QUEBEC – Canadian and Muslim civil rights groups welcomed on Saturday their first victory against Bill 62, known as burqa ban, after a judge suspended the bill measures, dealing the province’s controversial “religious neutrality” law its first legal setback.
“We are very pleased to report that late yesterday, the Court granted the order and suspended the operation of section 10 of the law,” Ihsaan Gardee, Executive Director of the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), said in a statement sent to AboutIslam.net.
“The NCCM welcomes the court’s ruling as a successful first step in our legal action challenging a law that is both discriminatory and unconstitutional.”
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 was put in force across municipal services, such as public transit and libraries.
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.
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.
In the case filed by the National Council of Canadian Muslims and Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the Superior Court ruling on Friday suspended the bill, allowing Muslim women to move freely.
Friday’s decision by Justice Babak Barin has the effect of staying the face-covering rule until accommodation guidelines are set up, or a full constitutional challenge to the law is heard.
“This is a temporary victory,” Catherine McKenzie, the lawyer representing the plaintiffs, said in an interview on Friday, Globe And Mail reported.
“In real terms, it means that [women in face veils] can go back to their lives the way they were before this law came into effect. On a day-to-day basis, hopefully, they will feel much freer about going out, and they won’t have to fear getting on a bus or going to school.”
Warda Naili, a Quebec woman who wears the niqab and is a plaintiff in the case, says she was relieved by Friday’s judgment because she has avoided leaving her house since Bill 62 came into effect.
“This gives me back a sense of security and normality,” said Naili, who was born Marie-Michelle Lacoste.