Que­bec's Bill 62 - Gone Too Far or Not Far Enough?

Montreal Times - - News -

Que­bec's Lib­eral gov­ern­ment went ahead and ap­proved Bill 62, a move which brought im­me­di­ate crit­i­cism from hu­man rights groups and a wave of dis­ap­proval on so­cial me­dia. Bill 62, con­cern­ing re­li­gious neu­tral­ity, clearly tar­gets one main group - Mus­lim women who cover their faces.

On Wed­nes­day Oc­to­ber 18th, mem­bers of the Na­tional Assem­bly voted 66-51 in fa­vor of the law that pro­hibits any­one giv­ing or re­ceiv­ing pub­lic ser­vices in the prov­ince to have their faces cov­ered - 'any­one' mean­ing Mus­lim women who choose to wear a niqab or burka for their re­li­gious be­liefs. How­ever, the leg­is­la­tion also for­bids th­ese women from wear­ing them on pub­lic buses and in other ar­eas. Bill 62 is sure to ap­pease those who have be­come an­timus­lim in all its shapes and forms - but there are many who see this part of the bill as purely dis­crim­i­na­tory and even con­tra­ven­ing Canada's Char­ter of Rights as well as the Que­bec Char­ter of Hu­man Rights and Free­doms.

This comes from a gov­ern­ment, who in the last pro­vin­cial elec­tion con­demned the Parti Que­be­cois for their planned 'Char­ter of Val­ues', which would have pro­hib­ited pub­lic work­ers from wear­ing any re­li­gious sym­bols at all. And it comes from a gov­ern­ment who promised if elected, while still pro­hibit­ing the full face cov­er­ing, they would only ap­ply the law to the prov­ince's pub­lic-sec­tor work­ers and pro­vin­cial in­sti­tu­tions only - some­thing the ma­jor­ity of Que­be­cers do sup­port.

It con­tra­dicts the orig­i­nal stance they took on the is­sue - and con­ve­niently comes in an elec­tion year where their re-elec­tion is be­ing se­ri­ously chal­lenged.

Op­po­si­tion par­ties Coali­tion Avenir Québec and the Parti Québé­cois voted against the Bill, but only be­cause they felt it ac­tu­ally didn't go far enough.They want all re­li­gious sym­bols banned, in­clud­ing kip­pahs, hi­jabs and tur­bans - and that the law should ex­tend to judges, prison guards and po­lice of­fi­cers. The PQ even wants 'the prin­ci­ple of sec­u­lar­ism be en­shrined in Que­bec’s char­ter of hu­man rights and free­doms'. It's their sup­port­ers the Lib­er­als ap­pear to be try­ing to 'ac­com­mo­date' right now.

A big con­cern is com­ing from the union rep­re­sent­ing Mon­treal's bus and metro driv­ers - who do not want their driv­ers given the re­spon­si­bil­ity of en­forc­ing the law, ques­tion­ing how the gov­ern­ment even ex­pects them to do so. Driv­ers don't want to be­come niqab or burka po­lice - and they shouldn't, as it could only lead to trou­ble, per­haps even vi­o­lence.

On CBC Mon­treal's Day­break, Que­bec Jus­tice Min­is­ter Stéphanie Val­lée said 'the law is nec­es­sary for com­mu­ni­ca­tion rea­sons, iden­ti­fi­ca­tion rea­sons and se­cu­rity rea­sons - and that the ban on face cov­er­ings would be for the du­ra­tion of the ser­vice pro­vided, mean­ing a niqab or burka would need to be re­moved for the en­tire bus ride'.

In the mean­time, Mon­treal's Mus­lim com­mu­nity is also speak­ing out.A 21year-old Mus­lim woman, Zayneb Bin­ruchd, said in a CBC re­port, she 'takes the bus reg­u­larly, as much as six times a day' and that she 'would rather stay home than take off her niqab to take a bus'.

"I go to mall with my friends, I go out, I go to the li­brary, so it will just make me stay home," she was quoted as say­ing. "I don't have a car, I don't have any­body to drive me around, so it will just block me from the rest of the world... (if) I have to go to the hospi­tal, if I go to court I will take it off, I have no prob­lem at all, but give me a rea­son why I have to take it off and I will take it off. But there's no logic, there's no rea­son."

For now, the ban on wear­ing niqab or burkas (while re­ceiv­ing ser­vices) goes into ef­fect im­me­di­ately, but it is un­clear about what pub­lic ser­vice work­ers should do with some­one who has their face cov­ered.

Much still has to be dis­cussed and the de­tails need to be ironed out, but whether you agree with Bill 62 or not - is it right that the vast ma­jor­ity of Mus­lims, who are peace­ful and com­pletely op­pose vi­o­lence, are be­ing sin­gled out be­cause of the ac­tions of some ex­trem­ist and rad­i­cal, ter­ror­ist groups, who are not at all rep­re­sen­ta­tive of their be­liefs? Is it right when only try­ing in the best way they are presently ca­pa­ble of, re­gard­less of the racism and ha­tred they face, to in­te­grate into our so­ci­ety?

Are we as a peo­ple, in a coun­try which prides it­self in free­dom of speech, tol­er­ance and re­spect of oth­ers, not ca­pa­ble of un­der­stand­ing what it might be like to flee hor­rific sit­u­a­tions - com­ing from a com­pletely dif­fer­ent cul­ture into one so very un­fa­mil­iar and then be­ing judged and os­tra­cized be­fore even hav­ing the op­por­tu­nity to learn, to trust and adapt? Un­til then, we might be the losers, by not al­low­ing our­selves to learn from what they have to of­fer and con­trib­ute to our own di­verse cul­ture. Rea­son­able or un­rea­son­able ac­com­mo­da­tion? Is there re­ally no other way to con­front the real is­sues? Your sug­ges­tions are wel­come.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.