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Governments shouldn't tell women what to wear and what not to wear: Trudeau

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, third from left, visits the Resolute Forest Products plant with Richard Hebert, Liberal candidate for the upcoming byelection in Lac-Saint-Jean riding, fourth from left, in Alma, Que., on Friday, October 20, 2017.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Francis Vachon
October 21, 2017 - 7:00 AM

ALMA, Que. - Prime Minister Justin Trudeau again waded into the debate on Quebec's Bill 62 on Friday, saying governments should not be telling women what to wear and what not to wear.

"I will always stand up for Canadians' rights,' he said in Alma, Que. "I will always stand up for the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is what Canadians expect of me.

"As I've said a number of times as well, I don't think it should be the government's business to tell a woman what she should or shouldn't be wearing."

Bill 62, which was adopted in the Quebec legislature Wednesday, bans people from providing or receiving public services in the province with their faces covered and is widely seen as an attack on Muslim women.

It also prohibits people from taking public transit if their face is covered.

"We know there is going to be many weeks and many months of discussions on this, on what the implications are," Trudeau said as he campaigned ahead of a federal byelection Monday.

"And as a federal government, we are going to take our responsibilities seriously and look carefully at what the implications are."

Asked if that means challenging the law in court, Trudeau replied, "this means looking carefully at the implications of this law and how we continue to stand up for Canadians' rights."

A day earlier, Trudeau asserted it is not up to the federal government to challenge its constitutionality.

On Friday morning, a group Montrealers lined up by a downtown bus station wearing surgical masks, Halloween disguises and face-covering bandanas in a protest against the law.

Organizer Kathryn Jezer-Morton said the goal was to show solidarity with women who wouldn't be able to ride buses or use other services in light of the law.

"To not allow women who wear a niqab to access public services is so harmful, and a violation of their human rights," she told The Canadian Press in a phone interview.

"To think that you're doing them any kind of favour in the name of feminism, for one thing, is preposterous."

She added that most passersby supported the protesters, although others suggested the law could be good for women.

The legislation, meanwhile, has been unanimously condemned in the Ontario legislature, with Premier Kathleen Wynne calling religious freedom "part of our identity."

"Forcing people to show their faces when they ride the bus, banning women from wearing a niqab when they pick up a book from the library will only divide us," she said Thursday.

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard has defended the law by saying it is necessary for reasons related to communication, identification and security.

— With files from Morgan Lowrie in Montreal

News from © The Canadian Press, 2017
The Canadian Press

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