Bill 62 weigh­ing on stu­dents’ minds

Teenagers re­think­ing post-se­condary op­por­tu­ni­ties

Metro Canada (Calgary) - - EDUCATION - The Cana­dian Press

A new law in Que­bec ban­ning face cov­er­ings for any­one who re­ceives or pro­vides pub­lic ser­vices has some Mus­lim stu­dents re­con­sid­er­ing the idea of pur­su­ing their ed­u­ca­tion in that prov­ince.

The pass­ing of Bill 62, which would pro­hibit any­one wear­ing a face cov­er­ing from re­ceiv­ing a pro­vin­cial or mu­nic­i­pal ser­vice such as pub­lic tran­sit, has sparked a strong pub­lic back­lash.

Amid crit­i­cisms that the con­tro­ver­sial bill uniquely tar­gets Mus­lim women, Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau has even opened the door to fed­eral in­ter­ven­tion.

Re­gard­less of any fu­ture le­gal chal­lenges, some stu­dents say the pass­ing of the bill has al­ready changed their per­cep­tion of a prov­ince they’d once con­sid­ered mov­ing to in pur­suit of post-se­condary ed­u­ca­tion.

They say the new law makes them feel as though Mus­lims are no longer wel­come in the prov­ince.

They also fear the leg­is­la­tion would make it dif­fi­cult to access ba­sic ser­vices that are key to stu­dent life.

Ba­tool Sule­man, 17, said Mon­treal’s McGill Univer­sity was high on her list of school op­tions as she pre­pared to pur­sue a de­gree in chem­i­cal en­gi­neer­ing.

Since the ad­vent of Bill 62 on “re­li­gious neu­tral­ity,” how­ever, she said her en­thu­si­asm has cooled con­sid­er­ably.

“That’s scary,” she said of the law. “How can I, a ci­ti­zen of Canada, not be al­lowed to go some­where just be­cause of a piece of cloth?”

Sule­man, who wears a hi­jab, said she’s al­ready felt some anti-Is­lamic sen­ti­ment on past vis­its to the prov­ince in sharp con­trast to the wel­com­ing at­mos­phere she en­joys in her home­town of Toronto.

She said she fears the bill, which the Que­bec gov­ern­ment said has broad pop­u­lar sup­port within the prov­ince, will only com­pound that feel­ing.

The Cana­dian Fed­er­a­tion of Stu­dents con­demned the bill and its im­pact on those who are al­ready study­ing in Que­bec.

“The Cana­dian Fed­er­a­tion of Stu­dents re­mains stead­fast in this po­si­tion and will con­tinue to sup­port those who or­ga­nize against xeno­pho­bia and big­otry across this coun­try,” the fed­er­a­tion said in a state­ment.

Bill 62, which the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment has said is aimed at en­hanc­ing pub­lic se­cu­rity, re­quires any­one pro­vid­ing or re­ceiv­ing pro­vin­cial and mu­nic­i­pal pub­lic ser­vices in Que­bec to un­cover their faces.

Jus­tice Min­is­ter Stephanie Vallee orig­i­nally said the law would oblige peo­ple rid­ing a bus or the sub­way to do so with their faces un­cov­ered for the en­tire jour­ney. She later back­tracked, how­ever, say­ing only those whose fare re­quires a card with photo ID will need to un­cover their faces upon board­ing pub­lic tran­sit and that they can put the veil back on once they’ve been iden­ti­fied.

For Farah Mikati, 15, at­tend­ing McGill’s pres­ti­gious law school after com­plet­ing un­der­grad­u­ate work in Toronto has been a long­time am­bi­tion. Bill 62, how­ever, has changed her plans.

While she wears no re­li­gious gar­ments of any kind, Mikati said she can’t sup­port a prov­ince that would deny mem­bers of her com­mu­nity the same rights she en­joys.

“Just as ev­ery woman has the right to re­veal her­self, the woman next to her has the right to con­ceal her­self,” Mikati said. “If the gov­ern­ment is go­ing to im­pact our ba­sic rights, I don’t want to be a part of it.”

Shakir Dualeh/The Cana­Dian PreSS

Stu­dent ba­tool Zainab Sule­man, 17, calls Que­bec’s bill 62 “scary.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.