NEWS
11/17/2017 09:47 EST | Updated 11/17/2017 11:42 EST

Lawyer argues in favour of temporary suspension of Quebec's face-veil law

MONTREAL — Quebec's controversial face-covering law is being tested for the first time before the courts as opponents argue for a temporary suspension of a key section.

A Quebec woman who wears the veil, the National Council of Canadian Muslims and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association launched the challenge last week.

Lawyer Catherine McKenzie asked the court today for a temporary suspension of the section of the law that forces public sector employees and private citizens to have their face uncovered when giving or receiving public services.

McKenzie argued the article in question violates the right to equality and freedom of religion, which are guaranteed by the Quebec and Canadian charters, and should be declared invalid.

McKenzie told Quebec Superior Court Justice Babak Barin the matter is urgent, given the significant impact on Muslim women who wear the veil on a daily basis.

She added the damages to those women would be irreparable.

The ban came into effect in October and extends to attending class in Quebec's public educational institutions or boarding public transit in the province, although people can don the face coverings again once they have shown identification on the bus or subway.

Two women who wear the full veil said in sworn statements submitted to Barin they fear having to remove the veil to receive government services.

One said she uses only the subway to get around because she dreads how bus drivers will react. She also only attends classes at McGill University because the institution said it wouldn't force anyone to remove their veil.

Both say aggressive behaviour and insults have increased since the law came into effect.

While the law calls for accommodation in certain cases, those provisions aren't in force like the rest of the law.

A lawyer for the province is expected to make arguments later Friday.