Netherlands Approves Partial Ban on Face Coverings – The New York Times

Good overview of the state of various face covering (niqab, burqa) laws:

The Dutch parliament’s Upper House has approved a partial ban on face coverings in some public areas, a spokesman said, making the Netherlands the latest European nation to pass a law that directly affects the lives of Muslim women.

The law, approved on Tuesday, puts the Netherlands, a country of about 17 million people, in company with France, Belgium, Denmark and other countries in Europe and North America that penalize Muslim women who either partly or fully cover their faces in public.

Supporters of such bans say they are necessary to protect public safety, defend Western values or encourage migrants to assimilate into their new societies.

But rights groups say they discriminate against Muslim women, some of whom view garments like niqabs, which cover a woman’s face but for a narrow slit left for the eyes, and burqas, which cover the entire face, as a religious obligation.

Here is a look at efforts in Europe and North America to restrict the wearing of face-covering garments in public.

The Netherlands

The law, which was passed by the Upper House by a 43 to 32 vote, according to the body’s press officer, Gert Riphagen, on Wednesday, prohibits wearing face coverings at schools, government offices and hospitals. The rules about facial coverings also apply to people covering their faces with ski masks and full face helmets, he said, but they do not apply to the street.

The law could take effect on Jan. 1 after the internal affairs ministry has discussions on how to enforce it, said Mr. Riphagen.

The vote was backed by eight parties, Mr. Riphagen said, some of which have embraced anti-Islam rhetoric, including the Freedom Party of Geert Wilders, the far-right politician, who first proposed the idea in 2005 and tweeted his support of the passage. Four parties, mostly progressive liberals and left-wing Democrats, voted against it, Mr. Riphagen said.

Annelies Moors, a professor of anthropology and sociology at the University of Amsterdam, studied the impact of the ban before it was passed and watched the vote proceedings on Tuesday via live stream. She said that backers of the ban had defended it by saying full-face veils hinder communications and impede government service. But she said the action disproportionately affected women in the country’s population of less than a million Muslims. Dr. Moors said she and other researchers had estimated there were fewer than 500 Muslim women who wear the full face coverings.

“It is harmful to one particular group,” Dr. Moors said. “It excludes them from being able to participate in society. They can’t even take public transportation.”


Switzerland’s cabinet said on Wednesday that it opposed a campaign pushing for a nationwide ban on facial coverings in public spaces, saying such decisions about public space should be made by individual cantons.

“The cantons should decide for themselves whether or not to ban facial coverings in public places,” the statement said. “The initiative would make it impossible to take into account the individual cantons’ differing sensitivities, in particular removing their ability to determine for themselves how they wish to treat tourists from Arab states who wear facial coverings.”

The cabinet was responding to an initiative called “Yes to a ban on full facial coverings,” which has collected more than 100,000 signatures to demand provisions in the law making it illegal for people to cover their faces anywhere in public, according to the statement.

The push includes some of those who led a 2009 ban on building new minarets, Reuters reported. About 5 percent of Switzerland’s 8.5 million residents are Muslims, the news agency said.


On June 2, The Times reported that on May 28:

Parliament approved a law to ban the wearing of full-face coverings in public, mostly seen as directed at the Islamic veil. And the immigration minister recently stirred controversy by suggesting that fasting Muslims were a danger to society.
The Associated Press reported in May that Justice Minister Soeren Pape Poulsen said law enforcement officers should use “common sense” when they see possible violations before the law goes into effect on Aug. 1.

Last year, The Times examined efforts to restrict the wearing of face covering garments. Here is a version of that breakdown.


In October, the French-speaking Canadian province of Quebec made it a crime to wear a face-covering garment in public, a move that critics derided as discriminatory against Muslim women.

The law was the first of its kind in North America. It barred people with face coverings from receiving public services, such as riding a bus, or from working in government jobs, such as a doctor or teacher. They also cannot receive publicly funded health care while covering their faces.

Quebec’s minister of justice, Stéphanie Vallée, said the law fostered social cohesion. Ihsaan Gardee, the executive director of the National Council of Canadian Muslims, called it “an unnecessary law with a made-up solution to an invented problem.”


