A bill in Quebec that would force people to be unmasked when in receipt of a public service has been amended to include public transport which could see wearers of the Islamic full face veil banned from using local buses.
Bill 62 in the Quebec National Assembly would make it impossible for anyone wearing a mask or face covering to offer or receive public services, Canadian public broadcaster CBC reports.
The bill, which was originally proposed in 2015, has been the subject of controversy in the province with some asking for religious exemptions for Muslims.
On Tuesday, an amendment to the bill was put forward by Quebec Justice Minister Stéphanie Vallée which would see the reach of the bill extend to local municipalities, public transport, and the National Assembly itself. The original scope of the bill would have only included services provided by the provincial government.
Denis Coderre, the mayor of Quebec’s largest city Montreal, said that the bill oversteps the authority of the provincial government.
“When someone with a niqab arrives with their children, are we going to tell them, ‘You aren’t entering into the bus or we’re not giving you services?'” Coderre said at a meeting Wednesday morning.
The Montreal mayor has made it clear that he is a champion of multiculturalism and has been positive about the recent migrant influx across the Canadian border by thousands of asylum seekers. Coderre allowed the Olympic Stadium in the city to be converted to house asylum seekers earlier this month saying he welcomed the new arrivals on Twitter.
La ville de Montréal souhaite la bienvenue aux réfugiés haïtiens. Vous pouvez compter sur notre entière collaboration. Nap kin be fo.
— DenisCoderre (@DenisCoderre) August 2, 2017
Warda Naili, a Muslim woman in Quebec who wears a full face veil, told CBC she was scared of having to take off her niqab when getting on a bus saying: “It’s in front of everyone. It’s shaming to have to do it in front of everyone.”
The amendment to the Quebec bill is a stark contrast from the positions of the Canadian federal government led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Earlier this year, the federal government passed motion M103 which condemned all forms of “Islamophobia” though critics have called it an attack on free speech.
European countries have, over the last several years, started to ban the full-face Islamic veil in all areas of public life. The most recent country to ban the garment was Austria after the law was pushed by Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz.