Montreal: Muslim and civil rights groups on Tuesday challenged a Quebec ban on officials or anyone receiving public services from covering their faces, arguing it infringes on women’s and Muslim religious rights.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) and the National Council of Canadian Muslims asked the Quebec Superior Court to rule on the constitutionality of the law passed in October.
They also asked for a stay of its implementation.
Marie-Michelle Lacoste, who converted to Islam and wears a niqab, was also listed as a plaintiff in court documents.
Ihsaan Gardee of the National Council of Canadian Muslims told a press conference the law is “discriminatory, unconstitutional and unnecessary.”
It “excludes and stigmatizes an already marginalized vulnerable minority of women and by extension, the larger Quebec Muslim community,” he said.
“Our governments simply have no place dictating to a woman what she can and cannot wear,” echoed the CCLA’s Cara Faith Zwibel.
“And no woman should have to choose between acting in accordance with her sincerely held religious beliefs and accessing basic public services like taking her child to school on a public bus or visiting a doctor’s office,” she said.
The legislation applies to bureaucrats, police officers, teachers, and bus drivers, as well as doctors, midwives and dentists who work in publicly-funded hospitals or clinics.
The government has said the law was intended to improve communication, identification and safety, and insisted that it applies to all face coverings and does not target Muslim women.
But critics say it will effectively marginalize Muslim women by limiting their access to government jobs and services.
“I should see your face, and you should see mine,” Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard said of Bill 62 in October.
On Tuesday, he said he was confident that the courts would uphold the measure.