Quebec’s Bill 62 a discriminatory law under the banner of safety

By in Opinions

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.

Ilham Salim

Graphic: Lesia Karalash / Graphics Editor

  • Andrew Sproule

    This article stretches far beyond reasonable points. The niqab is not a religious requirement in the Islamic faith. Therefore it is the preference of the individual and personal preference does not take precedence over the safety of Canada. This is identity politics; this bill is about ANY person who hides their identity in a public place. The writer of this post contradicts their own opinion…

    “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.” – Ilham Salim

    First of all, the reasoning behind this argument is “i think” which is heuristic persuasion at its best. The whole point of this bill is to force people who commit a crime not to have their identity hidden. The fact is that this that Germany, Netherlands, France, Belgium, Bulgaria, Egypt, Switzerland, Italy and Chad all already have a nationwide ban of hiding identity in public sectors. So if the SHIEF and its writers are going to call Canada and its citizens racial and freedom oppressing then there is a long list of other nations it had better start slandering. What is truly ironic about this article, is that the writer who claims to fight for eliminating oppression, racism and prejudice has now called anyone who supports this bill as “racists who will have a platform from which to spread intolerance.” The only word that comes to mind is hypocritical. Calling someone a racist just because of their stance on a bill without knowing why is a gross stereotype. Identity politics.

    • 2EZ

      “The whole point of this bill is to force people who commit a crime not to have their identity hidden”.
      This is wrong, it’s not the point of this bill. Anyone committing a crime is not going to suddenly care about breaking the law with regards to concealing their identity. Read the proposal before you comment. You can find it here:

      Its stated purpose is to adhere to religious neutrality, has nothing to do with whatever you “think” it meant. Here is an excerpt:

      “The purpose of this bill is to establish measures to foster adherence to State religious neutrality. For that purpose, it provides that:

      personnel members of public bodies must demonstrate religious neutrality in the exercise of their functions, being careful to neither favour nor hinder a person because of the person’s religious affiliation or non-affiliation … members of public bodies and of certain other bodies must exercise their functions with their face uncovered, unless they have to cover their face, in particular because of their working conditions or because of occupational or task-related requirements.

      In addition, persons receiving services from such personnel members must have their face uncovered. An accommodation is possible but must be refused if the refusal is warranted in the context for security or identification reasons or because of the level of communication required.”

      So you gotta ask, whether what the bill requires actually supports its stated purpose, ie. keeping the state religiously neutral. I think the first part of requiring government workers to uncover their face is right. But the second part, that anyone receiving service must also uncover their face, even if the reason is only “the level of communication required”. This is over-stretching any reason. And I will use “I think” because this is a fucking opinion piece, not a scientific debate. Your whole rebuttal is just that, it’s what you “think”. So don’t act all high and mighty like your opinion is more than “heuristic persuasion”.

    • Andrew Sproule

      Thank you for the reply, a well structured debate is good. You bring up some good points. Your colourful language tells me your emotions are on high, deep breath, its okay your argument is built on an appeal to emotion rather than facts. Here’s the fact, You are right the bill states it is about religious neutrality. however, on Oct 24, 2017, Quebec Justice Minister Stéphanie Vallée was quoted “the law will only apply when it’s required for communication, identification or security reasons”. Stephanie Valle was also quoted as saying “As well, an individual would not be required to uncover the face for the duration of the ride on a bus or Metro”. Your obvious superior intelligence should draw the conclusion how religious neutrality is so heavily tied into public transit, schools, and henceforth public safety. A smart intellectual such as yourself would also understand that a public servants requirement to know the identity of individuals entering a public service is crucial to the public’s safety. for example of public transit, Mrs. Vallée was also quoted as saying “Muslim woman wearing a niqab or burka would only be required to uncover her face to take public transit if a photo ID is required, as in the case of those paying a reduced student fare.” Once the person sits down, they can put the niqab, mask, tube sock, whatever they were previously wearing back on!

      This bill will affect someone with sunglasses and a scarf who steps onto a bus as much as someone in a niqab. Both parties would be allowed to put their head ware back on. A public servant could very well need to see see someones face for “identification and security reasons”. You are spinning this story in a way that fits your emotional stance. The bill wasn’t clear enough and that allowed some “smart intellectuals” to run wild with erroneous convictions. Here is a link to the government (only when the liberals are in power) funded broadcasting station CBC stating Justice minister Stéphanie Vallée’s comments.


    • 2EZ

      Good analysis Freud, but if any emotions are involved, it is in response to you riding a high horse that is factually wrong (see your first sentence in original comment). I personally have no problem with the bill if it pertained only to security and identification purposes. But officials already have the power to refuse service if they can’t identify you, try going into a court with a motorcycle helmet, not gonna happen with or without this law. So the core purpose of this law is the last clause, when “required for communication”. What counts as “communication” is open to interpretation, and effectively gives any official the power to request you remove whatever from your face. Of course the courts won’t enforce this law if say a city bus driver requested all riders remove their winter gear. It is still going to be limited to legit reasons such as security and identification. But why make such a law if its going to be difficult to enforce? And why frame it in terms of “religious neutrality” if its really about public security? I can’t tell you what the law proposers are thinking, but I can guess it has something to do with wanting to make “feel good laws” in light of recent terrorist attacks.

    • Justin P

      Hi Andrew–can you think of any examples in which a niqab wearing woman in Canada has used her veil for nefarious purposes? I struggle to think of one myself, and wonder if this is one of those “solution in search of a problem” things? Also I wonder why Quebec doesn’t extend its separation of church and state to Christian symbols? The Quiet Revolution was nominally about diminishing the control of the Catholic Church….but there’s still that big friggen cross on top of Mont Royal…

    • Guest

      Don’t give them ideas…

    • Justin P

      I don’t know what this means.