THE National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) on Tuesday filed a lawsuit in Quebec Superior Court challenging the constitutionality of Bill 62.
On October 18, the Quebec National Assembly enacted Bill 62, An Act to foster adherence to State religious neutrality, and, in particular, to provide a framework for requests for accommodations on religious grounds in certain bodies (the “Act”).
The lawsuit seeks a court order staying the application of Section 10 of the new law, which requires individuals to uncover their faces in order to receive basic public services, including healthcare, social assistance, and public transit. This requirement directly and almost exclusively impacts those Muslim women who veil their faces according to their sincerely held religious beliefs.
The legal challenge to Bill 62 names the NCCM, CCLA, and Marie-Michelle Lacoste, a Quebec Muslim woman who wears the niqab, as plaintiffs in the action.
“By launching this constitutional challenge, the NCCM seeks to protect the fundamental rights and freedoms of a vulnerable and stigmatized segment of women. As critics both within and outside of Quebec have long noted, this minority, along with the Muslim community more broadly, continue to be used as political fodder for the sake of electoral gain,” said NCCM Executive Director Ihsaan Gardee.
“Under the guise of state religious neutrality, this unnecessary piece of legislation is emboldening Islamophobia and ugly identity politics in Quebec leading to the further marginalization of Quebec Muslims, many of whom are already feeling under siege.”
“In the current political climate, the Act will encourage xenophobia, public humiliation, and harassment of women who wear the niqab. It will also certainly affect Muslim women, children and other members of the community. These are precisely the sorts of impacts that the CCLA works to mitigate and avoid through its advocacy across the country,” said CCLA Acting Executive Director Noa Mendelsohn Aviv.
The plaintiffs are represented by the litigation firm IMK LLP of Montreal.