News / Toronto

'More discrimination': Muslim activists speak out against Quebec's face covering ban

The law itself does not specifically name any religion as a target, but many believe it is directed at Muslim women who choose to wear the niqab or the burka.

Quebec has voted in favour of legislation banning the wearing of the burka or niqab for people receiving or offering public services.

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Quebec has voted in favour of legislation banning the wearing of the burka or niqab for people receiving or offering public services.

Community activists are deeply disturbed by Quebec's new legislation banning women in niqabs or burkas from offering or receiving public services.

"This legislation is basically attacking the Muslim women and further marginalizing them," said Farheen Khan, a Toronto activist and consultant in the non-profit sector.

Bill 62, which Quebec lawmakers call an attempt to foster religious neutrality, was voted into law Wednesday. It will require anyone seeking public service or working in the public sector to remove any garments that cover the face. The law itself does not specifically name any religion as a target, but many believe it is directed at Muslim women who choose to wear the niqab or the burka.

The law is expected to apply to public institutions such as universities, hospitals and government offices, as well as public transit.

"Can you imagine not being able to get into an ambulance just because you're wearing a face veil? This is a violation of people's rights," Khan said.

Ali Hogben, executive director of the Canadian Council for Muslim Women, said she was dismayed to see such a political move at a time when Canada is striving to be a role model in respecting human rights.

"We're all speaking about countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran and how they mistreat women, and here we are telling women what they should or should not cover," she said. "There's something very wrong with that. This is feeding into more discrimination and racism."

Hogben said women who wear the niqab or burka are generally willing to show their faces if it's required, such as at airports or for any other identification purposes.

She said her organization will collaborate with other advocacy groups to call for the law to be repealed.

"This is a matter of a state interfering in the lives of women so intrusively. It's too much," she said. "If they think they're helping with integration, they certainly are not. They're going against the tide."

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