NYT: Quebec’s new ban on the face veil is Islamophobic

The New York Times continues its move toward the Regressive Left (really, Lindy West as a columnist?) with the op-ed below (click to go to the piece). The author, Martin Patriquin, is a journalist from Montreal who writes for iPolitics.

The story is that in mid-October Quebec passed a law banning face coverings (not hijabs or niqabs, but any covering of the face itself, which would also include face-obscuring scarves, sunglasses, or anti-disease masks) for those receiving public services or working in government jobs. Face coverings are not banned in most other circumstances, but of course nearly all those affected by the law will be face-veiling Muslim women, which the article at the top estimates to be about 100 women in a province of about eight million Quebecers. The link in the first sentence of this paragraph leads you to this:

The Quebec provincial legislature on Wednesday barred people who are wearing face coverings from receiving public services or working in government jobs, a move that opponents criticized as unfairly singling out Muslims.

The law will prohibit public workers like doctors and teachers from covering their faces at work, and will effectively bar Muslim women who wear face veils from using public transportation or obtaining public health care services, although it will be possible to apply for exemptions.

Proponents said the legislation would ensure state religious neutrality, and Quebec’s minister of justice, Stéphanie Vallée, who sponsored the bill, said it would foster social cohesion.

But Canadian Muslim groups have long complained that the legislation, which languished for years before it was passed, 66 to 51, on Wednesday, would penalize Muslims, particularly in a province where few women wear face coverings.

But this bit is weird (from top article):

Quebec’s justice minister, Stéphanie Vallée, recently confirmed that the ban would include not only Muslim veils but accessories like sunglasses as well. This is ripe for satire similar to that inflicted on Quebec’s infamous language police, which must ensure that English on signs is less prominent than the French. It will be up to bus drivers to not only ferry passengers, but to measure the size and tint of their spectacles.

Now I don’t approve of the no-sunglasses on public transportation law, which doesn’t comport with any good reason I can see for the other bans, but in general the law seems reasonable, especially given Quebec’s long history, documented in the article, of laïcité: the kind of public secularism practiced in France. (France banned all public wearing of face veils in 2010.) But truly, if they really don’t allow women to cover their faces with sunglasses in government jobs, then they also must prohibit women from wearing sunglasses on public transportation!).

Patriquin, however, sees Islamophobia in this practice.

Canada is perhaps best known for its cheery multiculturalism and its equally cheery prime minister, Justin Trudeau. Yet Quebec, the province where Mr. Trudeau spent much of his life, last month put a ban on the face coverings worn by a handful of Muslim women, prompting a fractious debate over the place of non-Christian religions in Canada’s only French-speaking province.

The law says that anyone giving or receiving a public service must do so without a covered face for “security or identification reasons.” It doesn’t ban head scarves. It doesn’t include the words “niqab” or “burqa,” Muslim headdresses that cover all or part of the face. And public officials have gone to great lengths to argue that the vague and poorly written law is not anti-Muslim.

Still, it’s hard to escape the law’s anti-Muslim intent: Few people other than some Muslim women cover their faces. It will marginalize Muslims, especially women, who will feel scrutinized, if not persecuted, even if they wear only a head scarf.

The law does have roots in Quebec’s history and culture. Quebecers have chronic discomfort with public displays of religion. Many people in the province have bleak memories of the era before the secular strides of the Quiet Revolution in 1960 when the Roman Catholic Church dominated public life.

Perhaps some people who voted for this law did indeed have “anti-Muslim intent,” but in fact there are good secular reason—reasons having nothing to do with Islam—to show your face in the situations covered under the law. Imagine being taught by somebody whose face you couldn’t see, or be treated by a doctor or meeting a government official whose face is obscured! Yes, there may be few Muslim women who cover their faces, but surely there will be more, and at any rate what matters here is the principle of seeing your fellow citizens face to face in important situations, not the number of people affected. And no, I don’t want to be taught by someone wearing sunglasses that cover their face, so any face-covering in this kind of non-public situation seems odious.

I have to say that I don’t object to this law. Rather, I favor it, and for the same reason Christopher Hitchens favored the anti-veiling law of France passed seven years ago. Writing in Slate in 2010, Hitchens emphasized that the secular value of seeing someone’s face in certain situations overrides whatever religious arguments there are for veiling:

Ah, but the particular and special demand to consider the veil and the burqa as an exemption applies only to women. And it also applies only to religious practice (and, unless we foolishly pretend otherwise, only to one religious practice). This at once tells you all you need to know: Society is being asked to abandon an immemorial tradition of equality and openness in order to gratify one faith, one faith that has a very questionable record in respect of females.

