Masked protesters demonstrate against Bill 62
Published Friday, October 20, 2017 12:55PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, October 20, 2017 8:17PM EDT
Protesters gathered along Park Ave. Friday morning to denounce legislation that requires people to show their faces while using or providing a government-funded service.
Quebec's Justice Minister Stephanie Vallee said the law applies to everything from entering a library, to using the bus, to a doctor's visit.
Between 8 and 9 a.m. Friday about 100 people gathered along the route of the Number 80 STM bus wearing scarves around their face -- something that is now legally prohibited if they were to get on the bus.
Protest organizer Catherine Jezer-Morton said she found the law to be an "abhorrent" attack on civil rights.
"Our message to the government is we think that this is a ridiculous, manipulative, and cowardly legislative act that as Quebecers we disagree with," said Jezer-Morton.
She and others have said the law clearly targets the few dozen Muslim women in Quebec who wear face veils, such as the niqab and burka.
"We also just want to express solidarity with the women that could be affected by it," said Jezer-Morton.
"It's the only law of its kind in North America. We consider Quebec to be a really progressive province that is wonderful to its women. I think there are a lot of protections in place for women here and the idea that this is somehow good for women, we don't agree with that."
Bus drivers for multiple services across the province have said they will not enforce the law, and one bus driver at the wheel wore a face mask in solidarity with the protesters.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau waded into the controversial debate, saying in Quebec Friday, “As I said yesterday, I will always stand up for the rights of Canadians and the Charter of Rights and freedoms. It’s what Canadians expect of me. As I've said number of times, I don't think it's the government's business to tell women what she should or shouldn't be wearing.”
Meantime Premier Philippe Couillard is defending the bill.
“It has nothing to do with telling people how to dress, just regards communication, identification and security in our society and also the way we deal with the demands for accommodation. It has nothing to do with how people dress in the morning. I don't care how people dress in the morning. But when you are in the area of public services this is where society has to send a signal. The signal is that we are very open and tolerant society. I fought many years for human rights and I will continue to do this -- and issues like communication, identification and security.”
Opposition parties in Quebec voted against Bill 62 because they did not feel it did enough to strip the expression of religion from the public sphere. The CAQ has promised that if elected, it would replace Bill 62 with more restrictive legislation.
"We just wanted to stand up and make some kind of demonstration of our displeasure about this law because it just seems extreme," said Jezer-Morton.