A coalition of Muslim groups and civil liberty advocates is challenging the constitutionality of Quebec’s controversial face-covering ban, arguing it “directly infringes on the freedom of religion of individuals.”The law requires those giving or receiving public services to do so with their faces uncovered.
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The challenge contests portions of Quebec’s religious neutrality law under both Quebec’s Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.The application was filed in Quebec Superior Court on today by the National Council of Canadian Muslims, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and Marie-Michelle Lacoste, who converted to Islam and wears a niqab. She now uses the name Warda Naili.
Lacoste says she would be “humiliated” if she were forced to remove her niqab for longer than “absolutely necessary for identification or security purporses.” It notes she has experienced an increase in “harassment and insults” since the law was passed.
The plaintiffs argue in court filing, “Such blatant and unjustified violations of freedom of religion, as well as of the quality guarantees of the Quebec and Canadian charters, have no place in Quebec or Canada.”
“These violations cannot be justified in Quebec’s free and democratic society.”
Quebec Justice Minister Stéphanie Vallée has said the law only applies when it’s required for communication, identification or security reasons. She said the law is not meant to be repressive.
The legislation has been the subject of questions and confusion since it became law last month.
It was panned by Quebec’s association of municipalities, as well as both outgoing Montreal mayor Denis Coderre and mayor-elect Valérie Plante.
Premier Philippe Couillard has maintained the law was crafted to be in compliance with both the provincial and Canadian charters.
Jean-François Lisée, the head of the Parti Québécois, which has pressed for an even stronger religious neutrality law, called the court challenge “extremely predictable.”