Quebec passes bill banning facial coverings in public services

Quebec passes bill banning facial coverings in public services

Quebec’s National Assembly [official website] on Wednesday approved a measure to require those who wear face veils to remove them when using public services. The stated purpose of Bill 62 [text, PDF, in French] is to enforce compliance with the state’s religious neutrality.

Given the State’s religious neutrality, the purpose of this Act is to establish measures to foster adherence to such neutrality. For that purpose, the Act imposes a duty of religious neutrality, in particular, on personnel members of public bodies in the exercise of the functions of office.

The bill, which was introduced in 2015, passed 66-5 [official record, in French].

Thousands of Canadians will likely have to seek an accommodation to wear their religious and cultural garments in public as a result of the bill’s passage. As the bill is interpreted, face veils are not permitted on transit, in schools or in any other government facilities. Even though the accommodation is possible it must be in line with the neutrality interest of the state. Some members of the assembly promised that they will introduce another bill that will enforce secularism [transcript, in French] in Quebec by banning religious symbols for government officials in a position of “coercive authority,” such as judges, prosecutors and police officers, as well as primary and secondary school teachers.

Quebec’s action follows a European trend [JURIST report] requiring individuals who work in or receive public services to have their faces uncovered.