Legislation has been introduced in Quebec to ban women from covering their faces when seeking or providing provincial services. This would effectively prevent Muslim women needing such services from wearing the niquab, a veil that covers the face. Supporters argue this promotes gender equality and more open interactions between the province’s citizens. Even national liberal party leader Michael Ignatieff (a former Harvard professor) has indicated his general support. Opponents argue this would take away the choice of these women and infringes on their religious freedom. Newspaper articles regarding the issue suggest widespread support in Quebec. There have been several situations already where government related entities in Quebec have refused to provide services. Ironically, one of them involved a woman who was denied the chance to take a French language course. Thus, some supporters have argued the bill would simply clarify existing practices. Whatever one’s position, this proposal seems at odds with a Canadian constitutional theme that the nation takes a “mosaic” approach to diversity, unlike the U.S. “melting pot.”
On another Quebec religion topic, I recently learned, from a student and from other sources, that some profanity in Quebec uses Catholic terminology in a derogatory way. This is certainly different from the U.S where most profanity has a connection to sexuality. The veil and the profanity issue both suggest some general skepticism about religion in Quebec, to say the least.