Quebec’s face covering ban

2017-10-23

in Canada, Politics

The Current recently ran a segment on Quebec’s new law banning face coverings for those providing or receiving public services, including medical services and public transport.

I can’t see any way to interpret this law other than discrimination against Muslim women. That impression is actually magnified by the Quebec governments contortions in trying to defend it as constitutional, for instance by saying it will equally bar people wearing scarves and sunglasses. That – combined with a bizarre promise that people who wear face coverings for religious reasons will be allowed to apply for an exception – highlights how the law serves no comprehensible or valid purpose, while needlessly constraining individual choice.

The panel assembled on the show make some strong points: notably, how when governments pass laws that discriminate in this way they can help to legitimize and embolden bigots in the broader society. This will subject women who are already subjected to bigoted abuse to more, while undermining the perception that Quebec values everybody’s human rights.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

alena October 25, 2017 at 3:59 pm

I agree that Quebec’s new legislation will only make life more difficult for Muslim women. Have women in a burqa caused any public disturbances or given government offices or doctors any trouble? In fact, they may be further victimized by their spouses and relatives. Only the women themselves should make the decision and as we cannot change cultural, sexist or religious norms, why pick on the women who are already limited in their options? These women may be isolated even more if they are not allowed to go out in public.

. October 26, 2017 at 1:53 pm

Behind Quebec’s Ban on Face Coverings, a Debate Over Identity

But Quebec, the only French-majority province in an Anglophone country, has always been different, never quite signing onto the idea of multiculturalism, which was viewed from the outset as another way for English Canada to devalue Quebec’s culture and place in the country.

That difference has now been crystallized by the new law, which no one even knows how — or whether — to enforce.

“French Canadians in Quebec behave like psychologically embattled people,” said Patrice Brodeur, an associate professor of religious studies at the University of Montreal. “They are a majority in the province, but a minority on the continent. That means they are often blind to the ways in which they end up being the victimizer, imposing itself on minority groups.”

The face-covering law, titled the State Religious Neutrality Law, is the current Quebec government’s effort to address an angry debate that has blistered social ties and dominated provincial politics for more than a decade. And it is not likely to settle the argument.

. October 26, 2017 at 1:57 pm

“Support for the law within Quebec is strong — 91 percent among French speakers, according to an online Angus Reid poll conducted last month that is often cited by the provincial government.

But denunciation of the new law from across the country has been vocal and swift. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that while Quebec makes its own laws, he believed women could make up their own minds on what to wear.

The premiers of Ontario and Alberta both slammed the law, with the Alberta leader, Rachel Notley, saying that it “smacks of Islamophobia.”

Human rights advocates and lawyers fear that the law will further isolate Muslim women and inflame anti-Muslim hate crimes, which have risen in recent years in Quebec and across the country. The most heinous was the murder of six Muslims in a Quebec City mosque last January.

“The message is this community is dysfunctional and needs to be corrected,” said Salam Elmenyawi, the president of the Muslim Council of Montreal, which represents 70 mosques and Islamic organizations. “This is institutional discrimination.”

The provincial justice minister, Stéphanie Vallée, who has said that the goal of the law is to ensure identification, communication and security, held a news conference on Tuesday to address the confusion and increasing protests the law has drawn.

People will have to show their faces only at preliminary contact with government workers, she clarified. They then can cover themselves again.

“No one will be thrown off public transit, be refused emergency health care or be chased out of a library,” she said, according to the local news media. “We do not have the intention of setting up an uncovered-face police.”

The agency that runs the Montreal subway and bus system said its workers would not enforce the law until it had been analyzed further. Some people think it will never be enforced.”

Milan November 11, 2017 at 4:47 pm

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