Ontario AG says Quebec law on religious neutrality violates charter rights


Causing further confusion amongst those affect Quebec politicians say the legislation does not mention when the ban on receiving services while wearing a face covering would come into effect immediately, as the implementation of the law is likely to be hindered by the many questions that remain.

It's estimated that between 50 and 100 women in Quebec wear a burka or niqab that covers their face.

It was extended to municipal services, including public transit, in an amendment made in August.

The former government wanted the case taken to the Supreme Court, but the incoming Liberal government of Justin Trudeau said it would not pursue the case and the woman was allowed to keep her face covered during the citizenship ceremony. "The state is not neutral when it requires a woman to reveal any part of her body against her conscience as a condition to receiving a public service to which she is entitled".

Following the adoption of the bill, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard said that in a "free and democratic society, public services should be given and received with an open face".

Quebec Justice Minister Stephanie Vallee first tabled the bill in 2015 after several years of contentious debates in the province over religious symbols in the public sphere and the issue of religious accommodation for minorities.

That's not sitting well with many including the union of STM employees which has said it has no interest in enforcing a law banning face coverings.

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"This is a bill about le vivre ensemble [living together in harmony], it's a bill about guidelines and clearly establishes neutrality of the state", she said.

Bill 62 has been in the National Assembly for the last two years.

"It seems like it's a made-up solution to an invented problem".

"This legislation is an unjustified infringement of religious freedoms and it is contrary to the values enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as Quebec's Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms", he added.

Denis Coderre, the mayor of Montreal, Quebec's largest city, has accused the provincial government of overstepping its authority by telling municipalities how they can administer public services.

"We don't know how this is going to be applied and how it will be enforced", said Gardee.