Hearings to begin on proposed Quebec law targeting veiled women
By INGRID PERITZ
The Globe and Mail | October 17, 2016
Quebec opens another difficult debate over the place of religion and minorities in the province with hearings Tuesday into a proposed law that would ban veiled women from receiving government services.
The parliamentary hearings launch as questions about identity, religion, tolerance and immigration are again roiling the political waters in Quebec.
The new legislation, “An Act to foster adherence to State religious neutrality and, in particular, to provide a framework for religious accommodation requests in certain bodies,” tabled by the Liberals last year, would make it illegal to give or receive government services if a person’s face is covered. Since no Quebec public employees mask their faces, according to the government, the bill would effectively target Muslim women who wear the niqab or burka.
Justice Minister Stéphanie Vallée said when introducing the legislation that it was required “for security, identification and communication purposes.”
She has been unable to say how many women wear face veils in the province.
. . .
The Liberals’ bill would allow for religious accommodations as long as they fit certain sets of guidelines, such as being “consistent” with the equality of men and women.
Still, some groups question the need for the law and say it unfairly targets minority women, who could be excluded from accessing public services.
“How necessary is all of this?” Amira Elghawaby of the National Council of Canadian Muslims said. “How many women might actually be wearing the face veil in Quebec? I doubt that it’s a huge critical mass.” She said that re-opening the issue creates a “malaise.”
“There should really be no suspension of people’s human rights based on popular sentiment toward a religious practice,” Ms. Elghawaby said.