Quebec’s Burqa-Banning Charter Of Values Is Back

The worst part is that its main critics think it doesn't go far enough.

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Oct 18 2016, 8:55pm

A 2013 protest in Montreal. Photo via The Canadian Press.

Just three years after Quebec's proposed Charter of Values died in the provincial legislature, thanks to backlash that knocked the Parti Quebecois out of power, the Quebec Liberal Party has brought a watered-down version of the bill back.

The legislation, Bill 62, will require that most provincial employees — doctors, nurses, teachers, professors, bureaucrats — have their faces uncovered at work. Anyone obtaining services from those employees will, likewise, be forbidden from wearing a face-covering.

That bill was introduced as a moderate, less intrusive version of the PQ's values charter, but it hasn't made the idea any less controversial.

A Parliamentary committee in Quebec's National Assembly started studying the bill on Tuesday, and was immediately decried as counterproductive by a representative of a women's rights group called to testify.

Quebec's justice minister, Stéphanie Vallée, defended the bill, promising the committee that it maintains "respect for others" while also ensuring "security, identification, and communication"—three things, apparently, made impossible by a burqa or niqab.

Read More: Quebec's Values Charter Worse Than Expected

But the fiercest critics won't even appear before the committee to bash the bill. More than 20 groups, including Quebec's commission on religious accommodation, are boycotting the hearings. They're staying at home not because the bill goes too far—but because it doesn't go far enough.

Quebec's two main opposition parties, the PQ and the Coalition Avenir Quebec, agree.

"This bill worries me greatly because it's not legislation about the religious neutrality of the state, it's legislation which shoves Liberal multiculturalism down our throat," said Nathalie Roy, the CAQ's critic on religious neutrality, according to La Presse.

The legislation, entitled An Act to foster adherence to State religious neutrality and, in particular, to provide a framework for religious accommodation requests in certain bodies, will be studied by the committee until November 9. The PQ has already signalled their intent to try and amend the bill to expand its application.

Follow Justin Ling on Twitter.

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