(On 18 October 2017, the provincial legislature of Quebec, the National Assembly, passed Bill 62, a law that prohibits “the wearing of face coverings for people giving or receiving a service from the state..” Specifically, the new law allows the provincial government, and providers of government services, from medical care to public transportation, to deny services to veiled Muslim women. The law has been enormously controversial, and has laid bare the contradictions in Quebec’s multiculturalism policies. Greg Horn is the editor of Iorì:wase, the weekly newspaper serving the community of Kahnawake.)
The Quebec Government showed the world what its true colours are, and they are decidedly racist. Last week, in the Quebec National Assembly, Bill 62 was passed into law. The bill is entitled, “An Act to foster adherence to State religious neutrality and, in particular, to provide a framework for requests for accommodations on religious grounds in certain bodies.”
The law was passed by a vote of 66 for and 51 against.
On the surface, the purpose of the law is to remove religion from politics. The law makes it illegal to have one’s face covered when receiving or providing public services in the province of Quebec. It’s clear that the people who are targeted by this particular piece of legislation are Muslim women who choose to wear niqabs or burkas.
Although, Bill 62 is much better than the Parti Quebecois’ Charter of Values, this is still a veiled attack on a minority of Muslim women.
Canada, which includes Quebec, is often hailed for being a multicultural society. But that multiculturalism, and the tolerance of other cultures and ways of life is really only skin deep.
CBC reported earlier this week that an Angus Reid poll found that 87 percent of respondents said that they supported the bill. Of course they support the bill, because it doesn’t affect them personally and they will likely never or very seldom to come in contact with someone who wears a face covering for religious purposes. These people will most likely never be affected by this law.
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms says that “Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms: freedom of conscience and religion.” The principle of freedom of religion supports that any individual or community, in public or private, has the freedom to practice, teach, worship and observe their religion.
Quebec’s Bill 62, now Law 62, will most likely have a date with Canada’s Supreme Court in the not-so-distant future as it clearly violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The irony of this law banning religious practices being passed inside the Quebec National Assembly where a large Cross hangs should not be lost on anyone. What also shouldn’t be lost on anyone is that Quebec is a very religious society, which for the most part was established with the help of the Catholic Church and its missionaries.
The people who are behind this legislation and those who support it argue that it is needed to protect their own distinct society. Protecting one’s culture and religion is important, however, it shouldn’t be done in a way that makes people from other cultures and religions feel or appear as something less.
With Law 62, Quebec is standing on a slippery slope. Originally, the law’s intent was to make sure that when someone was receiving public services that both the person providing the service and the person receiving the service could see each other’s face for the purposes of “security, identification and communication.” However, prior to its passage, the law was expanded to include municipalities, which also includes things like public transportation.
One Montreal bus driver is facing disciplinary action for wearing a face-covering last week to support the many people who were using public transportation and protesting the law.
If this law is allowed to stand, those of us who are minorities in this province have no choice but to wonder who’s next on the list.