Superior Court judge suspended Quebec’s controversial face-covering ban Thursday on grounds of discrimination and the violation of the constitutional rights of Muslim women.
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Quebec Superior Court Justice Marc-Andre Blanchard explained that the law is a violation of Section 10 of the Canadian and Quebec charters which “provide for freedom of conscience and religion.”
The ban, which was enacted last October, prohibited civilians from covering their faces when either giving or receiving public services and was suspended for the second time just days before going into effect.
Blanchard said the law would cause “irreparable harm” to Muslim women had it gone into effect as planned on July 1.
While the law does not single out any religion by name, the debate has focused on the niqab, a full-face veil worn by a small minority of Muslim women. Quebec authorities defended the law, saying it was necessary for security, identification, and communication reasons and not to discriminate against Muslim women.
Catherine McKenzie, a member of a legal team defending the cause of Warda Naili, a Québécois “hijabi” or Muslim woman who wears a hijab, said, “We're very happy with the decision. This law has an important impact on women who cover their faces for religious reasons.
“Women were going to be potentially cut off from very basic services so it was important for us to ask for the law to be stayed again,” McKenzie said.
However, Blanchard noted, that there is still a significant amount of “confusion and uncertainty” surrounding the guidelines released by state authorities in May.
According to the bylaws, cases will be determined by local state officials and be weighed on a case to case basis provided that their demands are serious, founded on religious principles, and neither violate or impose “undue hardships” on others.