Quebec Premier Jean Charest has proposed legislation which, if approved by the National Assembly of Quebec, would deny essential government services, public employment, educational opportunities, and health care to people who wear facial coverings. Bill 94 specifically targets Muslim women who wear the niqab (face veil). The bill is an exaggerated response to a manufactured crisis that will allow the government to deny women services to which they are entitled. A truly democratic society is one in which all individuals have the freedom of religious expression and a right to access public services.
Although touted as a step toward gender equality, Bill 94, if approved, will perpetuate gender inequality by legislating control over women’s bodies and sanctioning discrimination against Muslim women who wear the niqab. Instead of singling out a minuscule percentage of the population, government resources would be better spent implementing poverty reduction and education programs to address real gender inequality in meaningful ways. Barring any woman from social services, employment, health, and education, as well as creating a climate of shame and fear around her is not an effective means to her empowerment. If Premier Charest’s government is truly committed to gender equality it should foster a safe and inclusive society that respects a woman’s right to make decisions for herself. Standing up for women’s rights is admirable. “Rescuing” women is paternalistic and insulting. Further marginalizing Muslim women who wear niqab and denying them access to social services, economic opportunities and civic participation is unacceptable.
Forcing a woman to reveal part of her body is no different from forcing her to be covered. Both the federal Conservative and Liberal parties have expressed support for Bill 94, which raises the very real possibility that similar legislation will be proposed across Canada. We demand that Bill 94 be withdrawn immediately, as it has no place in a democratic state that values autonomy, liberty and justice.
No Bill 94 Coalition is made up of concerned individuals, organizations and grassroots movements that are demanding that the proposed Quebec legislation, Bill 94, be withdrawn immediately.
We invite all individuals and groups of conscience inside and outside of Quebec to publicly or privately endorse this statement by emailing their name(s), location (city, state/province, and country), and contact information to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information please go to nonbill94.wordpress.com