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Quebec Softens Criticized Burqa Ban

QUEBEC – Government officials in the French-speaking Quebec districts have toned down its interpretation of the much-criticized legislation banning face-covering, clarifying who the law would affect and how it would be enforced.

“No one will be thrown off public transit, denied emergency healthcare or be chased out of a public library,” Quebec’s justice minister, Stéphanie Vallée, told reporters on Tuesday, The Guardian reported.

“We do not have the intention of setting up an uncovered-face police.”

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.

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The move was blasted 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.

Trudeau Criticizes Quebec’s Burqa Ban

On Tuesday, Vallée apologized for any confusion over the new law. She sought to clarify the legislation, which she described as “not repressive”, listing off various scenarios in which it would apply.

Contrary to previous comments she had made, she said the law would be in effect only at the moment of identification.

Someone embarking on a municipal bus would have to show their face in order to use a transit pass with photo ID, but would not have to remain unveiled for the duration of the ride.

Same rules were set in case of entering a library or registering at a medical or a hospital.

“These are commonsense rules,” Vallee told reporters. They would apply to anyone whose face is obscured, including those wearing large sunglasses or scarves, she said.