Action Alert: Quebec’s Bill 94

The provincial legislature of Quebec, Canada, is currently considering a bill that would refuse key social services to anyone wearing a face covering if made into law.  Political discussions around this bill have made it clear that the law specifically targets women who wear niqab, a face veil worn by some Muslim women.

As Muslim women and feminists who come from a variety of countries, ethnic backgrounds, political views and religious understandings, we at Muslimah Media Watch are disturbed by any attempts to legislate what women can and cannot wear.  The proposed law denies these women the right of religious expression, and risks further marginalizing women who may already be marginalized by society by refusing to provide them with essential services.

As media activists, we are also deeply concerned about media portrayals that depict women in niqab as helpless, dangerous, and/or un-Canadian.  These images serve to increase racism and suspicion towards women who wear niqab; in this way, the negative impacts of the proposed ban are already extending far beyond the denial of basic services.

We endorse the Non/No Bill 94 Coalition Statement, and support the work being done by citizens across Canada in opposition to this bill.

May 18, 2010, the day that parliamentary hearings on the bill will begin in Quebec, has been designated as a day of action against Bill 94.  Leading up to that day, here are the actions recommended by the Coalition, taken from the Day of Action Facebook event:

Speak up! Write, email, phone, fax Quebec Premier Jean Charest, along with Minister of Immigration and Cultural Communities Yolande James, Minister of Justice Kathleen Weil, and Minister of Culture, Communications & the Status of Women Christine St-Pierre to voice your concern regarding the discriminatory Bill 94. CC us at nonbill94@gmail.com along with your Member of Parliament, Member of the Legislative Assembly, and Member of Provincial Parliament. You can also send a message to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Michael Ignatieff, M.P., Liberal Leader. Contact information for the above can be found here:
http://nonbill94.wordpress.com/contacts-talking-points

Organize! Endorse the No Bill 94 Coalition’s statement found here http://nonbill94.wordpress.com/2010/04/05/hello-world/. Circulate this call to action widely to your networks. Have conversations with them about your concerns about Bill 94 and refer them to articles on the proposed legislation. And sign the petition: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/nonbill94/

Get Creative! Host an action in your community, make a video, hold a press conference, run a workshop, throw call-in parties, letter-writing events & blogathons, to ensure that our voices are heard. Email us your creations and actions at nonbill94@gmail.com

Use Media! Use social media outlets. Make your profile pic to one found here: http://nonbill94.wordpress.com/resources. Change your facebook status to or tweet – “Will you allow your government to deny services like emergency health care, education, legal assistance & day care to women based on what they wear? TAKE ACTION on May 18! Say No to Bill 94!.”Post and re-post interesting articles talking about Bill 94 anywhere you can – Facebook, Twitter, blogs, websites, e-newsletters, etc.

See http://nonbill94.wordpress.com/ for more information

For those in the Toronto area, there is also a rally taking place on May 18 from 1-3pm outside the Bureau du Quebec a Toronto, 20 Queen St. West (Queen and Yonge.)  For readers who know of actions taking place in other locations, please leave that information in the comments!

  • Samantha

    If I were Canadian I would vote “No” on this bill. The recent talk in France of banning the burqa outright made me start to think about this. I am not a Muslim woman, but I have always respected women who cover–especially in America or Australia, where I now live, where these women are often treated with apprehension, however innocent, by others. I admit that personally, I don’t understand it either, but it seems horribly undemocratic to make any personal expression a crime, whether or not it is religious. But I think to understand the outcry against women covering their faces in particular, you have to step outside of yourself, just like anyone criticizing a woman for covering her hair or face needs to step out of him or herself.

    People western societies can’t come to grips with why a woman would ever choose to cover her face. The commonly held belief is that any woman who would do so is obviously forced by either a domineering husband or an overarching ideology that dictates she must. The sight of a woman going about her business with her face covered is very confronting to a western man or woman because the face and eyes are very important in communication.

    So, while I strongly disagree with the idea that women should not be able to make this choice (and I certainly don’t believe any woman should be forced to cover her face, or do anything for that matter) I can understand why it bothers western culture. That being said, it is preposterous that in a democratic nation such as Canada or France this would even be possible.

  • safia

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