Quebec court suspends part of contentious face veil ban

Court issues stay against part of law that forces people to uncover their faces when receiving various public services.

    Quebec's face veil ban is thought to be the first of its kind in North America [Toussaint Kluiters/Reuters]
    Quebec's face veil ban is thought to be the first of its kind in North America [Toussaint Kluiters/Reuters]

    A Canadian court has suspended part of a controversial law that bans face coverings in the province of Quebec.

    The Superior Court of Quebec issued a stay on Friday against Bill 62, a law passed in the Quebec legislature in October that bars individuals from covering their faces when they receive or give public services.

    The court suspended Section 10 of the law, which forces individuals to uncover their faces to receive a range of services, including riding a public bus or seeing a doctor.

    The ruling comes after a lawsuit was filed last month by the National Council of Canadian Muslims, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) and Warda Naili, a Muslim woman who wears a full-face veil, also known as a niqab.

    The legal challenge argued that Bill 62 violates the constitutional rights of Muslim women, who will now have to remove their religious coverings to receive basic services.

    The groups also said the law will encourage xenophobia, harassment and discrimination. 


    "We're delighted that the Quebec Superior Court has suspended the Niqab ban - a law that tries to dictate to women what they can and cannot wear," the CCLA said in a statement on its website.

    "This is a huge victory but there's still work to be done," the group added.

    "The case will move forward on the merits and we need your support." 

    Quebec government 'not unsatisfied'

    The Quebec government has justified Bill 62, formally known as "an act to foster adherence to state religious neutrality", as part of an effort to ensure equal rights between citizens.

    Speaking to reporters, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard said he was "not unsatisfied" with the court's ruling.

    "I'm not unsatisfied with the judgment because there's no mention of a violation of the charters [of rights] or any major constitutional problem," he said, according to CBC News. 


    The Quebec government plans to release directives to allow for religious accommodations under Bill 62 by next summer.

    The law has been strongly criticised by civil liberty and human rights groups across Quebec and Canada, however.

    Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last month that the federal government was looking at ways it could possibly weigh in on the debate.

    "I think I've been very clear that I don't think a government should be legislating what a woman should or shouldn't be wearing. I don't think that's something that is right for Canada," Trudeau said, according to the Canadian Press.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News


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