. . . Not that it would matter in the least if the Quran said otherwise. Religion is the worst possible excuse for any exception to the common law. Mormons may not have polygamous marriage, female circumcision is a federal crime in this country, and in some states Christian Scientists face prosecution if they neglect their children by denying them medical care. Do we dare lecture the French for declaring simply that all citizens and residents, whatever their confessional allegiance, must be able to recognize one another in the clearest sense of that universal term?

So it’s really quite simple. My right to see your face is the beginning of it, as is your right to see mine. Next but not least comes the right of women to show their faces, which easily trumps the right of their male relatives or their male imams to decide otherwise. The law must be decisively on the side of transparency. The French are striking a blow not just for liberty and equality and fraternity, but for sorority too.

I dislike talk of “rights”, and of “right X trumps right Y”, as assertions of “rights” are not arguments. But what I believe Hitchens is talking about here are societal values: the utilitarian value in society of mandating seeing someone’s face in certain situation versus that of allowing religious people to dress in the way their religion dictates.

How I miss that man! At any rate, Patriquin apparently sees no public, secular value in seeing one’s face in these situations, and simply calls the bill anti-Muslim—a violation of the freedom of religion. Would he mind if his kids were taught by a teacher whose head was completely covered? Or that people with covered faces could walk into banks? Or if someone with a sack over their head testified in court? He argues this:

Religious face coverings are divisive, even among Muslims. Yet the freedom to practice one’s religion is enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The National Council of Canadian Muslims, along with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and a Quebec Muslim who wears a veil, recently filed a legal challenge of the law, calling it a collection of “blatant and unjustified violations of freedom of religion.”

Quebec’s government has not only opened itself up to legal challenges, it has also put the province in the dubious company of countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran, where the governments also dictate what a woman can or cannot wear.

Sorry, but there is no comparison here. Muslims are allowed to cover their faces under the new law, except in situations where it violates the “equality and openness” principle underscored by Hitchens. (I still object to the public transportation thing.) In Iran and Saudi Arabia, all women have to veil, and for religious rather than secular reasons. Further, the law in Quebec applies to both sexes, not just to women, and so is not nearly as gender-oppressive as what Saudi Arabia and Iran do. As Hitchens points out in his piece, the issue of whether Muslim “choose” to wear the veil is up for grabs, and my own view is that this kind of “choice” very often reflects familial and social pressure that begins at an early age.

65 Comments

  1. Posted November 9, 2017 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    No, it is not Islamaphobic. It is a manifestation of government’s desire to use face recognition software and CTTV street camera footage to track your every movement. I think we all need to go masked (from the neck up for now) to thwart the government’s desire to control our movements and actions.

    And, I hate the term Islamaphobia. I do not fear Islam. I fear idiots who believe dangerous nonsense and these are not confined to Islam by any means.

  2. Posted November 9, 2017 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    I think there is another justification for the ban.

    I teach at a state university and although I’d love to teach as many extra courses at community colleges that I could cram into my schedule I’m limited in the number of hours I can work for the state. This is supposedly done for my protection because although I really would like to work more hours its always possible I was subtly coerced by my employer to do so.
    This applies to veiling. Women say they choose to wear the veil but we know that many are coerced to some degree by their community to wear it.

    • Craw
      Posted November 9, 2017 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

      Yes, and this was explicit in the debates over this law (which has been in various stages of consideration for a long time). The critics here have notably failed to address this point. There’s an analogous situation with domestic abuse responses from police. In some jurisdictions they must, by law, separate the couple after a domestic violence call, even if they both say they don’t want to be separated. In some jurisdictions if there is a 911 call and injuries charges must be laid, even if the victim doesn’t want them made. Similar reasoning.
      In situations where we know there is coercion in some cases it’s not always as simple as some think.

  3. Posted November 9, 2017 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    I don’t see what the problem is. This new law does not ban the veil completely, it only bans its use in certain situations. If, as muslims often tell me, the veil is not an instrument of oppression of women but an expression of their faith, then they wouldn’t have any problem with temporarily removing it in the situations described by this new law.

