Bill Banning Muslim Face Covering Would Be A First In North America

REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

David Krayden Ottawa Bureau Chief
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The Canadian province of Quebec passed legislation Wednesday that immediately bans the Muslim niqab and burqa in the public service workplace.

Debate on the bill wrapped up Tuesday, the Montreal Gazette reports, with the opposition parties voting against the bill.

The “religious neutrality” law is believed to be the first of its kind in North America and even affects doctors and teachers.

As CBC News reports, Bill 62 doesn’t specifically mention either the niqab or burqa, but both forms of Islamic clothing are targeted with a law that prohibits people who provide or receive public services from wearing any face covering.

The law will be broad in scope. Since the legislation was first proposed, it has actually been expanded to include not only provincial services but municipal ones as well. That means that even people riding a bus in Montreal cannot be allowed access to the vehicle if they have their faces covered.

Quebec Justice Minister Stéphanie Vallée confirmed on Monday that a woman wearing a niqab or burqa would be obliged to remove it while she was riding a bus or subway: “As long as the service is being rendered, the face should be uncovered,” she told CBC Montreal.

However, there is a loophole in the law that allows for “religious accommodation requests,” but these requests have to be “serious” and will only be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Critics say the law could create a plethora of demands for exemptions and judicial chaos as it is challenged in court. It will affect more than just Islamic head coverings. Provincially-supported daycare centers would be forced to cease any religious instruction offered to children under their supervision.

In addition to provincial government departments, the bill also applies to any institution or agency that relies on the province funding, such as school boards and hospitals.

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