- Quebec temporarily banned the face-covering law
- The government previously said the law won't be implemented until next summer
- The law requires people to show their faces for identification purposes
- Some said it violates religious freedoms under the Canadian and Quebec charters of rights
A judge in Quebec temporarily suspended a new religious neutrality law that bans face coverings for government workers and anyone receiving public services in the Canadian province.
On Friday, Superior Court Judge Babak Barin granted a stay of the law, which some have called a burqa ban but does not specifically mention the niqab or burqa.
The judge said Section 10, which the legislative assembly passed in October, cannot be put in force until the government adopts guidelines dictating how the restrictions on face coverings would take place.
Previously, the government has said it won't implement those rules until next summer.
"In the interim, noble as the ideology of state religious neutrality may be, the government must ensure that the law it is adopting for the public good is coherent and complete," Barin wrote. "To paraphrase the words of the Supreme Court [of Canada], public interest includes both the concerns of society at large and the particular interests of identifiable groups."
Challenging the law were Marie-Michelle Lacoste, a Quebec woman who wears the veil; Warda Naili, a Quebec woman who converted to Islam and wears the niqab; the National Council of Canadian Muslims and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.
They said it violates religious freedoms under the Canadian and Quebec charters of rights.
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Naili told CBC News that "my dignity is preserved" and she didn't see how guidelines would make any difference. She said she was avoiding situations where she would be asked to remove her veil, including going to doctor's appointments.
Lacoste, who was born and raised in Montreal and has been a Muslim since 2003, told the judge she wears the niqab at all times outside and inside in the presence of men other than her husband. Like Naili, she that since the legislation was adopted she is concerned about using public services. She also said she has been harassed and insulted outside her home.
"We argued that there was irreparable harm for the plaintiff, for the women affected by the law," Catherine McKenzie, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, told CBC News. That included no access to medical services, school or public transportation.
McKenzie said, "the next step for me right now is to wait to see what the government will do and also to get our case ready for the merits" of the legislation.
Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard said he wasn't surprised by the judge's ruling.
"I'm not unsatisfied with the judgment because there's no mention of a violation of the charters [of rights] or any major constitutional problem," Couillard told reporters in Saint-Félicien north of Quebec City.
Government lawyers expect the law to prevail because it requires people to show their faces for identification purposes.
This article has been adapted from its original source.
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