Politics, Americas

Canadian government not contesting new face cover law

Quebec province workers, those using public service must remove niqab, burka

20.10.2017
Canadian government not contesting new face cover law FILE PHOTO

Canada

By Barry Ellsworth

TRENTON, Ont.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday it is not the federal government’s role to contest a new Quebec law that forbids public workers and those who wish to access public services from wearing a face covering.

“It’s not up to the federal government to challenge this,” Trudeau said during a visit to Quebec. “In Quebec and Canada, we are not necessarily used to seeing a woman with a veil. That makes us uncomfortable.”

Bill 62 was enacted Wednesday by Quebec’s National Assembly and it has received harsh criticism across Canada.

While not mentioning niqabs and burkas worn by Muslim women, critics say it targets Muslims.

A woman wearing either would not be able to ride a municipal bus or borrow a library book unless she removes the face covering.

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard defended the law as necessary for communication, identification and security.

The National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) issued a statement that condemned the law.

“By tabling this discriminatory legislation, the Quebec government is advancing a dangerous political agenda on the backs of minorities while pandering to bigoted populism instead of practicing principled government,” NCCM Executive Director Ihsaan Gardee said on the group’s website.

The number of hate crimes against Muslims in Canada has increased in recent years, including the deadly shooting of six Muslim men who were at prayer at a Quebec City mosque in January.

Statistics Canada reported in June that the number of police-reported hate crimes against Muslims tripled between 2012 and 2015 to 159 from 45, an increase of 253 percent.

The law is the so-called religious neutrality bill, separating the state and religion by not allowing those accessing public services or working for the province, including doctors and teachers, to wear religious symbols.

The new legislation is expected to be challenged by others, however, on the grounds it is contrary to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

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