October 19, 2017 6:57 pm

Roy Green: European Court of Human Rights has twice decided on face covering law

Quebec's Bill 62 mandates that to receive or provide public service in Quebec a person may not engage in such activity while wearing a face covering.

Michael Gottschalk/Photothek via Getty Images
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Quebec’s Bill 62 appears in compliance with not one, but two rulings by the European Court of Human Rights.

Bill 62 mandates that to receive or provide public service in Quebec a person may not engage in such activity while wearing a face covering.

The Quebec legislation has been roundly denounced as anti-Muslim, or perhaps more appropriately in 2017, Islamophobic.

READ MORE: Quebec’s religious neutrality bill passes with a vote of 66-51


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No doubt, Bill 62, if face covering in order to receive or provide a public service remains fundamental to the law, will be debated in Canadian courts with judges asked to strike it down.

Similar national legislated bans on full or partial face covering in Europe, first France, then Belgium, travelled a similar route before each law was adjudicated by the European Court of Human Rights.

When France passed into law a burka ban, the legislation was challenged as violating the religious freedom of Muslim women.  No, replied the ECHR in 2014.  The court decided the burka ban appropriately pursued the societal aim of people living with one-another.

Belgium too passed national legislation disallowing clothing which partly (niqab) or fully (burka) covers the face.

READ MORE: Quebec face-coverings ban leaves Muslims fearful: ‘Life will get harder’

Two Muslim women took the Belgian law before the ECHR. Their argument, as in the French case, focused on the right to religious freedom while adding the right to personal privacy.

In July of this year, the European Court of Human Rights repeated its 2014 support of the French no face coverings legislation by upholding the Belgian law.

On each occasion, the ECHR agreed face covering bans were in the public interest and supported the objective of diverse groups “living together.”

Austria has passed a face-covering ban law. German Chancellor Angela Merkel favours a burka ban, while Germany has also engaged in a national program of paying refugee claimants up to 1200 Euros if they agree to return to their home countries and renounce their refugee claims.

WATCH BELOW: Quebec bans face coverings: What you need to know about the controversial law

One would expect Quebec’s Bill 62 to not only immediately be in violation of M103, but to also begin to face human and religious rights court challenges leading to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Opponents are defining Bill 62 as an example of a human rights violation and new federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh has expressed his opposition. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau argues it is not up to the federal government to challenge Quebec. Is it ever? Could that be a decision made with an eye on 2019?

The European Court of Human Rights has twice in the past three years upheld national face-covering ban laws, a court which rules on human rights cases for 47 nations.

It would seem the ECHR would likely side with the Couillard government of Quebec and support Bill 62.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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