How Quebec's face-covering ban stacks up to laws elsewhere around the globe

Quebec is not the only place in the world to restrict face coverings in the public sphere, as a debate over religious accommodation and religious attire is raging across Europe.

With Bill 62, Quebec is the first place in North America to effectively ban face veils in public

A handful of French mayors passed measures in 2016 banning the 'burkini,' a full-body swimsuit worn by some Muslim women at the beach. (The Associated Press)

Quebec's new law on religious neutrality prohibits anyone from receiving or giving public services with their face covered, making it the first place in North America to effectively ban face veils in public places.

Bill 62, passed Wednesday in Quebec's National Assembly, means Muslim women who wear a niqab or burka have to uncover their faces to access health services, attend school, and ride a public bus or Metro.

While the guidelines for how the legislation will be enforced won't be ready until next summer, Muslim advocacy groups and civil liberty organizations have criticized the legislation as an unconstitutional infringement on peoples' rights.

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard has defended the bill, saying it's necessary for "communication, identification and safety" reasons.

Quebec is not the only place in the world to restrict face coverings in the public sphere.

Here's where some of the laws regulating face coverings, and religious attire, have also been passed.


France introduced a law banning face coverings that conceal peoples' identities in public in 2010.

Though it doesn't explicitly mention religion, critics say the legislation targets Muslim women, who have been barred from public places like streets and parks while wearing niqabs.

The debate in France pits religious freedom against laïcité​, or secularism, which holds a venerated place in French society.

The European Court of Human Rights upheld the ban in 2014. It ruled it was proportional because its aim was to preserve the idea of "living together."

Last year, a handful of French mayors passed measures banning the "burkini," a full-body swimsuit worn by some Muslim women at the beach.

The issue garnered international attention after a photo showing French police forcing a Muslim woman to remove her long-sleeved covering on a beach went viral.

France's top administrative court suspended the "burkini ban," as the measures became known, last year, calling it an "attack on fundamental rights".


Belgium passed a law barring people from wearing anything that fully or partially covers their faces in places accessible to the public in 2011.

Two Muslim women challenged the law in the European Court of Justice, alleging that it violated their rights under the European Convention on Human Rights, including the right to practice their religion and freedom of expression.

The Court upheld the government's ban in a decision released earlier this year.


Austria banned face veils in public places earlier this month.

The ban, which came into effect on Oct. 1, forbids any kind of face covering in public, including on public buses, metros and trains.

Police can ask people to remove their face coverings on the spot and fine anyone 150 euros for contravening the law. Refusing to remove your face covering can also land you in a police station.

Austria's Foreign Ministry says the law "is aimed at ensuring social cohesion and social peace in Austria," but critics say it unfairly targets Muslim women who wear a niqab or burka.

Last month, a man in a shark costume was fined 150 euros in Vienna because his face was covered in public.


German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke out against Islamic face coverings last December, when she accepted her party's leadership nomination a few months ahead of a national election.

"Full veiling is not appropriate here — it should be banned wherever that is legally possible," Merkel said, according to The Associated Press.

In September, the German parliament passed a law banning drivers from wearing anything that partially or fully covers their faces.


For decades, Turkey maintained a ban on women wearing headscarves in state institutions, including universities and government offices.

Restrictions on religious dress in Turkey date back to the country's founding as a secular republic in the 1920s.

But the enforced ban on headscarves came after a 1980 coup.

The restriction "kept young women, especially from religiously conservative families, out of the educational system," said Ariel Salzmann, an associate professor of Islamic and World History at Queen's University who specializes in Turkish history.

"It's the historic experience of Turkey in dealing with religious dress that shows how such bans actually backfire," Salzmann told CBC News in an interview.

The result over the last 20 years has been "a sort of backlash by lower-middle-class and middle-class people from the provinces who resent these decades of imposition on their lifestyle," Salzmann said.

Turkey's current President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, lifted the ban on headscarves in universities and government institutions in 2011, when he was the country's prime minister.

Erdogan announced earlier this year that women in the Turkish armed forces would be able to wear headscarves as part of their uniforms.