On Oct. 18, Quebec’s national assembly passed Bill 62. This controversial law limits and endangers Muslim women. In the wake of this decision, larger concerns of oppression across the country are imminent.
Bill 62 will require that government services in Quebec — including things like public schooling, health care and public transportation — be received and provided with the face uncovered. While the legislation does not openly discriminate against any one religious or cultural group, it is quite clear exactly who will be affected.
Under the guise of security, innocent women are being restricted and controlled in a country that calls itself democratic and prides itself on equality and multiculturalism.
It is ironic that a bill that restricts individual freedom has been passed in a democratic country such as Canada. Bill 62, though said to be neutral, exclusively prevents Muslim women who choose to wear the niqab — a veil worn on the face — from pursuing their civil liberties.
Bill 62 prohibits Muslim women in Quebec from simply living their daily lives. It will make those women who don’t feel comfortable without their niqabs immobile, prisoners in their homes. They will not be able to partake in basic yet fundamental aspects of their lives or the lives of their loved ones — such as registering their children in school, using public transit or even visiting the doctor.
Although the niqab is not a mandatory practice in Islam, it is an option that some women of the Islamic faith choose to practice. These women have simply chosen to conceal themselves, just as any other woman could choose not to do so. Regardless of someone’s reason for wearing a niqab — whether for comfort or religion — no one should have the right to control or decide how a woman dresses.
The province of Quebec has passed this bill in order to protect and secure its residents, but at what cost? By attempting to make the province more secure, a number of its citizens will now feel insecure, alienated and discriminated against.
As a resident of Canada, I understand the need for safety, but I think this legislation is being approached in the wrong way. A province or state should always seek to increase security in ways that do not marginalize its citizens.
Bill 62 neglects this notion by placing unacceptable restrictions on the citizens of Quebec that will greatly affect their quality of life. Quebec’s approach is a recipe for disaster — instead of fostering camaraderie and unity, this bill will divide Canadians and give racists a platform from which to spread intolerance.
In short, passing this bill will not only infringe on the rights of Muslim women in Quebec but also create unrest amongst the greater public in Canada and weaken the bonds of multiculturalism that this country strives to be known for.
Moreover, this ban might open the doors for many other prejudices to make their way into institutions. It might start with the banning of the niqab, but we can never be certain what the end goal might be. What’s next — the hijab, the turban or the kippah?
I don’t think a bill that covertly targets a specific religious minority is the way to a more secure Canada. If someone is adamant about committing a crime, they will do so by any means possible, regardless of what they are wearing — whether it be a niqab or a mask.
These new rules not only violate the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms in Quebec but also the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Therefore, we must work together to rectify this ban before it infiltrates the lives of our fellow citizens — we must not be strangers to one another.
Be well informed about religious minorities and their practices no matter how strange and foreign they might look to you. You can talk to a member of the Muslim Students’ Association, or take it one step further and visit the local mosque to augment your knowledge. At the end of the day, we are more similar than we are different — we are human beings who call this country home.
Graphic: Lesia Karalash / Graphics Editor