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April 14, 2010

Why Quebec's Bill 94?

Ayub A. Hamid

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If you do not want Canada to head down the slippery slope towards totalitarianism, you must stand up against Quebec's nefarious Bill 94.

This reasonable sounding proposed legislation, “An Act to establish guidelines governing accommodation requests within the Administration and certain institutions” is unnecessary, unreasonable and dangerous.

It is nefarious because it:

• Denies freedom of choice and expression where the exercise of freedom and expression does not hurt anyone nor jeopardize the society;

• Forces women to do something that they do not want to do, thus taking back the freedom women have earned in this society after a long struggle;

• Promotes intolerance of minority views and practices;

• Further marginalizes of a vulnerable segment of the female population; and

• Endangers life because women in need of help may be denied health and police services if they wear the niqab.

It is dangerous because once a majority’s likes or dislikes are imposed on a minority for any seemingly good reason there is no telling where will it end. What’s next on the list: turbans, yarmulkes, kirpans, long beards?

It is unreasonable because it is unnecessary.

This legislation limits a person’s freedom without addressing any critical societal need, particularly when the identification and security needs cited in its defence are already excepted.

The niqab does not hinder communication and is no more disrespectful towards those not wearing one than is a mask worn for protection against infection, or a scarf or toque for protection against the cold.

According to Bill 94, a bus driver could refuse to pick up a woman who did not uncover her face, or police could refuse to help such a woman stranded in a blizzard.

If wearing the niqab is considered to be an attack against women’s equality, and if the government wants to deny service to anyone who wears garments that speak to women’s inequality, it may find the list very long.

Catholic nun’s veils, Mennonite long dresses, high heels, corsets, panty hose, bras and makeup could all be viewed through the lens of women’s equality.

The real equality is to let both men and women decide for themselves what they want to wear.

Some may consider the niqab to represent a rejection of modernity and Western society. If it is, then it is a form of political expression that should be respected. Why accept a T-shirt that speaks against outrageous consumerism, killing trees, or the seal hunt, but reject the niqab, if it speaks against the excesses of modern life?

If fundamental human rights mean anything to you, you must take a firm stand against this proposed legislation.

Ayub Hamid is a human rights’ activist. His vision for peace, justice and excellence can be found at

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