DANANG, Vietnam – Adding more weight to the lawsuit challenging Quebec’s Bill 62, known as Burqa ban, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that the federal government is actively studying ways in which it might also weigh in.
“We’re looking at Bill 62 carefully, we’re listening to the questions being asked about it and we’re in the process of studying, internally, the different processes we could initiate or with whom we could join,” Trudeau said during his visit to Vietnam, The Canadian Press reported on Saturday, November 11.
“But we will continue to reflect and to work on it.”
The legislation, known as Bill 62, effectively bans public servants and those who receive public services from wearing a face covering, including Muslim women who wear the niqab (face veil).
The ban will be in force across municipal services, such as public transit.
The move was condemned by critics who worried that it deliberately targets Muslim women and could potentially exclude women who wear the niqab or burqa from accessing health services, sitting for school exams, or even riding the bus.
Wading into the debate on Quebec’s burqa ban, Trudeau has previously stressed values of religious freedom, adding that governments should not tell women what to wear.
“I think I’ve been very clear that I don’t think a government should be legislating what a woman should or shouldn’t be wearing. I don’t think that’s something that is right for Canada,” he said on Saturday.
“I will always defend the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and as for next steps, we’re watching the situation as it unfolds and reflecting on what those steps might or could be.”
Last Tuesday, the National Council of Canadian Muslims, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and Marie-Michelle Lacoste, a Quebec woman who converted to Islam in 2003, filed a suit in Quebec Superior Court to challenge the bill.
The lawsuit says that the law “gravely infringes” on the religious rights of some Muslims in the province.
The Quebec government has defended the law on the grounds that it is in line with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and ensures security for all.
Quebec Justice Minister Stephanie Vallee said that the legislation doesn’t target any religious group, adding that her government is on a stable footing for an eventual court challenge.