    • Posted November 9, 2017 at 11:22 am | Permalink

      Indeed, if it’s an expression of secure faith, temporary removal should not be a problem. But it’s unfortunately not. I’ve heard no valid arguments that represent obligated religious garb as not oppressive.

    • Posted November 10, 2017 at 11:39 am | Permalink

      It bans them from getting medical services, riding public transit, asking a librarian for help in a public library … that’s pretty draconian. More later on a few other aspects which I think are important, too.

      • Posted November 12, 2017 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

        No it doesn’t. All they have to do is take off their veils while they receive the service in question. It’s no worse than me having to take off my balaclava to go into a bank.

        • Posted November 14, 2017 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

          There is a fundamental asymmetry – the bank is a private institution. The others are public services (or are at one remove). We already have trouble with recent immigrants integrating; and now they will have to choose between religion and getting health care or using the library? Not if I can have anything to do with it. And this is *Quebec*, we wear head coverings in the winter already. Why has this *never* come up until now? (The alternative, that this an attempt to do massive surveillance is also possible, and equally reprehensible, but I doubt that’s really it – too logistically awkward.)

          • phoffman56
            Posted November 14, 2017 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

            “…we wear head coverings in the winter…”

            I thought this was about FACE coverings, not HEAD coverings.

            And needed cold weather face coverings are about as easy as any other of the obvious caveats required in a law about ‘banning’ face coverings in public. The Quebec law asks for less than that, though not the France law. If legislators are too stupid to write a law which deals with the trivial exceptions, and the courts are too inflexibly stupid to be able to deal with them, then society is in bad shape, isn’t it?

            I’m afraid the arguments given against this law are singularly unimpressive, as expected when coming from politicians, but unexpected here.

          • phoffman56
            Posted November 14, 2017 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

            “…we wear head coverings in the winter…”

            I thought this was about FACE coverings, not HEAD coverings.

            The need for face coverings in really cold weather is probably the easiest of all the caveats which need to be in such a law. If the legislators are really unable to deal with these caveats, and the courts are unable to adjudicate something that relatively simple, such a society is in pretty bad shape.

            I’m afraid the arguments here against such a legal ban are singularly unimpressive. That might be expected from politicians, including young Mr. Trudeau who I support on lots of things; but unexpected here. See my other exchange with Keith.

            • phoffman56
              Posted November 14, 2017 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

              Sorry! Something went temporarily wrong the first time, so I unnecessarily redid and edited slightly.

          • Posted November 14, 2017 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

            Nobody is being asked to choose between religion or using the library. No religion mandates covering the face.

  4. tubby
    Posted November 9, 2017 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    This hurts ninjas far more than Muslims. A Muslim may choose to not wear the veil, but what is a ninja without their mask? How can society have fallen so far that we would drive spies and assassins from our midst with this onerous law requiring them to reveal their faces while on the job? This will only lead to ninjas being killed after being outed!

    • Curt Nelson
      Posted November 9, 2017 at 11:08 am | Permalink

      Good point.

    • Paul S
      Posted November 9, 2017 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

      Will no one think of the clowns!

    • Posted November 9, 2017 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

      … and the Invisible Man is completely screwed, no one will be able to recognise him.

      Full face covering have practical uses, like when in a sand storm, in the company of a pathogen or down a.. eh, manhole but otherwise wear it a home and not behind a counter.
      I need to see your lips moving as my hearing is slightly under par.

  5. Craw
    Posted November 9, 2017 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    I have supported the Quebec law from the start. Much more rational than France ‘s law.

    • Posted November 9, 2017 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

      Looks like you bet on the wrong horse. From the article cited; “Legal experts dismissed the law as unconstitutional and said they expected the courts to strike it down.”

      • Craw
        Posted November 9, 2017 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

        Ahh, “legal experts”.

        • Posted November 9, 2017 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

          I know, right? I assume the Parliamentarians who sponsored the bill also had their legal experts who helped them fashion a law that would pass constitutional muster.

          I should be a legal expert. Pays better than science, I bet.

  6. nwalsh
    Posted November 9, 2017 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    When the original story broke in the Globe and Mail the comments were probably 80 percent in favour of the law.

  7. Posted November 9, 2017 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    The critics of this seem to be all over the place. One minute they are talking about discrimination against millions of Muslims and the next they are saying only a handful of them wear face coverings anyway.

