The Canadian Council of Churches (CCC) has written a letter to Quebec Minister of Justice Stéphanie Vallée to express concerns about the province’s Bill 62, which bans the wearing of niqabs and other face coverings while providing or receiving government services.
The bill, which was passed by the Quebec National Assembly October 18, violates the fundamental freedoms of Canadians, said the CCC.
The letter, sent on November 10 by CCC president Canon Alyson Barnett-Cowan, states that the CCC “[does] not believe that the Government of Quebec is fulfilling the demands of justice for all people in Quebec.”
“We are aware that Bill 62 is being framed as a question of safety, security and identity rather than one of curtailing religious freedom. However, the effect of the bill is plain: some religious communities feel the effects more than others and may be effectively prevented from participating in the public service or indeed public life in Canada,” the letter reads.
The importance of a “healthy pluralism” to a secular state is also stressed in the letter, which states, “Secularism includes freedom of belief in both one’s public and private life. Thus there should be no official religion in this country, but neither should there be no form of official atheism.”
The letter calls attention to the fundamental freedoms listed in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, including the right to freedom of thought and freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, which also appear in the Quebec Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
It also says that the state should have no role in regulating religious symbols and attire, which “can be intrinsic to one’s faith and cannot be removed at a whim.”
The controversial bill has also been denounced by the province’s Anglican and Lutheran bishops.
The CCC’s statement on religious freedom, which was adopted by consensus of the Christian Interfaith Reference Group in September 2016, was enclosed with the letter.
“As Christians, we consider as allies Canadians of different faiths—or no faith—who also sincerely seek truth, beauty, and goodness. We believe that these values find their complete expression in the God of Jesus Christ,” The statement reads. “As Christians, we do not seek religious freedom that is denied to others.”
The CCC is an ecumenical body that represents 25 denominations of Anglican, Evangelical, Free Church, Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox, Protestant and Catholic traditions.