Concordia University students protest face-covering ban legislation

Concordia University students at the Montreal Courthouse on Wednesday, November 8, 2017. Felicia Parrillo/Global News

Concordia University students delivered almost 1,000 letters addressed to Quebec Justice Minister Stéphanie Vallée, at her Montreal office at the courthouse on Wednesday. The letters condemn the government for Bill 62, the legislation that bans face coverings.

“These letters are Concordia students’ voices, our voices to oppose this law,” said Concordia student Sarah Abou-Bakr. “We want the message to be delivered, to be clear, that [the law] is putting communities at risk.

READ MORE: Quebec minister says ‘person’s choice’ to hide face – but you can be refused services

Bill 62 bans people from giving or receiving public services if their face is covered unless an exemption has been granted.

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The legislation, which was tabled by Vallée in 2015, would block access to services, such as public transit, health services or classes at a public school or CEGEP.

WATCH: Bill 62 controversy

Since it was passed, the legislation has been widely condemned, with critics saying it targets Muslim women. The legislation is also facing a legal challenge.

The National Council of Canadian Muslims, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and Marie-Michelle Lacoste, a Quebec woman who converted to Islam in 2003, filed the challenge in Quebec Superior Court on Nov. 7.

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

“As a Muslim woman, I know that even if I don’t wear a niqab, such a bill, a law that is unnecessary, is really putting my safety at risk,” said Abou-Bakr.

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The letters, signed by Concordia students, denounce what they call the “racism, sexism, and Islamophobia, which will disproportionately affect Muslim women.”

READ MORE: Quebec’s face-coverings law hit with legal challenge

The students say they hope that their voices will bring change.

“I’m here on behalf of all the 35,000 students at Concordia, that are not content with the law, don’t agree with the law and want it to be scrapped in its entirety,” said Omar Riaz, the general co-ordinator of the Concordia Student Union.

Vallée has said the legislation doesn’t target any religious group and says most Quebecers agree with the principle behind the bill.

READ MORE: More than 130 groups to gather for anti-racism rally in Montreal

The Concordia Student Union in one of the 130 groups expected to participate in a demonstration against hate, racism and Bill 62, taking place Sunday in downtown Montreal.

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