October 23, 2017
The Honourable Philippe Couillard,
Premier of Quebec
Mercier Building, 3rd floor
835 boul. Rene-Levesque East
Quebec G1A 1B4
We, the Canadian Council of Muslim Women (CCMW), are committed to the equality, equity and empowerment of all Canadian Muslim women.
We are concerned about your government’s passage of Bill 62, which is inappropriately named “Religious Neutrality.” The Bill targets some Muslim women in the guise of security, identification, and communication. There is nothing “neutral” about this Bill. It discriminates against a specific group of women who cover their faces. The law will prevent them from being employed by the public sector, nor will they receive any public services, including the ability to use public transit.
Besides the difficulties of how you intend to implement this, you will legitimize harassment and isolation of some women, which will make life more difficult for them. Women who wear the niqab have for years been willing to be identified, as they too believe in safety and security. However, what is shocking is your comment that:
“You should see my face and I should see yours.” What would you say to a blind person who cannot see your face? What about communication via the telephone? The point is that communication does not necessarily depend on seeing each other’s faces.
Please reconsider your position based on a correct definition of Laicite and on human rights. What you are doing is in contradiction to both Laicite/Secularism and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The role of the State is to ensure that every citizen’s rights are protected so that each can practice her faith freely and not face discrimination, especially, from the State itself. Laicite means the State should be impartial, neutral in matters of religion, while protecting the rights of their citizens to freely practice their faith, not depriving them.
We are saddened and disappointed that you would do this when you were so compassionate about the murders of Muslims at the Quebec City mosque. Why this change towards Muslims, especially Muslim women?
Your actions will further exacerbate the discrimination and racism facing Quebecois Muslims and will put the women at greater risk.
Please note that the Supreme Court of Canada made a ruling in Bruker v. Marcovitz, 2007 SCC 54, that it is up to the individual to define and practice her religiosity, and not according to anyone else, whether religious or political leaders.
Please reconsider; it is the mark of a great man to acknowledge mistakes. As Goethe said, “A good man apologizes for the mistakes of the past, but a great man corrects them.” We look forward to hearing from you.
Nuzhat Jafri, President
Alia Hogben, Executive Director