Trudeau does not ap­pear im­pressed with Que­bec's at­tempt to clar­ify Bill 62

Sherbrooke Record - - THE BORDER REPORT -

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau ap­peared in­cred­u­lous Wed­nes­day at Que­bec's ef­forts to clear up con­fu­sion sur­round­ing its law on re­li­gious neu­tral­ity, which is widely seen as tar­get­ing Mus­lim women who wear face veils.

The prov­ince's jus­tice min­is­ter said last week Bill 62 would oblige peo­ple rid­ing a bus or the sub­way to do so with their face un­cov­ered for the en­tire jour­ney.

On Tues­day, how­ever, Stephanie Vallee back­tracked, say­ing only those whose fare re­quires a card with photo ID will need to un­cover their face be­fore rid­ing pub­lic tran­sit _ and that they can put the veil back on once they've been iden­ti­fied.

Asked specif­i­cally in Ot­tawa about Vallee's clar­i­fi­ca­tions, Trudeau replied: ``You call those clar­i­fi­ca­tions?''

``I think we're see­ing there are still a lot of things to clar­ify in this bill, in­clud­ing how it will be ap­plied,'' Trudeau said. ``We will do our home­work here in Ot­tawa. As I've said sev­eral times, I don't think a govern­ment should be telling a woman what to wear or not wear.''

Im­me­di­ately af­ter Que­bec passed Bill 62, Trudeau was hes­i­tant to come out strongly against the leg­is­la­tion. He said the re­spon­si­bil­ity to chal­lenge the law lied with cit­i­zens, not the fed­eral govern­ment.

Trudeau, how­ever, has be­come more crit­i­cal since his ini­tial com­ments, sug­gest­ing the law vi­o­lates the Cana­dian Char­ter of Rights and Free­doms.

He has also re­fused to rule out his govern­ment's in­volve­ment in any fu­ture Bill 62 court chal­lenge.

``I will al­ways de­fend the char­ter,'' Trudeau said.

``I will al­ways stand up for in­di­vid­ual rights and I will al­ways stand up for the Char­ter of Rights and Free­doms and we are look­ing very care­fully at what tools we have and what steps we have to make sure we make this sit­u­a­tion bet­ter for ev­ery­one.''

In re­sponse, Vallee said Que­bec has the right to leg­is­late on mat­ters within its ju­ris­dic­tion.

``Mr. Trudeau has the right to not share our opin­ion,'' she told re­porters in Que­bec City. ``And he has the right to have an opin­ion on the law. But I am not go­ing to get into a de­bate in the me­dia about that.

``But I am re­ally con­fi­dent that the law is con­sti­tu­tional and I am con­vinced that it would with­stand any le­gal chal­lenge.''

When asked if Que­bec is will­ing to use the so-called notwith­stand­ing clause, which al­lows prov­inces to over­ride the Con­sti­tu­tion, she said, ``We're not there yet.''

``The notwith­stand­ing clause is not part of the de­bate be­cause there is no le­gal chal­lenge so far,'' she added.

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