‘I Should See Your Face, and You Should See Mine,’ Quebec Premier on New Religious Neutrality Law

Much akin to their cousin’s rulings in the home country of France, one of our northern neighbors, Quebec province, has opted to create a new law that would restrict the wearing of religious garb that would cover or mostly cover the face of the recipient of public service or assistance.

The Liberal party of Quebec has been successful at pushing through this major new law that has many in the Muslim community outraged.  Religious rights, as in the United States, are a big deal there in Canada and because Islam is the second largest religion in that province, there is a cause for alarm among many of the elected officials who are up for reelection soon.

The mayor of Montreal is upset that this law is discriminatory against people based on religion and is sure that it will be challenged legally and defeated because of its unfair treatment of Muslims.

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre, who is in the middle of a municipal election campaign, has been an outspoken critic of the bill, accusing the provincial government of overstepping its jurisdiction and ignoring his city’s multicultural character.

On Tuesday, he said there are “serious problems” with how it would be applied.

As well, there are constitutional lawyers and activist attorneys who are positive that the challenges to this law will be successful as well.

The law did not specifically call on Muslims to remove their headgear.  In fact, it does not even mention the words, “burqa” or “niqab” (burka is a complete head covering, the niqab covers all but a slit to reveal the eyes) but it is being viewed by and large as targeting the Islamic faith.

A new law that would effectively force Muslim women who wear a niqab or burka to uncover their faces to use public services is based on a principle “the vast majority of Canadians, and not just Quebecers” can agree on, Premier Philippe Couillard said.

The Liberal government’s Bill 62 on religious neutrality was passed Wednesday in Quebec’s National Assembly. 

“We are just saying that for reasons linked to communication, identification and safety, public services should be given and received with an open face,” Couillard told reporters.

“We are in a free and democratic society. You speak to me, I should see your face, and you should see mine. It’s as simple as that.” 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has walked a fine line in the middle to allow himself to skirt the controversial subject for the time being.  Calling the law “their prerogative,” he is quick to point out that the government does not necessarily involve itself in provincial decisions, but that it would stand on principles that it has established and in support of their Muslim populace.

Source:  CBC News


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