Quebec National Assembly in final debate over face covering bill

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WATCH: Quebec’s so-called religious neutrality bill is now in the final rounds of debate. As Global's Raquel Fletcher reports, Bill 62 has been roundly criticized for unfairly targeting Muslim women – Oct 17, 2017

After the mosque shooting in Quebec City, the National Assembly backed down from debate over religious symbols, but over the summer, they went back to work on Bill 62.

READ MORE: Will Quebec stop fighting over religious symbols?

Once adopted, the new law would ban face coverings while giving or receiving government services.

“It’s only about face covers — who wears face covers? Muslim women,” said Concordia University political science professor, Daniel Salée.

The Canadian Council of Muslim Women says in debating and adopting this bill the government is ignoring real issues.

“It is offensive, but beyond that, it’s not efficient. How is this making Quebec a better society? How is this making Quebec a neutral society, a secular society? I don’t see that it has any value,” said Samaa Elibyari, a spokesperson in Montreal.

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Once adopted, the law would come into effect immediately, even though the minister said guidelines of how to apply the law could come as late as July next year.

READ MORE: Muslim groups call for action on Islamophobia

“Working groups are going to be put in place with municipalities, education,” said Justice Minister Stéphanie Vallée.

The working groups will also be put in place with daycares and transport companies. Taking the bus, for example, is considered a public service and so, would have to be done with the face uncovered.

Muslim women would also be allowed to apply for a religious exemption. It begs the question, how would the law be enforced?

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The minister didn’t answer. Instead, she said: “The fact of having the face covered is not in regards to only women.”

READ MORE: Quebec political parties can’t agree on chadors in schools

Of course, enforcement wouldn’t be an issue if, as Professor Daniel Salée believes, a court strikes down the law.

“It’s not acceptable to target a group, or to say that one religious group is problematic. Of course, the law doesn’t say that, but in its implementation, that’s what it boils down to,” Salée said.

The professor said he expects advocacy groups to mount a legal challenge.

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