  8. Steve Gerrard
    Posted November 9, 2017 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    Religious freedom is the freedom to believe as you wish, not the freedom to do whatever you believe in. The Rastafarians were allowed to believe in marijuana, but not to smoke it on the bus.

  9. Hemidactylus
    Posted November 9, 2017 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    Though this is Canada and not the US that is being scrutinized, my observation still holds weight. In a venue where Free Speech is the most Sacred, very highly valued thing that, the notions of free exercise (and given a recent blog thread…freedom to tote guns) are most easily circumscribed or devalued. Is the Bill of Rights as incorporated down to the states on a cafeteria menu here? I’ll have what he’s having, hold the mayo.

  10. Carey Haug
    Posted November 9, 2017 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    A big problem with ancient religions is that they often endorse practices which don’t make sense such as prayer and are harmful such as human sacrifice, slavery, and the subjugation of women.

    I don’t know about Canada, but in the US, freedom of religion is about the government not imposing a particular religion on its citizens. It should not mean tolerating behavior that endangers safety and violates important cultural norms such as being able to see a person’s face.

    • Hemidactylus
      Posted November 9, 2017 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

      Two clauses: Establishment and Free Exercise. Granted there should be limits to such exercise (ie-circumscription). Long ago the US ruled against Mormon polygamy. Yet Santeria may slaughter animals as they believe. I personally think religionists should be able to partake in hallucinogens, though it’s not to my liking.

  11. Frank Bath
    Posted November 9, 2017 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    One certainly shouldn’t wear a face mask in a bank, nor in court of course.

    • Craw
      Posted November 9, 2017 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

      In Canada a Muslim woman was allowed to testify against an accused while wearing a veil.

  12. Ken Kukec
    Posted November 9, 2017 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    I do not know Canadian law so, per Proposition 7 of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus, must remain silent on that topic. 🙂

    Under the US First Amendment, however, I think the outcome should be that a facially neutral law can withstand a religious challenge unless there is evidence that the facial neutrality is pretextual — viz., that the law was enacted with the intent to disadvantage a particular religion.

    I say should be because it is well-nigh impossible to say what the outcome actually would be. SCOTUS’s Free Exercise clause jurisprudence is a doctrinal jumble. Why, for example, Santeria practitioners are exempt from laws prohibiting animal sacrifice, while Native Americans are not similarly exempt from laws prohibiting peyote use, is a distinction I’ve never been able to grasp.

    • Posted November 10, 2017 at 11:43 am | Permalink

      I am glad you brought up pretextuality, Ken, because that’s exactly where this may go. There are two reasons to suspect this:

      (1) Quebec still has many “public displays of Christianity” that the powers that be refuse to remove. Most notable are the crosses on Mount Royal in Montreal and the one *hanging in the National Assembly* in Quebec. (That’s a provincial legislature building, for those who don’t know.)

      (2) Why has this never come up until now? Quebecers wear face coverings all the time during the famous winters, especially while participating in the winter sports they love so much.

  13. Hemidactylus
    Posted November 9, 2017 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    Jerry said above: “Imagine being taught by somebody whose face you couldn’t see, or be treated by a doctor or meeting a government official whose face is obscured!”

    People taking online courses probably don’t see the instructor’s face unless on webcam. Doctor’s wear face masks or other protective gear when warranted. All government officials wear a mask or veil that obscures their true agenda. Ok that last one was a facetious bit of wordplay. Sorry.

  14. JH
    Posted November 9, 2017 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    The irony is that this law – seeking to empower women – simply removes choice in a different way.

    Good intentions perhaps. Poor results in reality. Now women who may choose to wear religious headwear have that choice limited by this new law.

    • Posted November 10, 2017 at 6:45 am | Permalink

      No they don’t. They can still wear the veil most of the time. The law just prescribes situations where they must temporarily remove it.

      If the wearing of the veil is a choice by the woman as you claim, it would not be an issue for her.

  15. Ken Kukec
    Posted November 9, 2017 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    Imagine being taught by somebody whose face you couldn’t see …

    I was taught in grade school by nuns. We couldn’t see much of them, and what we could, we didn’t wanna. 🙂

  16. Jan Looman
    Posted November 9, 2017 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    I think one of the problems in this discussion is that an important bit of background is lost/neglected. In Quebec there is a long tradition of intolerance of “the other” outside of Montreal, which is very culturally diverse and liberal. The language laws briefly mentioned in the discussion are only one example of that.

