Groups launch le­gal chal­lenge of Que­bec’s

The Miracle - - Front Page - Source: Al-Jazeera

Cana­dian hu­man rights and civil lib­erty groups have launched a con­sti­tu­tional chal­lenge of a re­cent law that bans face cov­er­ings in the prov­ince of Que­bec, a mea­sure they ar­gue vi­o­lates the rights of Mus­lim women who wear a full face cov­er­ing. The Na­tional Coun­cil of Cana­dian Mus­lims and the Cana­dian Civil Lib­er­ties As­so­ci­a­tion filed a law­suit in Que­bec Su­pe­rior Court against parts of the law, known as Bill 62, on Tues­day. The law­suit is ask­ing the court to or­der a stay to block the law’s im­ple­men­ta­tion across the prov­ince. Warda Naili, a Mus­lim woman in Que­bec who wears a niqab, a full face cov­er­ing which usu­ally leaves the area around the eyes un­cov­ered, is named in the le­gal chal­lenge. “It’s a big thing. It’s stress­ful, it’s scary, but at the same time, it’s es­sen­tial that it gets done be­cause this law must be sus­pended, Naili, whose le­gal name is Marie-Michelle La­coste, told Al Ja eera over the phone from Mon­treal. She said she agreed to put her name for­ward be­cause Bill 62 is “un­con­sti­tu­tional and “un­ac­cept­able . “A lot of women would like to do it, but they’re scared, Naili said. “Some­one had to do it. Que­bec’s Min­is­ter of Jus­tice, Stephanie Vallee, de­fended the law on Tues­day, say­ing it was “jus­ti­fied in the free and demo­cratic so­ci­ety that is Que­bec . “The de­bate will take place in front of the courts, Vallee told re­porters. Bill 62, which was passed last month in the Que­bec leg­is­la­ture, forces pub­lic em­ploy­ees to un­cover their faces when ad­min­is­ter­ing ser­vices. Mem­bers of the pub­lic are also obliged to un­cover their faces to re­ceive ser­vices, in­clud­ing in mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties across the prov­ince and on pub­lic trans­porta­tion. Que­bec has jus­ti­fied the law as part of a long-stand­ing ef­fort to en­shrine “re­li­gious neu­tral­ity into law in the French-speak­ing prov­ince. Last month, Vallee said the law was about be­ing able to iden­tify peo­ple. “These are com­mon-sense rules that will ap­ply, she said. But crit­ics and civil rights groups say it un­fairly tar­gets Mus­lim women who wear the niqab. “This bill is not neu­tral what­so­ever and it has noth­ing to do with state re­li­gious neu­tral­ity, said Ra ia Hamidi, the Mon­treal rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Na­tional Coun­cil of Cana­dian Mus­lims. Hamidi told Al Ja eera that Bill 62 is “dis­crim­i­na­tory and vi­o­lates the rights of Mus­lim women un­der the Cana­dian Char­ter of Rights and Free­doms and the Que­bec Char­ter of Hu­man Rights and Free­doms. “They hold these re­li­gious be­liefs and have the con­sti­tu­tional right to do so, Hamidi added. Pub­lic protests against Bill 62 have taken place across Mon­treal in re­cent weeks, in­clud­ing demon­stra­tors who have taken pub­lic tran­sit, or lined up along a pop­u­lar bus route, while cov­er­ing their faces. As it stands, Mus­lim women will have to un­veil their faces when board­ing pub­lic buses or met­ros and dur­ing the de­liv­ery of pub­lic ser­vices, in­clud­ing dur­ing a doc­tor’s visit or in a class­room. A few do en Mus­lim women are be­lieved to wear a full face veil in the prov­ince. “This bill doesn’t fur­ther state neu­tral­ity it un­der­mines it, by tar­get­ing some of the most vul­ner­a­ble, said Cara wible, the act­ing gen­eral coun­sel at the Cana­dian Civil Lib­er­ties As­so­ci­a­tion, dur­ing a press con­fer­ence on Tues­day morn­ing. “We be­lieve that peo­ple in Canada have ba­sic rights to re­li­gious free­dom, equal­ity and the lib­erty to move around so­ci­ety and go about our daily lives with­out un­rea­son­able and un­nec­es­sary in­tru­sions from the state, wible said. Naili said she hoped the le­gal chal­lenge would sus­pend Bill 62’s im­ple­men­ta­tion across the prov­ince. “This law is an in­jus­tice, she said. “It sends the mes­sage to in­tol­er­ant peo­ple that they have a right to be in­tol­er­ant.

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