Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, on the campaign trail for a by-election, spoke in favour of his base today as he waded in on Quebec’s Bill 62, which was adopted by the regional government of Quebec this Wednesday.
Bill 62 makes it illegal to wear face-covering veils in the Quebec region (with a few specific details for public servants and usage of public transport as well) and although the Canadian government of Mr Trudeau may not like it, there is legally not much they can do about it in the short term. The bill was harshly condemned by liberal critics who say it deliberately targets Muslim women.
If Mr Trudeau wants to overturn Bill 623, it must be challenged in court however, something that is expected to happen in a few weeks.
Getting to a final ruling on Bill 62’s constitutionality could take years for a Canada versus Quebec case though. But if the province of Quebec and the federal government can agree to questions that can be ruled upon right away by the Supreme Court, the whole process could unfold much faster.
The federal government, via cabinet, would need to submit what is called a “reference question” to the court.
All that is a long way off, and for the moment Bill 62 has been implemented in Quebec whilst Mr Trudeau has to electrify his base during a by-election: “I don’t think it’s the government’s business to tell a woman what she should or shouldn’t be wearing. As a federal government, we are going to take our responsibility seriously and look carefully at what the implications are.”
Meanwhile Mr Philippe Couillard, premier of Quebec, continued to defend the legislation: “We are just saying that for reasons linked to communication, identification and safety, public services should be given and received with an open face. We are in a free and democratic society. You speak to me, I should see your face, and you should see mine. It’s as simple as that.”