Quebec's official opposition is proposing to address the troublesome question of the niqab by creating a “Charte de la laïcité,” a Charter of Secularism for the province that would ban the wearing of religious symbols like the niqab in schools as well as in the public service.
The Parti Québecois' immigration critic, Louise Beaudoin, said last week the party would not concern itself with the possibility of eventual challenges with regard to human rights violations. “If René Lévesque and Dr Laurin had thought that way, there wouldn't be a Law 101,” she said.
Law 101, most often referred to as “Bill 101” is the Charter of the French Language. Bill 101 reinforces the status of French as the only official language in Quebec, and protects the rights of every person in Quebec to carry out their daily activities in French. It also restricts the use of other languages such as English in such areas as business and education. Canada's federal laws, on the other hand, recognize both English and French as official languages of the country.
Most recently, the PQ opposition has suggested Charter restrictions that prevent most Francophones and immigrants from sending their children to Anglophone public schools, also be applied to unsubsidized private schools. The proposal was made after the Supreme Court of Canada struck down an addendum to the language law, Bill 104, which allowed parents to gain access to English language education by sending their children to unsubsidized private schools for a time and then transfer them back to the public system.
The PQ has recently suggested that Bill 101 restrictions also be applied to Quebec's day cares, as well as to CEGEP.
Questions about accommodating women wearing the niqab were raised recently after reporters discovered that a 29 year old Egyptian woman was expelled from a required francization course by officials from the immigration ministry. The unidentified woman, a former pharmacist, has filed a complaint with the Quebec Human Rights Commission. She alleges her religious freedoms were violated.
The premier's second in command, Nathalie Normandeau, said the government will respond to the issue in the coming weeks. While not providing any details, she asserted that the government had acquitted its responsibility in a very sensationalized case. “Under the circumstances, we have to take things farther,” she said. The government's reaction will deal with, “this whole question of the niqab, of the wearing of the veil.”
"The Charter of the French Language" Office québécois de la langue française
"Niqab: The new flashpoint" Marian Scott (The Gazette)
"Québec va clarifier la question du niqab" Robert Dutrisac (Le Devoir)