MacAndrew Clarke: Quebec law on face coverings – An unjust law

MacAndrew Clarke

MacAndrew Clarke


by MacAndrew Clarke

On Wednesday, October 18, the Quebec government passed the “Act to foster adherence to State religious neutrality and, in particular, to provide a framework for requests for accommodations on religious grounds in certain bodies” (aka Bill no. 62). The final vote count was 66-51. To place the count in better context, the vote came down to party lines. The governing party voted in favor while opposition parties voted against, because those opposed felt that the law, in a variety of ways, did not go far enough.

For those that may not know, Bill 62 is legislation that bans niqabs, burqas and any article of clothing that could be hiding one’s face, you know, for balance. In other words, this bill not only claims that niqabs and burqas are not religious wear, it purposely drives a false narrative in the minds of Quebec citizens by equating niqabs and burqas to baseball caps, sunglasses, and hoodies. So, if this isn’t ludicrous enough, the bill goes further and declares that it achieves the separation of church and state while protecting Quebec citizens. So, to my fellow Quebecers, home to 8,394,034 people, do you feel safer knowing that there’s a law that targets a people that make up roughly 3% of the population?

To go any deeper into various policy areas on how unjust this law is would lend credibility to a false notion of a vigorous exchange of ideas. What kind of debate will occur when the playing field is as uneven as it is? It’s contradictory to call a law neutral when it clearly favors one side over the other.

At the end of the day, the purpose of this op-ed is not to preach, but to force the person reading this to ask themselves questions.

For example, what exactly is fair about someone not receiving service from public institutions they pay tax to, simply because of what they are wearing? What robust dialogue will occur at bus stops now that someone’s ignorance has been given a platform and microphone to spread their hate? Meanwhile, a human being and their character are reduced and diluted to an inconvenience of the state. The same state that failed to charge the Quebec mosque shooter with terrorism charges.

An unjust is no law at all, words from the late great Dr. King. To some, it sounds radical, because it is. It is supposed to open your eyes in the same way he opened your hearts when he said: “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” So once again, to my fellow Quebecers, how can you feel secure knowing that there is a community that has been robbed of its security through no fault of their own?

For those of us that know what it feels like to be treated as less-than simply because we look different, we feel this law deeply. It is shocking that such an outwardly discriminatory bill can legitimately be defined as anything remotely close to legal or justified. At the end of the day, people of conscience need to stand up and against this law. It’s easy to blame the government, but this anti sentiment did not come from thin air.

None of the opposition parties voted against the bill because it was discriminatory. They simply voted against it because the law did not address their concerns of enforcement or reach. This should be troubling news for every racialized and marginalized community in Quebec.

Also, for those of us who are aware of white supremacy, systemic racism and their intersect, unless an MNA (Member of National Assembly) were to speak out against this law due to its racism, cultural communities effectively have no allies in the Quebec government. This too may be interpreted as far-fetched, but the proof is in the pudding.

The Ontario government and Toronto Police Service was very ok with carding until community leaders like Desmond Cole, Andray Domise and Janaya Khan, to name a few, raised awareness about its effects. Although that battle continues, Quebecers, and Canadians at large have seen the consequences of discriminatory laws that were created with the false notion of keeping communities safe.

In Quebec, the effects will be much harsher because women have already been attacked due to their religious wear. Furthermore, despite those clear targeted attempts against people from religious and cultural communities, the province and its municipalities, to my knowledge, have never charged a perpetrator with a hate crime.

In conclusion, this is a law that cannot stand. I encourage everyone to contact your MNA, write them, protest this law and stand beside this community that has been unfairly targeted. Just because this may not affect you now, doesn’t mean that this won’t affect you later.

About the writer

MacAndrew Clarke holds a B.A. (Hons) in Political Science and a minor in Music from Carleton University. He has dedicated himself to community building and advocacy through public, private, and non-profit organizations for many years. He has been contributing to Black Ottawa Scene since January of 2016. He can be reached either via emailTwitter, or Facebook


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