Interviewing (25 minutes):
- Ihsaan Gardee, executive director for the National Council of Canadian Muslims. The group is part of a coalition that has launched a legal challenge against Quebec’s Bill 62, calling it “a discriminatory and unnecessary and unconstitutional piece of legislation”.
- Lise Ravary, a columnist at Le Journal de Montreal‘ tabloid daily. She supports legislation to deny face-to-face government services to those wering a face veil.
- Chantal Hebert, national affairs columnist at the Toronto Star. She discusses the federal government reaction to Bill 62.
Introduction by A Socialist In Canada:
Bill 62 was approved by the Parti libéral majority in the Quebec National Assembly on October 18, 2017. Opposition parties voted against the law, for varying reasons. The two right-wing parties in the Assembly say the law is not harsh enough; the left-wing Québec solidaire says it is too harsh.
The new law directs state employees in Quebec to refuse face-to-face services to women of Muslim faith who wear the veil. The government says the service ban will go so far as public transport and library services. The number of women in Quebec who regularly wear the veil is estimated at a few dozen, perhaps 100 at most. Accomodation is already provided for such purposes as drivers licenses, airport travel, etc where facial identification is required for identification and public security purposes.
Below is the written introduction to the interview story broadcast by CBC’s ‘The Current’ on November 9. Below that are extensive, related news items on Quebec’s Law 62. These have been previously listed in the ‘Canada newsroll’ page of A Socialist In Canada website.
Interview introduction by CBC’s ‘The Current’, Nov 9, 2017:
Quebec’s controversial face-covering ban faces its own constitutional challenge. Ihsaan Gardee, the executive director for the National Council of Canadian Muslims, is part of a group launching a legal challenge against Bill 62, calling it “a discriminatory and unnecessary and unconstitutional piece of legislation.”
“(The law) excludes and stigmatizes an already vulnerable minority of women, and by extension, the larger Quebec Muslim community,” Gardee told The Current‘s Anna Maria Tremonti.
Filed earlier in the week in Quebec Superior Court, the legal challenge contests a section of the province’s religious neutrality law under both Quebec’s Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Premier Philippe Couillard maintained Bill 62 complied with both the provincial and Canadian charters.
There are no exact numbers on how many women wear the niqab in Quebec. Estimates vary from 50 to more than 100.
Gardee said the law was an example of politicians aiming for “electoral advantage” in upcoming elections. “We’ve seen it in this province. We’ve seen it federally as well in the 2015 election where rhetoric around Muslims and Islam whether it was veils and citizenship ceremonies or the so-called Barbaric Cultural Practices Act were used to try and leverage and gain votes.”
Plaintiffs in the case have said they’ve experienced an increased amount of harassment since the legislation.
Gardee called the law “a popular move”. “You can see that from the polls. But just because a law is popular … does not mean it’s principled.”
As for the argument that the legislation is for communication, identification and security, Gardee pointed out that the women who wear the niqab in Quebec have always removed the veil for legitimate purposes of identification security — “whether it’s for driver’s licences or at airports. And we expect they’ll continue to do so.”
‘Religion is not a race’
Le Journal de Montreal‘s columnist Lise Ravary said she thinks Bill 62 is a “bad law” because it never really explained its purpose, but she supported the idea behind the legislation.
“In a free, open, rule-of-law society, going about with your face covered and your identity concealed is problematic. There are … many European countries that are, you know, highly democratic and tolerant. I’m thinking about the Netherlands for example that has a law very, very similar to law 62, banning niqab in hospitals and buses and so on.”
For critics who’ve called the legislation racist, Ravary argued, “Religion is not a race.” She countered that niqabs are not allowed either in the hajj pilgrimage.
“Why should we tolerate it here, and while in the centre of the Muslim world, it is not tolerated.”
The law requiring that people go about with faces uncovered in an open, democratic society is “not unreasonable,” said Ravary.
When asked about Bill 62 being considered discriminatory against identifiable religious groups by the state, Ravary answered, “I am not completely comfortable with it.”
“But at the same time, it is, you know, if you are born black or Asian, and you are facing discrimination it’s … it’s a terrible thing because it’s who you are as a human being but wearing a garment is a choice.”
Listen to the full interview at the weblink above, including with the Toronto Star‘s Chantal Hébert.
Related new stories: [Comments in square brackets are by Roger Annis]
Quebec’s face-covering law heads for constitutional challenge, CBC News, Nov 7, 2017
With all Quebec parties supporting an anti-Muslim face-covering ban, Quebec voters face few options, CBC News, Nov 7, 2017
… Québec Solidaire, the left-leaning party that has just three seats in the National Assembly, said it would not go as far as the Liberals did in their legislation, but it would maintain some restrictions on religious face-covering. Co-spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois said his party would keep the ban for all public servants but would only require members of the public to unveil when it is necessary to identify them or for security purposes.