    The referendum for Quebec separation was motivated to a large extent from fear that French (Quebec) culture was being jeopardized by Anglophone/allophone encroachment and limits are placed on immigration in order to protect the French (Quebec) culture.

    While I personally don’t have an issue with the law – I agree that you should be willing to show your face if receiving public services, otherwise the security measure granted by picture ID is lost – there can be little doubt that it is directed toward Muslims. A lot of the rhetoric surrounding it makes that clear. As well, to my knowledge there is not, and never has been, a problem with teachers wearing scarves and big sunglasses while trying to teach classes. Likewise, people wearing big sunglasses and scares while receiving public service are always willing to remove them.

    If the legislation is directed toward addressing those problems then that is like passing a law to ensure the sun rises every morning.

  17. Posted November 9, 2017 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    I strongly disagree with this law. The fact that it might affect only 100 Muslim women is testimony to its pettiness. Also, I believe it egregiously violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, not that the Quebec government cares much about that.

    Obviously, face covering must be removed to get a drivers license picture and things like that, but to ride the metro or attend college?

    • Posted November 9, 2017 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

      I agree. The law is simple vindictiveness — it prevents face veils on public transit, without giving any argument as to why that is important. For that matter, it is protecting public safety by preventing bus riders who have bad colds from wearing face masks covering their nose and mouth. Not mention the vital safety concern of making sure that you don’t wear sunglasses on the bus on a bright day.

      • Craw
        Posted November 9, 2017 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

        In Canada we had Muslims claim they could give evidence, get drivers licenses, etc veiled.
        You seem to support these provisions. But you still want to call its other supporters vindictive.

        • Craw
          Posted November 9, 2017 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

          The law does not mention busses. That is a hostile inference drawn by critics of the law. The government has specifically denied such interpretations. The critics here are not discussing the law as drafted, instead they are swallowing hostile characterizations of it. Any vindictiveness is in that characterization not the law.

          Some of this alarmist sounds like the gun lobby on the right to keep arms: “repeal would let the government cut yours off at the shoulder!”

          • Posted November 10, 2017 at 11:46 am | Permalink

            Riding a bus *is* a public service, and the denial you mentioned is, from what I recall, a backpedal anyway.

            But public transit aside, there are many other situations which have to also be addressed.

            Furthermore, there’s the general “imagine it in reverse” question.

      • Craw
        Posted November 9, 2017 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

        I challenge you to find the provision of the actual law, not a characterization, that mentions sunglasses on buses.

        • Posted November 9, 2017 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

          In this post, above, was the statement that

          “Quebec’s justice minister, Stéphanie Vallée, recently confirmed that the ban would include not only Muslim veils but accessories like sunglasses as well.”

          Jerry seemed to be unsure of whether he could support that. Do you argue that the justice minister never said that, or didn’t mean it to apply to sunglasses? As I understand, riding on buses is interpreted as “receiving public services”.

          • Craw
            Posted November 9, 2017 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

            The same minister you quote denied the law would be applied on public transport etc. as or dark or reflective sunglasses, you should not be able to testify wearing sunglasses should you? Or pose for your driver’s license? Or refuse to take them off when a cop or guard wants to check your id?

            • Posted November 9, 2017 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

              I’m glad to hear that the law will not be applied on buses — Jerry’s article indicated that it would, and cited a New York Times article that said that

              “The law will prohibit public workers like doctors and teachers from covering their faces at work, and will effectively bar Muslim women who wear face veils from using public transportation or obtaining public health care services, although it will be possible to apply for exemptions.”

              I’m glad to hear that this is a mistaken report. Of course a general ban while “receiving public services” is too broad. I suspect that most people who supported the law did so because they wanted to discriminate against Muslims.

              • Brian salkas
                Posted November 10, 2017 at 1:54 am | Permalink

                “I suspect that most people who supported the law did so because they wanted to discriminate against Muslims”
                Honestly, I see no other compelling reason to be in favor of this. I think the law sounds ridiculous.

  18. Craw
    Posted November 9, 2017 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

    So, a man in a Jason-like ski mask shows up at the local playground in July. Three burly young men in face masks enter a bank on a pleasant spring day. A man with a stocking on his head comes into the convenience store.
    Reactions?
    Placing restrictions on face coverings is not new, not irrational, not vindictive, not unusual. The Quebec law places restrictions on being masked in certain, reasonably well defined, situations, such as when testifying, or getting a license, or proving identity, being a traffic cop.

