A bill is set to be voted on in Quebec today that would ban Muslim face coverings in the pubic service workplace.
A person riding a Montreal city bus would have to have their face uncovered for the duration of the ride once the province’s new state neutrality bill becomes law.
Clarifying a key amendment that toughens the original language of Bill 62 — to be voted on Wednesday in the National Assembly — Quebec Justice Minister Stéphanie Vallée said the intention of the legislator is clear when it says public services must be rendered and received with the face uncovered.
It includes something as basic as a bus ride, which is a form of public service being rendered. There had been confusion over whether that meant only if the person was addressing the driver for assistance or showing their ticket.
“The point of Bill 62 is having the face uncovered during the duration of the service and while the service is being rendered by the employee and being received by the citizens,” Vallée told reporters.
“Having your face uncovered is a legitimate question of communication, identification and security.”
Vallée’s comments came as the bill entered the home stretch of the adoption process in the National Assembly and as the confusion over how it will eventually be applied continued unabated.
“I know people would have liked us to go further,” Vallée conceded in her remarks. “Others think we are going too far. I think a balance has been found.”
Tabled in 2015 following a Liberal election promise, the overall intention of the bill is that it requires people who give or receive any public service to uncover their faces.
It does not specifically mention niqabs or burkas, allowing the government to say the bill is not a ban on religious garb as was the case of the PQ’s old, failed charter of values.
Liberals are of course up in arms about this, claiming that the bill is infringing on the rights of Muslims. However, as lawmakers all over the world have pointed out, laws such as this are not about religion: they are about security. If someone is wearing a full burqa, there is no telling who they are or what they are hiding. Terrorist attacks on transportation systems in the Western world are increasing in frequency, and it would be easy for a terrorist to obscure his or her identity with a burqa.
Laws like Bill 62 have been passed in countries such as France, where it is illegal to wear face coverings in public places such as the street, shops, museums, public transportation, and parks. Though France has still been plagued by attacks in recent years, terrorists have not been able to utilize the burqa to carry these attacks out.
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