“We don’t have hordes of women in niqabs trying to access or work in public services,” Mr. Gardee said, referring to a type of head scarf that covers much of the face. “Rather than helping to facilitate inclusion, as its proponents claim, it excludes citizens in the public sphere and reinforces the marginalization and stigmatization of Canadian Muslims.”
Legal experts dismissed the law as unconstitutional and said they expected the courts to strike it down. “It will open up a Pandora’s box on enforcement,” said Julius H. Grey, a human rights lawyer in Montreal, who argued that the law could deprive people of medical care.
Doctors, midwives and dentists paid by the government are only allowed to cover their faces for occupational requirements. But exactly how the law will be enforced remains unclear.
Ronald Boisrond, a spokesman for the Canadian Union of Public Employees, which represents transit workers, said the union supported the law but wanted clear guidelines on how to carry it out. “Bus drivers don’t want the responsibility of interpreting the law,” he said.
The Quebec government has formed committees to provide rules for agencies that must enforce the bill, though many will not be fully clarified until next summer.
At first, the legislation applied only to public workers and institutions funded by the provincial government. But the bill was amended in August to include public transit and municipalities.
The lawmakers who voted for the bill all belong to the Quebec Liberal Party, which has a majority in the provincial legislature, known officially as the National Assembly of Quebec.
Passing a ban on face coverings fulfills a campaign promise the Liberals made before the 2014 provincial election as a way to draw support away from the government, then led by Parti Québécois, which had proposed barring the wearing of overt religious symbols by government employees or by workers at publicly funded workers institutions.