Taking my seat: Claiming to be a feminist is not enough

Justin Trudeau needs to live up to the self-proclaimed title of being a feminist

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
Credit: 
Supplied via Wikipedia

Under the leadership of Phillipe Couillard’s Liberal government, the Quebec National Assembly adopted Bill 62 in mid-October. 

Bill 62 bans Quebec citizens from accessing provincial and municipal public services while having their faces covered. Even though initially the bill was only directed at provincial services, it was later expanded to include municipal services as well. This effectively encompassed every service used by Quebecois citizens on a daily basis, from public transit to the healthcare system. 

The bill allegedly emerged out of concerns for public safety. However, it also stipulates that the ban applies for the duration of a citizen’s use of a public service. This means anyone using a public service can’t simply show their face upon entering to mitigate any supposed ‘security concerns’ and then cover back up. Whether they’re covering their faces for religious reasons — Muslim women wearing a niqab or burka — or not, these people will now be forced to remove their covers for the entire duration of their time in that public space.

How are members of government reacting?

Justice Minister Stephanie Vallee said the ban wasn’t aimed at any particular group, despite public allegations. But, please. Last time I checked, white Catholic men don’t often cover their faces for religious purposes. Did Couillard’s team seriously think the public would buy the claim that this wasn’t an intentional move on the part of their government targeting Muslim communities? 

In all of this, where was our superhero of a Prime Minster? It seems with every flip of his glossy hair, he’s spouting what a feminist he is. 

But this bill is perhaps the most blatant, undisguised move to limit the rights of women that we’ll see in this country during his time in office. I can’t think of a more basic infringement on the rights of women than one which tells them what they can and can’t wear. How do we still consider what a woman chooses to wear an appropriate topic for public debate, or one that the government has any business legislating on? 

When campaigning in Quebec for the by-election just days after it was passed, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau affirmed both the rights of the provinces to pass their legislation and his ‘respect’ for the province to take a stance on the issue. 

While he later came out to say he didn’t think it was the government’s job to tell women what they can wear, he made it clear the federal government wouldn’t be challenging this bill. 

I don’t care if you think this is a move to ban an oppressive, patriarchal symbol — frankly, the same arguments have been made about short skirts and 

bikinis — it’s an assault on a woman’s right to choose what she wears and how she practices her religion. This is a paternalistic, patronizing bill that has no place in Canada, especially in the name of a phony ‘security concern’. 

You can’t call yourself a feminist to make a catchy slogan — “because it is 2015” — and not follow through when it matters. If Trudeau really wants to self proclaim the title of a feminist, he needs to start putting his money where his mouth is and openly stand up for women’s rights in his country.

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