    • Posted November 9, 2017 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

      I would expect quite profound reactions but none of those things are illegal to do.

      • Craw
        Posted November 9, 2017 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

        Actually, masks in banks are illegal.

        • Posted November 9, 2017 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

          Maybe in Canadia they are but, AFAICT, in the USofA it is complicated. Many states have no laws whatsoever. In the states which have anti-mask laws, banks are not singled out; http://www.anapsid.org/cnd/mcs/maskcodes.html

          Many of the state laws which make it illegal to wear a mask make it illegal to wear masks (or otherwise hid your identity) anywhere, with exceptions of course. I presume the new Quebec law also has exceptions and I am sure that all the ambiguity surrounding that is being being milked as much as possible by both sides.

          Perhaps there is a federal US-a-n law that makes bank mask wearing illegal and it probably supersedes state law.

          • Posted November 9, 2017 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

            It is not illegal in Canada either, AFAIK. Section 351(2) (Disguise with Intent) requires an intent to commit an indictable offense while wearing the mask. Of course, being legal and being wise are two different things.

    • Posted November 9, 2017 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

      The events you cite should and would be dealt with according to whether they indicate imminent threat, not by some draconian blanket law forbidding veils while using public services.

      This disgusting law should and, I believe, will be struck down. The fact that the CCLA is challenging it speaks volumes.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted November 9, 2017 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

      I think for analytical purposes, three situations should be distinguished: 1) prohibitions on conduct that gives rise to a reasonable suspicion of unlawful behavior; 2) neutral laws that apply to everyone equally under certain circumstances; and 3) laws (whether facially neutral or not) that were drafted for the purpose of targeting a particular community.

      As to your hypotheticals, banks and convenience stores are private businesses, free to set their own rules for admittance, and are free to prohibit face-coverings therein, simply by posting an appropriate sign. I think the same could be done at playgrounds, whether or not they are public or private.

      • Craw
        Posted November 9, 2017 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

        So it would be okay to ban veils at playgrounds?

        People are pretending this is a blanket ban on veils in public. It isn’t. That is France’s law. In Quebec’s law, in certain situations the veil is forbidden. You just said that is reasonable in some circumstances, such as public playgrounds didn’t you? (Or were you arguing that Muslim women should be allowed to veil but not Christian men? ) other people agree it is is reasonable in court. But right now under existing law Muslim women can testify veiled.

      • Craw
        Posted November 9, 2017 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

        Let me say I have no a priori problem with neutral laws that were passed to target specific communities. Lynch laws apply to blacks who lynch whites but were passed to target whites who lynched blacks. There can be no doubt at all the laws were passed with the understanding of there being a disparate impact. Likewise with laws integrating lunch counters.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted November 9, 2017 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

          How about facially neutral laws intended to benefit a religion?

      • Posted November 10, 2017 at 11:47 am | Permalink

        There are some regulations (I think – I’m no lawyer) in Canada about what sorts of restrictions on free expression businesses can impose.

  19. eric
    Posted November 9, 2017 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

    The law will prohibit public workers like doctors and teachers from covering their faces at work

    I will assume they make an exception for surgeons and nurses wearing surgical masks during surgery? If not, this law needs to be immediately repealed before someone dies.

    I’m going to say I object to the law. Not in principle, but because it seems so ripe for discriminatory application. Does anyone think bus drivers will rigorously apply the no-shades rule to customers the same way they might a niqab? The law as written might not be discriminatory against Muslims per se, but I think discriminatory practice will be (a) ubiquitous, (b) hard to prevent, and (c) tacitly supported by the supporters of the law.

    This is like vague dress codes in US schools. It’s a rule custom-made to provide the system an excuse to harass the people it already wants to harass.

