TORONTO – The National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) has expressed deep concern over the passage of legislation today by Quebec’s National Assembly that discriminates against some Muslim women in the province.
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.
“Today’s decision by the Quebec National Assembly, coming as it does in the lead-up to a provincial election campaign, boils down to ugly identity politics,” said NCCM Executive Director Ihsaan Gardee.
“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 governance.”
“This legislation is an unjustified infringement of religious freedoms and it is contrary to the values enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as Quebec’s Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms,” added Gardee.
According to Quebec Justice Minister Stéphanie Vallée, the province will work with public services, including municipalities, schools, and public daycares, to establish guidelines for how the law will be enforced.
“The Constitution requires the state to be neutral towards religion so as to protect fundamental freedom. State neutrality requires an absence of both direct and indirect state coercion. The state is not neutral when it requires a woman to reveal any part of her body against her conscience as a condition to receiving a public service to which she is entitled,” said NCCM Public Affairs Coordinator Eve Torres.
“Rather than facilitating inclusion, this legislation excludes citizens from the public sphere, it reinforces the marginalization of Canadian Muslims, and it risks emboldening those seeking to sow division and hatred between Canadians to amplify an ‘us versus them’ narrative,” noted Torres.
“The NCCM, in partnership with other civil society allies, will be looking at all options now including legal avenues to defend the fundamental rights and freedoms of Canadian Muslims and, by extension, those of all Canadians,” said Gardee.