It could be termed as controversial in many parts of the world but the Quebec province in Canada has passed a law that bars people from covering their faces in any way. This includes wearing sunglasses or even the adorning a burqa.
Christened Bill 62, the law has many detractors as well who have asked if they would be arrested for covering their faces with scarves in the winter. However, much of the opposition has come down to whether the law is Islamophobic, and whether it will prevent Muslim women from accessing government services. Bill 62 would cover hospitals, schools, daycare, public transport, government offices and civic institutions. “It allows voices to marginalize and vilify the Muslim community even further. What it does is serve to further target a tiny minority of the population for political gain,” said Ihsaan Gardee, executive director of the National Council of Canadian Muslims, to Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail.
“It’s not the business of the state to be in the wardrobes of the nation,” he added.
Quebec’s Liberal government has put forth Bill 62 as a religious neutrality move, reminiscent of the hotly contested ‘burqa ban’ in France. Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard insisted that Bill 62 was ‘human’.
“A covered face isn’t only about religion… You speak to me, I speak to you, I see your face, you see mine. It’s part of communications. It’s a question in my mind that is not solely religious, it’s human,” Couillard told The Globe and Mail.
Bill 62 has been divisive in public opinion. Even as opponents argue on the basis of civil liberties and human rights, two political parties – Parti Quebecois and Coalition Avenir Quebec – opposed it saying it doesn’t go far enough.
However, there is little clarity on how the law is going to be implemented as the guidelines have not been settled on. Constitutional and human rights activists are confident that Bill 62 will soon be challenged in courts.