Quebec Bans Burkas For People Using Public Services

Although Canada is often considered a beacon of progressivism, when it comes to something as pervasive as Islamophobia, even Canada isn’t immune to these prejudices.

On Wednesday morning, legislatures in Quebec passed a law banning people from wearing veils over their faces while obtaining public services. The definition of “public services” is extremely expansive, too – Quebecois will have to remain uncovered to receive hospital care, attend public universities and even ride on public transportation.

Sign the petition imploring Quebec’s National Assembly to repeal this law

In everyday life, there aren’t a lot of Canadians wearing masks on the bus. As such, the law seems to specifically target women in the Muslim community who adhere to Islamic dress codes and cover their faces while in public.

According to proponents of Bill 62, the law doesn’t discriminate against a particular religion since the law applies to all people wearing a face covering. It just so happens that, in practicality, it only impacts women in burkas.

Under the law, government employees who administer services will also be forbidden from wearing burkas. It’s not yet clear how the law will be enforced, but the government intends to roll out guidelines in the near future.

Quebecois legislators have discussed passing a law like this one for several years. On this occasion, the bill passed with a 65-51 vote. Discouragingly, many of the votes against the law came from far right individuals who didn’t think the law was extreme enough in coming down on people who cover their faces in public.

Not all of Quebec’s politicians are in favor of the ban, however. “[It’s] a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist, except in principle,” said Maxime Pedneault-Jobin, the mayor of Gatineau, Quebec.

Indeed, it’s not as if Quebec has faced a rash of bus robberies by masked figures or instances of identify fraud by women sporting veils at universities. The idea that people could use face-coverings to obscure their identity and cause trouble is just an excuse to make life more difficult for Muslim women.

The repercussions of the ban couldn’t make women who adhere to Islamic traditions feel any less welcome. Wearing a veil, they can’t receive medical care, can’t attend school and heck, they can’t even go anywhere if they’re not allowed on a bus. The inherent message is, “We don’t want to see you out in public.”

Sadly, Quebec is not the first to go down this road. Vice has a timeline of European countries (France, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Austria, etc.) imposing similar bans to show their displeasure for Muslim women.

It’s pretty much inevitable that Quebec’s law will wind up in court for being discriminatory, but maybe the negative attention can convince the legislature it made a bad decision and should repeal the law before even having to go down that road. Sign this petition urging Quebec’s National Assembly to reconsider this unnecessary law.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

104 comments

Thomas S
Thomas S27 days ago

".......the law seems to specifically target women in the Muslim community who adhere to Islamic dress codes and cover their faces while in public." Ah, so you've noticed that it's only Muslim women that are forced to cover their faces, and the men can walk around dressed any way they want. What does that tell you about Islam?

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Kathryn I
Kathryn I27 days ago

Noted! Thanks

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Kathryn I
Kathryn Iabout a month ago

Congratulations, Quebec! Great News!

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John W
John Wabout a month ago

Glad to see people are waking up to the misogynistic nature of Islam.

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Aaron F
Past Member about a month ago

Live like you live here.....

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Clare O
Clare Oabout a month ago

If someone gets on a bus or walks into an office or bank wearing a ski mask or a full face motorbike helmet, they are told to remove it. No different.

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Clare O
Clare Oabout a month ago

White Wednesday. Google it - for all those who think women really, really do or should want to wear a headscarf. Project that further onto the burka.

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Clare O
Clare Oabout a month ago

Well done to the lawmakers. Many terrorists left the UK or avoided police observation by being men wearing burkas.

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Clare O
Clare Oabout a month ago

I'm astounded that Care2 is publishing such a Bronze Age post, but I suppose even the backward women hating people need to express themselves.

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Clare O
Clare Oabout a month ago

Of course women can go out and get medical attention or shop. It's called being a normal woman. If a woman has to cover every part of her but her eyes to go out, obviously many careers are barred to her, voting is probably barred to her as she can't prove her identity, she will find it extremely hard to make friends and interact with the community, and she probably can't get much education. Or not the kind of education that makes you a doctor or barrister or pilot or ski instructor.

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