Ottawa bus drivers won’t be enforcing Quebec’s ban on face coverings on public transit when they work in Gatineau.
In a letter to Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson called Bill 62 “regressive” and an “infringement of the fundamental Charter of Rights.”
“I sincerely hope that … your government will abandon what can only be described as a thinly-veiled appeal to populist sentiment,” Watson wrote in the letter, which was distributed Wednesday.
The bill requires anyone receiving a public service to remove a face covering, including a niqab.
At first, the province’s Justice Minister Stephanie Vallee said the legislation would require people riding a bus or the subway to do so with their face uncovered for the entire journey.
But Vallee backtracked earlier Tuesday saying anyone whose fare required picture ID would be required to show their faces before entering; they would be allowed to don a covering after they’ve been identified.
Watson said that residents of Ottawa regularly interact with government services in Gatineau, which is right across the Ottawa River.
“I am saddened that, in doing so, they will not enjoy the same freedoms as they do in Ottawa,” he wrote.
While he says the bus drivers in Ottawa won’t be required to enforce the ban, he also went one step further to say they will be “instructed” to ignore it.
“The City of Ottawa will not be a party to this infringement of constitutional freedoms,” Watson wrote.
The bill, which was passed in the National Assembly last week, has seen many protests already, as people say it discriminates specifically against Muslim women who wear the niqab.
Commuters have donned masks, scarves and other clothes to cover their faces at bus stops around Montreal. One bus driver in Montreal did the same.
Read the full letter below.