A woman wearing the niqab cannot demand to be served by another woman when dealing with the Quebec Health Insurance Board, Quebec’s human-rights commission has ruled.
Concluding that religious beliefs cannot stand in the way of gender equality, the commission found that when a woman wearing the Islamic face covering is required to identify herself and proceed with the photo session needed to produce a health insurance card, the Health Insurance Board has no obligation to accommodate her request to be served by a woman.
“Since freedom of religion was not significantly undermined, there is no obligation to grant an accommodation,” the order states.
The health board had previously agreed to such requests. But last fall critics argued that the health board was acceding to religious fundamentalism.
The decision was greeted with approval in Quebec’s National Assembly yesterday by MNAs of all political stripes.
Immigration Minister Yolande James suggested the ruling will form the basis of new guidelines on religious accommodation for public services, following on the action taken last week to bar a woman from attending a free French language class for immigrants unless she agreed to take off her niqab.