NO to Quebec Provincial Bill 94

Say No To Denying Women Essential Services Based On What They Wear!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


1. What does Bill 94 actually say?

Section 6 of Bill 94 reads, “The practice whereby a personnel member of the Administration or an institution and a person to whom services are being provided by the Administration or the institution show their face during the delivery of services is a general practice. If an accommodation involves an adaptation of that practice and reasons of security, communication or identification warrant it, the accommodation must be denied.” Bill 94 applies to:
  • All departments of Government,
  • School boards,
  • The Comité de gestion de la taxe scolaire de l’île de Montréal
  • Institutions accredited for purposes of subsidies under the Act respecting private education
  • Institutions whose instructional program is the subject of an international agreement within the meaning of the Act respecting the Ministère des Relations internationals
  • General and vocational colleges and the university institutions mentioned in paragraphs 1 to 11 of section 1 of the Act respecting educational institutions at the university level
  • Health and social service agencies and public institutions and private institutions under agreement governed by the Act respecting health services and social services
  • Intermediate resources, family type resources and private nursing homes governed by that Act, legal persons and joint procurement groups referred to in section 383 of that Act
  • James Bay Cree health and social services council established under the Act respecting health services and social services for Cree Native persons
  • Childcare centres, day care centres, home childcare coordinating offices and recognized home childcare providers subsidized under the Educational Childcare Act
  • All budget-funded bodies
  • All bodies whose personnel is appointed in accordance with the Public Service Act
  • All bodies a majority of the members or directors of which are appointed by the Government or by a minister and at least half of the expenditures of which are borne directly or indirectly by the consolidated revenue fund
  • All bodies whose capital stock forms part of the domain of the State
  • All government agencies listed in Schedule C to the Act respecting the process of negotiation of the collective agreements in the public and parapublic sectors (R.S.Q., chapter R-8.2)
  • The Lieutenant-Governor, the National Assembly, persons designated by the National Assembly to exercise a function under its authority and bodies to which the National Assembly or any of its committees appoints the majority of the members are considered to be bodies of the Administration.
  • Persons appointed or designated by the Government or a minister in the exercise of the functions assigned to them by law, the Government or the Minister are also considered to be bodies of the Administration.

2. Doesn’t the niqab promote oppression?

Many people believe that the niqab is a symbol of oppression.  However, policing women’s choices about their own bodies will neither promote equality nor end the oppression of women that is prevalent across all societies. Trading off women’s autonomy for equality at an institutional level actually promotes or at least maintains oppression rather than ameliorates it. Moreover, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms enshrines the freedoms of conscience, religion and expression.  It is not for the Canadian public, the courts, or any given Islamic scholar to determine whether Muslim women are religiously-mandated to wear the niqab; it is for each Muslim woman to decide the extent of her obligation within the parameters of her faith. The Supreme Court of Canada has affirmed that a religious practice is one that is sincerely, subjectively felt to be connected to the observance of one’s religion, regardless of whether or not the practice is universal, normative, or required by a religious authority (Syndicat Northcrest v. Amselem, 2004 SCC 47).

3. The niqab could be used as a cover for criminal or terrorist activity, so doesn’t the niqab pose a public security threat in situations where policy calls for one’s identity to be ascertained?

It goes without saying that someone who wears a niqab will have to show her face for the purposes of obtaining ID cards, passing through security checks, etc., and there are no reported cases of niqabis refusing to do so. Nor are there documented cases of criminals disguising themselves in niqabs to avoid detection (which would hardly be inconspicuous) in Canada. There is no indication that the law is designed to, or that it would, improve Quebecers’ security. It is misleading to assert that security considerations form the basis of this legislation and disingenuous to portray tolerance of the niqab and maintenance of habitual security practices as mutually exclusive. Accommodation will only take place to the extent that it is reasonable, as defined by the Supreme Court.
Bill 94 is clearly aimed at targeting Muslim women who wear the niqab. It is important to note that this proposed legislation emerged within a social context noted for anti-Muslim sentiment and this policy should attract a high level of scrutiny precisely because it targets a minority within a minority group. Bill 94 will serve to discriminate against an already marginalized group of women, many of whom are already coping with intersecting oppressions in the context of heightened racism and misunderstanding in a post-9/11 world.

4. Why should we have to accommodate the practices of people from countries that do not accommodate ours? Immigrants should adopt the values of the society they move to.

The official policy of multiculturalism, adopted by the federal government close to 40 years ago and enshrined in section 27 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, affirms that Canadians ofall ethnic and national origins can simultaneously retain diverse cultural values and participate fully in Canadian society. Even declaring Quebec to be a “secular society” does nothing to change the entrenched legal norms of religious freedom.

5. What rights and freedoms does the bill have an impact on?

Bill 94 will violate the rights and freedoms of Muslim women who choose to wear the niqab for reasons of faith. This is a breach of constitutional, human rights and international law:
  • the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
    • everyone is entitled to freedom of conscience, religion and expression, subject to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society (section 2, section 1)
    • Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability (section 15)
    • Notwithstanding anything in this Charter, the rights and freedoms referred to in it are guaranteed equally to male and female persons (section 28)
  • Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms
    • every person is entitled to freedom of religion (which includes the right to manifest it, according to the Bouchard-Taylor Commission), subject to proper regard for democratic values, public order and the general well-being of the citizens of Quebec, and every person shall exercise his rights without distinction based on sex or religion
  • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
    • everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion including the right to manifest his belief, and that he shall not be subject to coercion that would impair his ability to have or adopt a belief of his choice, subject only to such limitations as are necessary to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.

6. Doesn’t the bill help women who are forced to wear the niqab?

Barring a woman from social services, employment, health and education, as well as creating a climate of shame and fear around her is not an effective way to help her. It is untenable to state that forcing a woman to reveal part of her body will provide a remedy for women who are being forced to cover their bodies. It is just as likely, if not more likely, that women who are forced to wear the niqab will be pushed into further isolation by the refusal of essential services and employment. The appropriate way to address gender inequality is not to control women’s bodies but to focus on implementing poverty reduction programs and education initiatives around women’s rights.

Written by تحرير

May 13, 2010 at 2:39 pm


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