Quebec is set to pass Bill 62 today, a rather controversial new piece of legislation that is effectively a ban on burkas and niqabs.
Officially dubbed an “Act to foster adherence to State religious neutrality,” Bill 62 will potentially force anyone in Quebec wearing a face-covering piece of apparel to remove the item when receiving public services.
But there’s a bit more to the bill, and the major details aren’t set in stone, yet. To give you an idea of what to expect out of Bill 62, here’s a basic breakdown of the relevant facts.
Originally, Bill 62 was just for provincial government departments and institutions funded by the province, like universities.
But then an amendment was made in August that will extend the bill’s powers to Quebec towns/cities, school boards, public health services and public transit authorities.
That last bit is a bit troubling. It will literally be the law that anyone wearing a face-covering piece of religious attire must remove it before getting on the bus or metro.
Public sector employees will also be affected.
Justice Minister Stéphanie Vallée, who original proposed the amendment, said “as long as the service is being rendered” then a person’s face must be completely uncovered, reports CBC.
But a ban on face-covering religious attire isn’t everything included in Bill 62.
The bill also outlines a “a framework for religious accommodation requests.” Certain stipulations for religious accommodation requests are stated, like an adherence to equality and the right for every citizen “to be treated without discrimination.”
With that last bit in mind, it may be possible for a person asked to remove a burka or niqab to request an accommodation. Some say that this is a weakness of the bill, since accommodations and exemptions may be thrown around all of the time.
Others could see this as a glimmer of light in an otherwise troubling bill.
This part of the bill, however, won’t become law until next year, which adds another layer of uneasiness to Bill 62.
There also isn’t any set procedure for how the ban will be enforced.
For example, if a bus driver demands a rider remove their religious attire, how exactly that will happen within the lines of the law hasn’t been spelled out. A special administrative committee is being set up to assess these scenarios.
Somewhat fortunately, the fact that strict, set-in-stone rules aren’t being outlined in the bill may be a good thing.
Legal experts speaking to CBC expect plenty of challenges to Bill 62, which will ideally amend some of its more troubling aspects.