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What critics of Quebec’s ban on face coverings get wrong
by Gary Caldwell
Last October, the Quebec National Assembly passed Bill 62 in an effort to settle the question of the religious neutrality of the Quebec state. This is often referred to in French as “laïcisation,” and is the completion of a long process through which Quebec public institutions entered the modern world. This process began with the Quiet Revolution of the the 1960s and continued with the replacement of religious school boards by secular ones and the secularization of health-care institutions. The law was understood in this context, and consequently well received, in the French-language media, but was decried in the English-language media as discriminatory against Muslims. Critics asked how a law enforcing religious neutrality was compatible with keeping a Christian cross in the National Assembly.
The new religious neutrality law requires all services requested or delivered by public institutions in Quebec be done with”face uncovered”; France and Belgium have more all-embracing laws in this regard. The law was passed nearly unanimously by the Quebec National Assembly, following a debate on religious neutrality within the governing Liberal Party and subsequently in the National Assembly that lasted more than a year.
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