As travellers, it’s our duty to speak out against the rise of fascism and improper violence by the state. This is a short political piece that gives readers insight into the current affairs of Québec, Canada.
If you’re from outside Canada, you may not know about Canada’s recent hullabaloo (nothing against Hullians* though). Québec had a bill before the provincial legislature, Bill 62, An Act to foster adherence to State religious neutrality and, in particular, to provide a framework for requests for accommodations on religious grounds in certain bodies.
That title is a little shocking, I know.
The bill proposed a number of amendments to provincial law, which included some administrative changes. However, most notably, it included the following:
9. Personnel members of bodies must exercise their functions with their face
uncovered, unless they have to cover their face, in particular because of their
working conditions or because of occupational or task-related requirements.
Similarly, persons receiving services from such personnel members must
have their face uncovered.
An accommodation that involves an adaptation of either of those rules is
possible but must be refused if the refusal is warranted in the context for security
or identification reasons or because of the level of communication required.
On October 18, 2017, the Québec National Assembly voted in favour of Bill 62.
This was supported by the provincial Liberal Party on a 66-51 vote, with all other parties rejecting the bill (by the way, the federal leader of the Liberal Party, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, refused to denounce the law, brushing off his moral responsibility in favour of division of powers).
Bill 62 is now the law of the land.
People in my city of Montréal gathered in small but widely publicised protests (as a Montrealer does), and students at universities and CEGEP schools quietly protested by wearing masks or sunglasses in class.
Oh ya, I forgot to tell you where the prohibition on face coverings applies, including:
- Public transit systems
- Schools, including publicly-funded colleges and universities
- Hospitals and clinics, including any publicly-funded doctor’s office
- Many public-service workplaces, including as an employee
It’s important to understand something about Québec. It has an Islamophobia problem. It has a serious problem with mosques being defaced, and a horrific case of a terrorist entering a mosque and killing faith-practising Muslims. Of course, he is not held as a terrorist by our criminal justice system.
The context of Bill 62 is one born from that putrid thing called hate. It is directed at the already-marginalised women who wear religious or cultural clothing that obfuscates the face, like a niqab. It is a fundamentally Islamophobic bill that hides behind the veil of security. A thorough research of online cases gives us few examples of masked or niqab-wearing criminals. The veil of security bears no weight.
This law is a violation of our rights as people and as residents of Canada. It is a clear violation of our Charter and natural rights to religious freedom and freedom from unjust state interference. And if we are not a society that protects the few from the tyranny of the majority, we cannot claim ourselves as moral. We must reject racism in all its forms.
* Hull is a city that borders our nation’s capital, Ottawa. It’s in Quebec. Hence, “hullabaloo being an offensive term”.