Quebec is moving ahead with a law to ban face-coverings in the public sector in a move criticized as marginalizing Muslim women and inflaming anti-immigrant tensions in the mainly French-speaking Canadian province.
The proposed law prohibits anyone giving or receiving government services, such as a provincial government-issued health card, from wearing face-covering garments.
Quebec says the law is aimed at ensuring the religious neutrality of the state. Critics say a law is not required and only affects a small number of Muslim women who wear burqas or niqabs.
“It’s an unnecessary exercise,” said Amira Elghawaby, a spokeswoman for the National Council of Canadian Muslims, adding it could “isolate and victimize women who wear the face veil.”
Quebec’s justice minister has said the law is not an attack on Muslim women and “respects individual choices.”
The face-covering, or niqab, became a big issue in last year’s national Canadian elections, especially in Quebec, where the vast majority of the population supported a ban on them at citizenship ceremonies.