The Quebec provincial legislature on Wednesday barred people who are wearing face coverings from receiving public services or working in government jobs, a move that opponents criticized as unfairly targeting Muslims.
The law will prohibit public workers like teachers from covering their faces at work, and will effectively bar Muslim women who wear face veils from using public transit, although it will be possible to apply for exemptions.
The law has been described by proponents as a way to ensure state religious neutrality. Quebec’s minister of justice, Stéphanie Vallée, who sponsored the bill, has said that the legislation will foster social cohesion. But Canadian Muslim groups have long complained that the law, which languished for years before passing 66 to 51 on Wednesday, will penalize Muslims, particularly in a province where few women wear face coverings.
“This is an unnecessary law with a made-up solution to an invented problem,” said Ihsaan Gardee, the executive director of the National Council of Canadian Muslims.
“We don’t have hordes of women in niqabs trying to access or work in public services,” he said, referring to a type of head scarf that covers much of the face. “Rather than helping to facilitate inclusion, as its proponents claim, it excludes citizens in the public sphere and reinforces the marginalization and stigmatization of Canadian Muslims.”
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