Judge blocks bill 62, so women can once again wear niqabs on the bus
Published Friday, December 1, 2017 3:59PM EST
Last Updated Saturday, December 2, 2017 9:08AM EST
A Quebec Superior Court Judge has temporarily blocked Bill 62, the provincial law regarding face-coverings.
That means anyone can cover their face while obtaining public services in Quebec, be that seeing a doctor or taking the bus.
The ruling comes two weeks after Marie-Michele Lacoste, the National Council of Canadian Muslims, and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association argued for a temporary suspension of the law.
The plantiffs argued that the law, which is formally known as the Act to foster adherence to State religious neutrality, actually requires those who wear a veil for religious reasons to abandon their beliefs.
In court the plaintiffs asked for a stay of section 10, which prohibits face coverings when providing or accepting a public service, arguing that it violates the right to freedom of religion guaranteed by the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
"State neutrality is supposed to be the state acting neutrally towards individuals, not individuals acting neutrally towards the state," said lawyer Catherine McKenzie.
"What it is means someone who works for the state is supposed to consider your race, religious ethnicity, or gender when giving service to you. They're supposed to treat everyone equally but that doesn't mean that everyone has to act equally when seeking service from the state."
Part of the argument is that the law provides for exceptions to enforcement but there is no way to be exempt until the provincial government creates guidelines.
The provincial government gave itself until July 1, 2018 to create those guidelines.
In his ruling Justice Babak Barin said the fact the law recognizes the need for exemptions, even though the government has yet to establish criteria for exemptions, is "demonstrative of the violation of equality concerns."
According to the ruling the stay will remain in place until the provincial government comes up with its guidelines for exemptions.
A spokesperson for Justice Minister Stephanie Vallée said the government is still studying the decision, but that the government was already working on creating the criteria mentioned in the judge's ruling.
Premier Philippe Couillard later said he saw no problems with the judge's ruling.
"What the judge is asking us to do is to publish the criteria for accommodating religious requests which is something we were going to do anyway,' said Couillard.