Montreal, October 27, 2017
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Earlier in October, the Liberal Party of Quebec proposed Bill 62 at the National Assembly, a bill which nominally aims to ensure religious neutrality by the state. However, by specifically singling-out face coverings, the policy targets Muslim women who choose to wear the niqab or burka. The law directly restricts access to important public services and serves to even further augment barriers against those who are already amongst the most marginalized in our communities.
Ironically, before the law was passed, the Liberal party decided to cancel the planned governmental consultation on systemic racism. It is as clear as ever that systemic racism is not only present, but also prevalent, in Quebec. The adoption of this legislation adds institutionalized stigmatization of women wearing veils, but also fuels Islamophobic rhetoric, sentiment, and the resulting actions. As hate groups all across Quebec are gaining traction, it is as important as always to stand in solidarity with marginalized groups and to oppose any efforts to further institutionalize Islamophobia.
AVEQ condemns systemic Islamophobia that persists in society, as well as the difficulties that racialized communities experience as a result of this Islamophobia, including limiting their ability to access jobs, services, and education. Furthermore, we understand that this form of systemic racism pushes police and other authority figures to profile racialized groups. We condemn the government’s attempt to use religious clothing, including hijabs, niqabs and burkas, to justify stigmatization, persecution, ostracization, and promote state and interpersonal violence towards women who choose to wear them.
The inconsistency in messages from government representatives regarding the application and enforcement of this misguided legislation is also troubling. The inability of the Ministers of Justice and Higher Education to articulate coherent instructions and interpretations of the law is a clear indication of the arbitrary nature of this discrimination. We are heartened by the response of universities and unions that have maintained that we have a responsibility to maintain a safe and inclusive learning environment on campuses and in classrooms.
AVEQ reasserts that education and other public services should be easily accessible to all. Many of our members are Muslim students, and we offer our love and support to them as always, while also knowing that concrete action must be taken. Thus, we call for organizations and residents to reject Islamophobia and racism and to challenge Bill 62 through a variety of means, including contacting government representatives, mounting legal challenges, and taking individual action to resist the enforcement of this legislation. It is especially important that people take initiative to intervene in instances of discrimination, harassment, and violence if they are in position to do so safely. We encourage students and all community members to support each other, especially those most affected by this bill, and by discrimination and state violence in society at large.
We will be mobilizing in solidarity with the large demonstration against hatred and racism in Montreal on November 12th, as well as supporting students and student associations across the province in taking action against Bill 62, and to fight Islamophobia on our campuses and in society at large. We invite you to join us.
AVEQ’s mission is to defend both Anglophone and francophone students, with particular attention to the realities of students in the regions. AVEQ currently represents over 46,000 students across three member associations, and other association are actively participating in its creation.
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Kristen Perry, Coordinator of Mobilization and Associative Development
Sophia Sahrane, Coordinator of Research and Academic Affairs