Quebec nixes rule forcing political candidates to remove head coverings

For nearly 30 years, all potential candidates in Quebec have been required to submit a photo that shows their hair, but the province's chief electoral officer is doing away with that rule.

For nearly 30 years, all potential candidates have been required to submit photo showing their hair

In this file photo, an Elections Québec official hands a pen to a woman as she prepares to cast her ballot during advanced polling in 2014. Quebec's chief electoral officer is changing a regulation that prevented people who wear religious head coverings from running for provincial office. (Graham Hughes/CP)

Quebec's chief electoral officer is changing a regulation that prevented people who wear religious head coverings from running for provincial office.

For nearly 30 years, all potential candidates have been required to submit a photo that shows their hair. The photos will appear on ballots used during the upcoming provincial election, scheduled for Oct. 1.

But on Tuesday, a National Assembly committee gave its approval to chief electoral officer Pierre Reid to change that regulation.

Reid told the hearing he does not know why the requirement was ever put in place.

All parties at the National Assembly say they approve of the change.

"We should not be paternalistic vis-à-vis the citizens and decide for them who should be elected or not. They will make the decision," said Philippe Couillard.

One restriction remains: candidates must show their faces.

In the last election, in the heat of the charter of values debate, a woman who wears a hijab wanted to run as a candidate for the Quebec Green Party.

But leader Alex Tyrrell says she was told she was not allowed unless she handed in a photo that showed her hair. As a result, she withdrew from the race.

In the coming election, Tyrrell is hoping to have candidates who wear hijabs, turbans and other head coverings.

"Obviously, this barrier that was put in place was something that would dissuade a lot of people from getting involved," he said.

"We are looking forward to [contacting] a few people and seeing if this change has incited them to get involved in Quebec politics."

With files from Angelica Montgomery