Quebec ban on face coverings a blatant violation of religious freedom, op-ed commentary by David Butt, Globe and Mail, Oct 19, 2017 [David Butt is a criminal lawyer in Toronto and reglar contributor to the G&M]
With Halloween imminent, people turn their thoughts to the good-natured duplicity of costumes. But there is a much darker duplicity afoot as well. Under the mask of pursuing “social cohesion”, the Quebec legislature has passed a bill [Bill 62, approved on Oct 18, 2017] denying women the right to receive public services while wearing a veil for religious reasons. The law is a blatant violation of religious freedom guaranteed by the Charter of Rights…
Words fail Trudeau in response to Quebec’s ban on face coverings, by Campbell Clark, columnist, Globe and Mail, Oct 20, 2017
Quebec bans face covering in public services, raising worries among Muslims, by Ingrid Peretz, Globe and Mail, Wednesday, Oct 18, 2017
[Bill 62 was approved by a majority of the Quebec National Assembly on October 18, 2017. The law was proposed by the Liberal Party government. Voting against the law were the two right-wing parties in the National Assembly, saying it was not harsh enough, and the left-wing Québec solidaire party. The latter agrees, in principle, with the need for a law to regulate ‘secularism’ in government services but says the government has failed to simultaneously address social and human rights discrimination against national and religious minorities.
[Two attempts by previous governments in Quebec to legislate ‘secularism’ in the public domain failed in recent years. A 2010 attempt by a Liberal Party government died after two years. Then came a highly controversial ‘Charter of Values’ (Wikipedia) proposal by a minority Parti québécois government in 2013 that would ban teachers, doctors and other public workers from wearing highly visible religious symbols and had similar face covering restrictions as Bill 62. That government was defeated by the Liberals in a 2014 election.
[On January 29 of 2017, a 27 year old university student shot dead six men while they were attending prayers at a mosque in Quebec City.]
Quebec’s niqab ban: Muslim women are an easy political target, commentary by Idil Issa, Globe and Mail, Oct 18, 2017
With Bill 62, Quebec attacks religious freedom, editorial, Globe and Mail, Oct 18, 2017
Quebec set to pass Bill 62 banning face coverings for anyone receiving public service — even a bus ride, by Benjamin Shingler, CBC News, Oct 16, 2017
[Quebec’s Bill 62 was approved on October 18. It is inspired by the official ‘secularism’ in France which, in reality, is neo-colonialism in ‘secular’ garb. The opposition parties in the Quebec National Assembly are opposing the law for different reasons. The two right-wing parties–the nationalist Parti québecois and Coalition avenir Québec–want the Parti liberal government to ditch the ‘reasonable accomodation’ clause in Bill 62. An August 15, 2017 report in the Montreal Gazette describes reasonable accomodation as follows:
Demand for reasonable accommodation for cases involving religious rights would be treated if:
* It is serious
* It respects gender equality
* It respects government religious neutrality
* If it is reasonable, meaning that it doesn’t impose any excessive constraints on individuals and takes into consideration the rights of the other parties involved, their health and security, the proper functioning of an organization, and the costs related to it
[The moderate left-wing party Québec solidaire voted against Bill 62 because it says those targetted by the new law already face much social and human rights discrimination. In the final National Assembly debate on Bill 62 on October 17, party leader Amir Khadir said his party will vote ‘no’ “notwithstanding the fact we would prefer to do otherwise”. Khadir says Québec solidaire would like to see a charter of secularism in Quebec along the lines of the recommendations in the report of the Bouchard Taylor Commission delivered in 2008. The commission’s formal name was ‘Consultation Commission on Accommodation Practices Related to Cultural Differences’; background to it is here and here. Earlier this year, Québec solidaire proposed an ammendment to the law that the Christian cross which adorns the Quebec National Assembly be removed; the resolution was defeated. The party is proposing that the estimated $100 million of annual government subsidy to private (including religion-based) schools be phased out. As of October 17, the party’s website makes little direct mention of Bill 62.]
Bill 62 would mean no face coverings on the bus, minister confirms, by Philip Authier, Montreal Gazette, Oct 17, 2017
Quebec and its niqab legislation needs to stay out of women’s closets, op-ed commentary by Shree Paradkar, Toronto Star, Oct 17, 2017
… Bill 62, labelled as “an act to foster adherence to state religious neutrality,” is the face of contemporary dog whistle anti-Islamic politics couched as a unique commitment to secularism. Just leave that crucifix hanging on the wall behind the Quebec parliamentary speaker’s chair, please. That’s historical…
Does Quebec need a ‘charter of secularism’?, by Québec solidaire member Benoit Renaud, June 13, 2013