Quebec Politicians Weigh In On 'Delicate' Issue Of Burkini Ban

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QUEBEC — It would be difficult for Quebec to follow the lead of the French cities that have banned burkini swimsuits, the province's international relations minister said Wednesday.

Christine St-Pierre said the Canadian and Quebec charters of rights and freedoms would make it "very, very difficult to ban" the body-covering swimwear.

While stating she didn't want to immerse herself in another country's debate, she acknowledged the issue is a "delicate" one.

"Do we tell women, 'stay at home, don't leave your home, stay isolated and don't go out?'" she said. "That's the question we have to ask."

burkini
Mecca Laa Laa wears a burkini on her first surf lifesaving patrol in Sydney, Australia. (Photo: Matt King/Getty Images)

Justice Minister Stephanie Vallee, when questioned on the same issue, said she believes women have the right to dress the way they choose.

"People have the right to their beliefs and can dress how they want," said Vallee, adding that includes those who dress "a bit more shockingly as well."

Vallee said she doesn't believe burkinis — whose name combines 'burka' and 'bikini' — are common in Quebec. The swim garment covers the legs, arms and torso and also includes a veil.

In June 2015, Vallee tabled the province's state neutrality bill, which would ban face coverings for anyone giving or receiving government services.

"People have the right to their beliefs and can dress how they want."

The previous Parti Quebecois government had gone further, calling for state secularism and seeking to ban the wearing of visible religious symbols for provincial employees, including hijabs, turbans, kippas and larger-than-average crucifixes.

St-Pierre, a former minister for the status of women, said the Couillard government continues to stand behind its yet-to-be-adopted bill, which would ban face coverings in the government sphere.

"Accepting the burkini is admitting that a woman's body is an object of temptation and that it must disappear at all costs."

"That's our position for reasons of security," she said.

A member of the legislature for the right-leaning Coalition for Quebec's Future said she favours banning the clothing.

"It is a very serious symbol," said Nathalie Roy. "It represents hiding a woman's body. Accepting the burkini is admitting that a woman's body is an object of temptation and that it must disappear at all costs."

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