Niqab and burqa-wearing women in Quebec will now be required to remove their face coverings or be denied service when engaging in activities such as riding the bus and going to the library. The ban, which became law Wednesday in the Canadian province, is specific to face coverings worn when giving and receiving public services, meaning it extends to people working in medicine, education, and other professions.
Bus drivers and authorities expressed confusion about how the law would be implemented. The legislation doesn't specify how the law should be carried out, and what specific repercussions women would face if they refused to comply with the ban. Although the law goes into effect immediately, the details on enforcement may take months to flesh out.
Amid claims that lawmakers were targeting Muslim women with the legislation, Quebec Justice Minister Stéphanie Vallée said the law encompasses non-religious face coverings, such as those worn at protests.
Muslim women made up only 3.1 percent of the Canadian population in 2011, according to the Canadian Council of Muslim Women (CCMW), and niqab and burqa-wearing women within this group are an even smaller minority. A study in 2013, which drew from interviews with 81 niqab-wearing women across Canada, sought to dispel myths about the garment, finding for example that most overwhelmingly wore a face veil of their own accord.
Behind misconceptions about Muslim women who choose to wear a hijab, niqab, or burqa are startling statistics pointing to a rapid rise in Islamophobia in the region. Hate crimes against Muslims in Canada increased by 253 percent over the course of four years, between 2012 and 2015.