One day after the surprise victory of the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) in the recent Québec election, Premier-elect François Legault told a news conference that he plans to invoke the notwithstanding clause to finally pass legislation that will ban religious symbols for employees in “positions of authority” throughout the province.
In 2016, Muslim Link was asked to help Ottawa transit user Hailey DeJong find the OC Transpo bus driver who stood up for her when she was verbally attacked for wearing niqab by another passenger while on his bus. She had managed to get a selfie with him, but had not taken his name and she wanted to make sure that OC Transpo knew how much she appreciated his support.
Muslim Link had the opportunity to interview Pakistani Canadian social media influencer Aima Warriach who wears niqab. Her profile as part of The Sisters Project by artist Alia Youssef recently appeared in The Globe and Mail. Aima is the winner of the Create Dialogue Challenge via Adobe 1324 and TEDxTeen. She is also a 2017 MAX Gala finalized in their Film for Change video competition. She is currently studying politics and governance at Ryerson University in Toronto.
The Canadian Association of Muslim Women in Law (CAMWL) is dismayed at the recent passage of Bill 62: “An Act Respecting Religious Neutrality”, by the Liberal Government of Quebec. The law discriminatorily targets Muslim women who wear face veils. It prohibits public servants (including health care professionals, teachers and daycare employees) who wear the niqab from providing services to the public, and prevents veiled Muslim women from receiving provincial and municipal public services (including riding the bus, visiting the library and seeing a doctor).
CAMWL condemns this legislation as both discriminatory and unconstitutional for the following reasons:
What do women who wear the niqab and women who choose to go topless in Canada have in common? Both make a lot of people very uncomfortable. Both have had their rights upheld by Canadian courts. And, both may be overreacting against real or perceived attitudes towards female sexuality.
The recent Supreme Court of Canada judgment in the NS case – deciding whether a woman who brought charges of childhood sexual abuse against male relatives could wear her niqab while providing testimony – sparked much discussion that reflected the ongoing tension of a Canadian society where misperceptions and mistrust of anything associated with Islam remain a constant.
Part of those tensions reflect an Islamophobic lens that, as University Of Ottawa professor Natasha Bakht points out, positions the niqab as a symbol that is “experienced by non-wearers as a form of confrontation or criticism against national ways of living and dressing.”