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Legal Experts: Quebec’s Burqa Ban Will Be Overturned

MONTREAL, Canada – Canadian legal experts have confirmed that Quebec’s controversial legislation banning face-veil will not stand up to potential legal challenges in court, thus expecting it to be overturned eventually.

“I don’t usually play prophet because it’s dangerous. You can always be wrong, but I’ve rarely felt more confident that a law would be overturned,” Montreal human rights lawyer Julius Grey told Al Jazeera on Wednesday, October 25.

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 Muslims women and could potentially exclude women who wear the niqab or burqa from accessing health services, sitting for school exams or riding the bus.

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Wading into the debate on Quebec’s burqa ban, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has stressed values of religious freedoms, adding that governments should not tell women what to wear.

Grey criticized the law, saying it clearly violates freedom of religion and equality rights.

He added that Quebec would try to justify Bill 62 under Section 1 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which states that a limitation placed by the state on individual rights must be justified in a “free and democratic society”.

He said, however, the measures are “clearly not necessary, and they’re not particularly useful at all”.

While the exact number of Muslim women who wear the niqab, a full face and body covering which usually leaves the area around the eyes uncovered, in Quebec is unknown, Grey said, “there are only about 30 or 40 women involved”.

“They’re among the weakest member of our society … Those women are going to feel less secure asserting their autonomy by taking public transport or going to the hospital with themselves and their children,” he added.

“I think it’s a wicked law and it shouldn’t be applied.”

“Our Wardrobe”

Rights groups and women who will be affected have told Canadian media that they are studying the law and trying to determine their next steps.

Last Sunday, a group of Muslim women and other protesters wore niqabs, scarves and other face coverings on the Montreal metro to protest the legislation.

Shaheen Ashraf of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women (CCMW) said the law is still confusing and unclear for many people.

“People have the right to protest because they’re confused and they’re upset because they don’t like the government to interfere in the way they dress,” Ashraf told Al Jazeera.

“People keep repeating the government has no business in our wardrobe.”

Grey added that efforts to legislate women’s dress are not isolated to Quebec, but can be seen across Europe as well.

“It’s about time we stop being concerned about these things. We’re a land where people come from all sorts of areas of the world, and the last thing we should do is tell them what to wear.”