In a move that no other provincial government has dared venture towards, Quebec tabled a bill Wednesday legislating that women must remove all concealing headwear and uncover their faces when receiving Quebec government services.
The bill includes obtaining and delivering services. People 's face coverings will no longer be tolerated if and when they interfere with communication or visual identification.
Premier Jean Charest made the announcement on Wednesday. He said the legislation is a move to defend the principles of equality in the province, and to defend public institutions.
"This is a symbol of affirmation and respect — first of all for ourselves, and also for those to whom we open our arms," said Charest. "This is not about making our home less welcoming, but about stressing the values that unite us. ..
"An accommodation cannot be granted unless it respects the principle of equality between men and women, and the religious neutrality of the state."
Niqabs and burqas have been a hot topic of debate in Quebec since a woman, Naema Ahmed, was kicked out of a CEGEP for refusing to remove her niqab in French class.
Last week, Quebec's human rights commission ruled that a woman wearing a niqab, or face-covering, must uncover her face to confirm her identity when applying for a Quebec medicare card.
The bill, tabled by Justice Minister Kathleen Weil, explicitly points out that any provisions are subject to the guarantees of gender and religious equality outlined in the federal Charter of Rights and Freedoms.