Quebec to pass law forcing Muslim women to remove niqab in public services

Muslim women wearing the niqab in Toronto, Canada.

The Canadian province of Quebec is set to pass a law that will ban public servants from wearing face veils and oblige ordinary citizens to unveil when seeking access to government services.

A new law proposed by the local government would ban any form of face covering for people offering and receiving public services in the province.

Bill 62 could be put to a vote in Quebec’s National Assembly later this week and if passed, it would ban public workers including doctors, nurses, teachers and bus drivers from wearing face veils.

Amendments introduced in August extended the proposed rules to services offered by municipalities, including public transit.

Quebec’s Justice Minister, Stéphanie Vallée, said in an interview with Daybreak host Mike Finnerty that: “As long as the service is being rendered, the face should be uncovered.

“This is a bill about le vivre ensemble [living together in harmony]; it’s a bill about guidelines and clearly establishes neutrality of the state.”

The legislation, she said, is necessary for “communication reasons, identification reasons and security reasons.”

The bill has been subject to criticism from those who contend it unfairly targets Muslim women.

Shaheen Ashraf, a board member of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women in Montreal, said the bill clearly targets Muslim women and will lead to their further marginalisation in Quebec society.

He said: “For me, neutrality would be everyone believes what they want to.

“Forcing someone to uncover, or forcing someone to cover: for me that’s not neutrality.”

Mayor of Montreal, Denis Coderre, previously raised concerns about the bill, accusing the provincial government of overstepping its jurisdiction and ignoring the city’s multicultural character.

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