Controversial Bill-62 ignites debates

A new controversial bill in Québec, blocking anyone with a face covering from accessing public services, has sparked a debate across the country.

“I believe that Bill-62 will lead to marginalization, restriction of religious practices and loss of identity. That’s exactly the process of deculturation and that leads to the rise of violent extremism. Think for Action is extremely disappointed,” said Doctor Mukarram Zaidi, chair of the Calgary non-profit Think for Actions.

The provincial government said that the facial covering ban will apply to balaclavas, large scarves, large sunglasses and any overall facial coverings that prevent easy identification of people. The bill does not specifically target the hijab, burka or niqab.

Those who wear the niqab account for less than one per cent of the population in the province of Québec; this group will be disproportionately affected by the bill.

“If you act kindly and your being friendly people will like you,” said Sam Pan, SAIT business administration student.

Pan said that he thinks it does not matter if people have scarves, sunglasses, niqabs or other facial coverings because it is how people act that matters.

“I wouldn’t suggest it [banning facial coverings],” said Pan.

A survey conducted by Global News, indicates that the majority of Canadians support a religious neutrality law in their province that is similar to Bill-62.

In the survey, 64 per cent of Albertans supported Québec’s new bill, with only 36 per cent opposing it. Canadian support for religious neutrality laws was 68 per cent.

Bill-62 could specifically lead women who choose to wear the niqab from accessing public sectors such as transit and health care, said Zaidi, citing concern that this could increase infant mortality, still birth and miscarriage rates while decreasing female physical and mental health in the province by limiting access to health care.

“This bill is directly targeting 2000 females to not access public health; these females will not be able to access health care if they don’t have a car,” said Zaidi.

Zaidi said that Bill-62 lacks any religious neutrality and that it is specifically targeting Muslims.

“It’s the perfect dangerous identity politics,” said Zaidi.

Due to the effect this bill could have on a portion of the Québec population the constitutionality is in question because of the objectives and intent behind the law. Zaidi said that the law violates the constitutional rights Canadians have to freely practice their religion and freedom to equality.

Section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms states, “everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person.”

“Hopefully we will not [see this in Alberta] Our premier had a statement against that bill, so I think that we have more sanity in this province than we have in Québec,” said Zaidi.

“It [facial coverings] doesn’t make me feel unsafe. I’ve never got an uneasy feeling from it,” said Jenn Buczacky, a SAIT fourth-year electrician student.

“I don’t think that if someone covered their face they would be more likely to do something,” said Buczacky.

The Calgary non-profit, Think for Actions, said they are concerned that the bill is not designed to create and maintain religious neutrality and is instead looking to systemically promote anti-niqab beliefs.

“Whether we take this as a Muslim article of Muslim faith or not, I’m not really against or in favour of the niqab, but this is a basic human right. If these females believe that this is their religion I think they should be allowed to practice what they believe in,” said Zaidi.

Think for Actions raised concerns that Bill-62 specifically targets women who wear the niqab. Statistics Canada estimates that more than 114,000 Muslim women live in Québec and less than three percent wear the face covering. These niqab- and burka-wearing women account for 0.7 per cent of Québec’s population.

Think for Action has requested the Québec National Assembly repeal Bill-62.

The bill has been popular in Québec, and was created in the run up to an upcoming election year.

“I think it’s pathetic and it’s ridiculous that we are still doing this,” said Zaidi.

“All of us should be standing against it.”

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