  20. Posted November 9, 2017 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

    I would like to underscore Jan Looman’s point above. Having lived in Montreal for about four years, I can testify personally to there being a strong undercurrent of racism and bigotry in Quebecois society, sadly. It is one of the main reasons that my wife and I left, in fact. There is no doubt in my mind that this law is specifically targeted at Muslim immigrants, because that is a politically useful thing for their politicians to do, just as targeting immigrants and Muslims in the U.S. is politically useful for Trump. Nobody had any problem with sunglasses, scarves, etc., before the arrival of Muslim immigrants, so the claim that the law is not specifically intended to harass and demonize Muslims is disingenuous at best. And it’s funny to hear talk of a “right” to see other people’s faces when you live in South Korea, as I do now – out on the street, in shops, etc., quite a large fraction of people are wearing face masks because of the bad air (I almost always wear one when I go out). So the idea that covered faces are a threat to the fabric of society seems rather overblown to me. If this law were specifically limited to the small handful of cases where seeing a person’s face can reasonably be demanded – in court, for example, and for driver’s license photos and other identification – then it would be defensible. But as it is, it is (a) a vague and overbroad law written in such a way that nobody really seems to know what it does and does not apply to, (b) thus giving the police considerable discretion in enforcement and punishment, (c) passed for what I think are clearly bigoted motivations, in a clearly bigoted cultural context. That is not a recipe for a good outcome. It seems pretty clear to me that this law would be struck down as unconstitutional in the U.S., due to the First Amendment; so the First Amendment defenders on this site (I am one) should think again about whether this is really something they want to support.

  21. Posted November 10, 2017 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    I grew up in Montreal. Montreal is one of the most ethnically diverse places on the planet, and more so now than when I was a kid. However, segments of the Quebec population are horribly bigoted – these are the ones which are often labeled “nationalist”. I encountered their prejudice as an English speaker growing up.

    Quebec’s laicite is admirable, in principle, but I have a big problem with dictating clothing choices of *any* kind. (Imagine it in reverse!) Worse, the establishment is brazenly hypocritical and thus looks like to be animostity fueled more than anything because of that. See above about the “public crosses”.

    • phoffman56
      Posted November 10, 2017 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

      I’m also Canadian, still live here, but not in Quebec. However I was born there and lived there up through half of high school. Noranda was half English then, not Rouyn, but Rouyn-Noranda now is very dominantly French. You’re much younger I think, Keith, and Montreal is quite different, so I never did face much in the way of anti-anglais hostility.

      I’m afraid we likely disagree on this one. Whatever the motivation of various Quebec people for their new law, and surely in many cases it is reprehensible, I strongly believe that everywhere in public places the face of every human should be uncovered, mouth, nose and eyes, with only the obvious exceptions (children, weather, halloween, sunglasses when appropriate). That last aspect is not really that difficult to legislate and adjudicate.

      I expect the law in France is pretty good, though I’m not thoroughly familiar with it. And again, it is very likely that many of the people there have motivations to support it with which I would vehemently disagree. But it is far from logical to disagree with a law for that reason; there are other motivations, and to me it is simply a common and needed human desire to not have any of those surrounding them in public with covered faces. Body language, and especially facial expression, is much larger in communication than many realize. For that see parts of Franz de Waal’s (most recent I think) book entitled “Are we smart enough to know how smart animals are?” (or nearly that, and he means non-human animals of course, but the title is already too long!). It is not just the non-humans for which body language is crucial.

      With people having a general principle which somehow makes any legislation about people’s clothing a non-starter, I’d simply ask such a person whether they would therefore support me legally walking down Yonge in Toronto on a Saturday afternoon wearing nothing but my running shoes (or through Times Square if unfamiliar with Yonge).

      • Posted November 14, 2017 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

        I’ve never been to that part of Quebec. I have no idea about our relative ages.

        As for your point about yes, one can have different motivations and someone can support what is a good thing for the wrong reasons.

        I agree that facial expressions and such are often important, though as someone with trouble understanding them sometimes, I do wonder … but that surely should be put into law, regardless! After all, being rude is not illegal, for most values of “being rude”.

        For your question, yes, I would support that. Wear what you want, I don’t care. I think walking down Yonge without much on is likely to brand you some sort of idiot, because of the sun burn or rainsoak or freezing you might get, but …

        • phoffman56
          Posted November 14, 2017 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

          “Wear what you want, I don’t care. I think walking down Yonge without much on is likely to brand you some sort of idiot,..”

          I’m quite sure that walking down Yonge with no clothing but running shoes would get you arrested. The point is that we and every other country already have laws about clothing. So let’s not speak with obvious hypocrisy, asserting ‘no laws concerning clothing should exist’. Protesting the face-covering ban for that reason, when such laws already exist, but are neither acknowledged nor protested, is hypocritical. And several here have done exactly that.


%d bloggers like this: