North America

Quebec's face coverings ban sparks confusion in Muslim women

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Quebec's ban on face coverings has sparked a mixed response as Canadian public servants debate how the new ruling would be implemented.

Quebec's ban on face coverings for people giving or receiving provincial government services under a law passed last week.

The proposed ban has received a mixed response and has sparked a debate on how the new ruling would be implemented across the province.

The supporters of Bill 62 say the law defends modern secular traditions in Quebec, while its detractors say it encourages discrimination against Muslim women in the mainly French-speaking Canadian province.

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The many forms of muslim veils explained
The many forms of muslim veils explained

"What crime did I commit that I have my fundamental rights violated?" Afifa Suleman, a niqab-wearer who was on her way to join a protest against the bill in Montreal on Sunday, said.

While the law, 2018, does not specify which face coverings are prohibited, the debate has largely focused on the niqab worn by some Muslim women, which covers everything but the eyes.

People affected by the law would include public-sector employees such as teachers, police officers, hospital and daycare workers.

The law allows for exemptions under certain circumstances, although it did not provide details. Regulations setting out how the new law will be enforced are yet to come.

"Even if you believe that the niqab is opressive in some way...if that really is a problem cutting them out of public transit and access education and medical care is simply not the solution," Bill 62 protester Sarah Brand said.

Like France, which passed a ban on veils, crosses and other religious symbols in schools in 2004, Quebec has struggled to reconcile its secular identity with a growing Muslim population, many of them North African emigrants.

Incidents of Islamophobia have increased in Quebec in recent years. In January, six people were killed in a shooting at a Quebec City mosque. A French-Canadian university student has been charged as the sole suspect.

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