Niqab-wearer blocked again from class
Last week, Naïma Atef Amed filed a complaint with the province’s human rights commission after she was kicked out of a government-funded language class for new immigrants at the CÉGEP de Saint-Laurent in Montreal. The school had demanded that Amed take off her niqab veil, which covers her head and face and leaves only her eyes exposed, for part of the class.
Premier Jean Charest defended the school's decision, saying that people who expect to receive public services must show their face.
On Tuesday, the province's Immigration Ministry said it was informed last week that Amed, who is of Egyptian origin, had enrolled in another French class at a different publicly funded centre in Montreal that permitted her to wear the niqab.
"As we did last time, we told her that we have pedagogical objectives to meet in our French immersion courses, that they have to be taken with her face exposed," said Luc Fortin, a spokesman for the province's Immigration Minister.
"She refused to take off her niqab and she left the course."
The government is not prepared to compromise, said Immigration Minister Yolande James Tuesday.
Potential Quebec immigrants are asked to sign a contract in which they are asked to make a moral commitment to Quebec's values, including secularism, gender equality and respect for the francophone majority, the minister said.
"You make the choice to come to Quebec — you are welcome," said James. "Immigration is a plus for society — but values must be respected, and I remind you that the majority supports these values."
In an interview with CBC News, Amed had said she wears the veil for religious reasons and feels she has been treated unfairly.
Several commentators as well as certain Muslim groups expressed support for the Quebec's government's position last week.
They argued Amed had been unreasonable in her demands, which reportedly included giving oral presentations with her back facing the co-ed class.
The province has said it will take further steps to avoid similar situations in the future but did not specify what these would be.
Recent polls have suggested a majority of Quebecers feel the government has done too much to accommodate minorities.
With files from The Canadian Press