The province of Quebec has just passed a new law regarding "Face Coverings:
"Quebec Will Require Bare Face for Service
Legislation addresses thorny issue of accommodating minorities
Last Updated: Wednesday, March 24, 2010 | 3:24 PM ET
Naпma Atef Amed is one of a handful of Quebecers who wear a niqab for religious
reasons. She will have to remove it to get any kind of public service. (CBC)
Muslim women and others with concealing headwear will have to uncover their
faces when they deal with Quebec government services, under landmark legislation
In tabling the controversial bill, Quebec has delved into sensitive territory
where governments in Canada have largely avoided treading.
The bill says people obtaining — or delivering — services at places like the
provincial health or auto-insurance boards will need to do so with their faces
in plain view.
The legislation says people's face coverings will not be tolerated if they
hinder communication or visual identification. The traditional Muslim niqab
shows little more than a woman's eyes.
Quebec is drawing a line in defence of two principles, gender equality and
secular public institutions, Premier Jean Charest said at a news conference
"This is a symbol of affirmation and respect — first of all for ourselves, and
also for those to whom we open our arms," Charest told reporters. "This is not
about making our home less welcoming, but about stressing the values that unite
"An accommodation cannot be granted unless it respects the principle of equality
between men and women, and the religious neutrality of the state."
Fear to tread
While the debate over such identity issues has raged in Europe for years,
Canadian politicians have generally been reluctant to weigh in.
Charest's Liberal government has faced persistent criticism from those who say
it has done too little to draw up guidelines for accommodating minorities.
Quebec newspapers have been full of stories where people express outrage over
perceived religious excesses, and the opposition has clobbered the government in
the legislature over its supposed inaction.
The bill, tabled by Justice Minister Kathleen Weil, explicitly points out that
any provisions are subject to the guarantees of gender and religious equality
outlined in the federal Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
In Quebec, the debate over face coverings has consumed a tremendous amount of
attention for what amounts to a minuscule number of cases.
Of the more than 118,000 visitors to the health board's Montreal office in
2008-09 only 10 were niqab wearers who asked for special dispensation.
There were no such cases among the 28,000 visitors to the Quebec City service
centre over the same time period.http://www.cbc.ca/canada/montreal/story/2010/03/24/quebec-reasonable-accommodati\