Not govt’s business to tell women what to wear: Trudeau on Quebec’s ban on face coverings
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also said his government was studying the implications of the Quebec law that prohibits citizens from covering their faces while giving and receiving state services.world Updated: Oct 21, 2017 11:32 IST
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said it is not the government’s business to tell a woman what to wear, seemingly referring to Quebec’s ban on face coverings that was okayed by lawmakers on Wednesday.
According to a report by The Guardian, the Prime Minister also said on Friday his government was studying the implications of the law: “As a federal government, we are going to take our responsibility seriously and look carefully at what the implications are.”
Rights groups say the ban, which prohibits citizens from covering their faces while giving and receiving state services, marginalises Muslim women who wear burqa or niqab in the mainly French-speaking Canadian province.
While the law, which takes effect by July 1, 2018, does not specify which face coverings are prohibited, the debate has largely focused on the niqab worn by some Muslim women, which covers everything but the eyes.
People affected by the law would include public-sector employees such as teachers, police officers, hospital and daycare workers.
Why is someone not allowed to enter a bank with a motorcycle helmet on? it's a security risk. No one should be allowed to be unidentifiable.— London Writer (@LondonWriter41) October 20, 2017
Like France, which passed a ban on veils, crosses and other religious symbols in schools in 2004, Quebec has struggled to reconcile its secular identity with a growing Muslim population, many of them North African emigrants.
“We are just saying that for reasons linked to communication, identification and safety, public services should be given and received with an open face,” Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard told reporters in the province’s National Assembly.
“We are in a free and democratic society. You speak to me, I should see your face, and you should see mine. It’s as simple as that,” he said.
The National Council of Canadian Muslims said it was deeply concerned by the law’s passage and was looking at its legal options.
“This legislation is an unjustified infringement of religious freedoms,” said executive director Ihsaan Gardee.
The law allows for exemptions under certain circumstances, although it did not provide details. Regulations setting out how the new law will be enforced are yet to come.
Asked in the federal parliament whether he would challenge the law, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who represents a Montreal district, said he would continue to ensure all Canadians are protected by the country’s charter of rights and freedoms, “while respecting the choices that different legislative assemblies can make”.
France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Bulgaria and the German state of Bavaria have imposed restrictions on the wearing of full-face veils in public places, with Denmark on track to set its own ban.
Right-wing extremist groups and some local French-speaking media in recent years have targeted Quebec’s Muslims as part of a broader debate on the accommodation of religious and cultural minorities in the province.
Incidents of Islamophobia have increased in Quebec in recent years. In January, six people were killed in a shooting at a Quebec City mosque. A French-Canadian university student has been charged as the sole suspect.
Trudeau has previously has spoken about women’s rights and gender quality, and wrote an article earlier this month about why he is raising his sons to be feminists.
(With inputs from Reuters)