknowledged the law could face a legal challenge, but said it was crafted to be compatible with the Canadian Charter of


Rights and Freedoms, as well as the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.


The new law also states that religious ‘requests’, including taking time off for religious holidays, should respect the right to equality between men and women and “the right of every person to be treated without discrimination.” It also bars public childcare providers from teaching children specific religious beliefs.


Quebec Justice Minister, Stephanie Vallee, said the law is necessary for “communication reasons, identification reasons and security reasons.”


“This is a Bill about le vivre ensemble [living together in harmony], it’s a Bill about guidelines and clearly establishes the neutrality of the state,” she said. Guidelines on how to apply the law will be phased in by the end of next June, after consultations with groups, Vallee said.


But Montreal Mayor, Denis Coderre, has criticised the Bill and said the province has no right to tell city workers what to wear. He expressed concerns about the potential ramifications of the law, especially when it came to using public transport: “We have niqab police as bus drivers?” he said.


“Will we refuse to provide [women wearing niqab] services if they are freezing with their children?”


Quebec MP Alexandra Mendès, who is also strongly opposed to the law, said that Ottawa will have to intervene because she “strongly doubts” the law is consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. “Listen to me as a Quebecer and a feminist: I will never tell a woman how to dress,” she said.


Samaa Elibyari from the Canadian Council of Muslim Women said the law is disturbing because it focuses on Muslims. “It gives the impression that we are a problem.” The National Council of Canadian Muslims has said it is prepared to challenge the law in court

One Response to “Quebec passes new law banning the niqab”

Qasim AbbasOctober 27, 2017

Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms does give right and freedom to every Canadian, among other things, to choose reasonable dress code, be it hijab, niqab or dress of his/her original country. There should not be any restriction on the choosing of dress code. And this issue should not be associated with any religion. Therefore, all citizens including women – Muslim or non-Muslim, have fundamental right to choose reasonable dress code for themselves. No one has right to dictate them for a particular or specific dress code i.e. what to wear and what not to wear.
Now in Canada, only Quebec province has passed law forbidding niqab during using public services only – not for ever. The purpose behind this law is to be examined in light of necessity.
In fact, this “written law” was, and is still in practice as “unwritten law” in whole Canada and in whole world. Based on this law, when Muslim or non-Muslim women, anywhere in the world, have to access public service in order to get Passport, Citizenship Card, P.R./Green Card, Identity Card, Enrollment Card, Health Card, Driver License, Visa and so many other documents requiring their photo with clearly visible full face, they voluntarily and temporarily remove their niqab in public i.e. in presence of other people – Muslims and/or non-Muslims to get their photo. Also at Immigration of Customs counter at Airport, Sea port or Check post when entering Canada or any other country, Muslim or non-Muslim women have to show their true identity and have to remove their niqab voluntarily and temporarily in order to follow the “law of the land” i.e. for identifying themselves, and such they are identifying themselves towards accessing public service.
Interestingly, at all above occasions, Muslim niqabi women never take objection saying that their religion does not allow this niqab-less position.
Therefore, for the purpose of public service, every citizen, irrespective of his /her religion, including Muslim woman, have to show his/her true identity i.e. in case of Muslim woman, she has to remove her niqab temporarily in order to follow the law of the land. There is nothing wrong in it since it is law of the land, and every citizen has to follow it and in fact are following it for the above mentioned reasons.
Since Quebec has passed law forbidding niqab during accessing public services only – not for ever, the purpose behind this law is not to target Muslim religion, since strictly speaking, niqab is not part of Islam, but it is a choice of individual under the dress code. It is a tradition and not compulsory in Islam religion. However, hijab is part of Islam, as ordained in Verses of 24:31 and 33:59 of Holy Quran.
The crystal clear proof that niqab is not part of Islam but hijab is part of Islam, is very clearly observed and understood from the annual festival of Muslim pilgrimage Hajj, which is one of the five pillars of Islam religion, in which women are specifically ordered to keep their full face open, including eyes i.e. to have hijab and not niqab.

Accordingly, those who are protesting niqab ban by Quebec during public service, should not give it religious colour since niqab, at all, is not part of Islam religion, but it is choice for Muslim women. Except during public service, there is no ban on niqab or any type of dress code for any citizen including Muslim women, and it should not be, and that is perfectly according to Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.


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