Alberta Premier Rachel Notley is the latest politician to voice her opposition to Quebec’s Bill 62, calling its passing a ‘sad day for Canada.”
“I don’t think it holds together logically, I think it smacks of Islamophobia,” she said Friday.
The controversial law would force anyone using public services to uncover their faces, as well as prohibit public-sector employees from covering up.
That includes people taking public transit having to uncover their faces and many critics have said it’s targeting Muslim women who wear a niqab or burka.
Notley said it’s not the approach of Alberta and while she said she can’t offer legal opinions on whether it is constitutional, she does think it will be evaluated under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
“I suspect that it doesn’t meet the values that the Charter is intending to promote throughout our country,” she said.
Notley spoke just after receiving the 2017 National Award from the Equal Voice, an organization which promotes the election of more women in politics.
She was asked if she thinks the niqab is inherently oppressive.
“If there was a woman in Alberta who was not associated with any particular religion, who was caught in an an oppressive relationship, the path out to it would not be to say that she couldn’t access public services, that she couldn’t get a job, that she couldn’t work in the public service,” she said. “That argument doesn’t hold together logically.”
While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said it’s not up to the federal government to challenge its Constitutionality, he did say the feds should look at the law’s implications.
“I don’t think it should be the government’s business what she should, or shouldn’t be wearing,” he said.
Notley wasn’t the only Alberta politician to wade into the debate.
MLA for Chestermere-Rocky View Leela Sharon Aheer – who said she was speaking for herself and not on behalf of the UCP – said she’s flabbergasted and that women should be allowed to wear what they want.
“Honestly, if somebody came in here and told me right now I’m not allowed to wear this blue dress because it’s somehow offensive, they’re going to hear from me,” she said.
Aheer discussed some personal anecdotes in her response to the legislation, whose father is south Indian, while her mother is of Irish, English and Scottish descent.
She remembers being targeted as a teenager by the Aryan Guard, who labelled her as an abomination because she was from a mixed-race family.
“From that moment on, I realized how precious my freedom was,” she said. “Let’s make sure that we’re separating extremism, wherever that is in the world, whoever, whatever culture, from the culture of people and the religion that they represent.”
“This is a fear-mongering, absolutely pandering baloney kind of stuff.”
With files from the Canadian Press