Austria’s ban on wearing full-face coverings in public — including in universities, on public transportation and in courthouses — also took effect last October. Though aimed at women wearing burqas or niqabs, the law applies to everyone, with exceptions for artists and people wearing scarves in cold weather. Violators can be fined 150 euros, or about $175.

The measure was part of a legislative package passed before Austria’s national election last year, which was dominated by debate over immigration. The election saw the far-right Freedom Party enter into government under a new conservative chancellor, Sebastian Kurz. In the first six months after the law was enacted, the police reported 30 violations, only four of which involved Muslim women, Austrian news media reported.


In 2011, France became the first country in Western Europe to ban face-covering garments like the burqa or niqab in public, although the law did not explicitly mention Islam. The move made it illegal to cover one’s face in public places, including streets and stores, as a security measure. Those who break the law face fines of up to 150 euros.

The law has been divisive in France, which has long been rived by tensions between its Muslim population, Europe’s largest, and those who support the state ideology of secularism.

In 2016, a string of beach towns went one step further, driven in part by a string of deadly terrorist attacks, and banned the burkini, a full-body swimsuit worn by some Muslim women.


A law that banned face-covering garments in public also went into effect in Belgium in 2011. Violators could be sentenced to seven days in prison and face a fine of 137.50 euros.

The law was quickly challenged in court by two Muslim women who said it violated their right to privacy and freedom of religion.

But in July, the European Court of Human Rights ruled against them. It said it agreed with Belgium’s argument that the law was meant to “guarantee the conditions of ‘living together’ and the ‘protection of the rights and freedoms of others.’”


A law banning face coverings while driving took effect in Germany last year, coming on the heels of legislation prohibiting anyone in the civil service, military or working for an election from covering their faces.

Bavaria took the measure one step further, barring teachers and university professors from covering their faces.


Bulgaria banned face-covering garments in government offices, schools and cultural institutions in 2016.

Lawmakers who supported the measure denied it was discriminatory. They said it was intended to help the country respond to potential security issues posed by the migrant crisis.

via Netherlands Approves Partial Ban on Face Coverings – The New York Times

Liberals urged to scrap 19th century rule that requires laws be printed in books

Although I, like most people, never consult these hard copies, I think it these are important to have as an official and archival record.

As for the specifications, these can and should be updated, but again any new specifications should be archival quality:

An obscure statute dating from Confederation has Parliament frozen in time, forcing the government to print every new law on old-fashioned paper.

Bureaucrats want to ditch those rules, end the costly printing and make digital versions the new standard — but the Liberal government has yet to decide whether to break with tradition.

At issue is the Publication of Statutes Act, conceived in the 19th century, which requires the Queen’s Printer to publish new laws passed by Parliament in an annual compendium that must be printed on quality paper.

The legislation has never been overhauled. Although Justice Canada publishes the laws online as well, the digital versions aren’t considered official.

Each year, the Queen’s Printer — now part of Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) — must print and distribute about 250 hardcover copies of the annual statutes, destined for a select group of judges, legal libraries and other locations.

The total cost is estimated at about $100,000, including $40,000 worth of printing and distribution through a private firm.

The format is meticulously spelled out in a regulation that helps keep printing costs high:

“The annual Statutes of Canada shall be printed on Number 1 Opaque Litho Book according to Canadian Government Specifications Board Standard 9-GP-29, Grade 2, Type 1, (except moisture content) or equivalent in white colour, English finish, and the basic weight shall be 100 pounds per 1,000 sheets 25 inches by 38 inches.”

The detailed specifications continue for three more paragraphs.

Deputy minister makes the case

Last May, a senior official at PSPC pressed the new minister, Judy Foote, to fix the problem, according to a briefing note obtained by CBC News.

“The requirement to print the Annual Statutes predates modern electronic communications (some provisions have not been amended since the 19th century) and does not foster the timely and efficient access to federal legislation for Canadians,” deputy minister Marie Lemay said.

Lemay called for the repeal of the regulation, and amendments to the Publication of Statutes Act and other laws to haul Parliament into the digital era. The process would require formal notices, legal drafting and the backing of Parliament, and would take months.

But Foote’s spokesperson said rookie members of Parliament need to be updated on the issue before the government decides whether to scrap the printing requirement.

Regulations governing the printing of Statutes of Canada

A regulation spells out in minute detail just how the annual Statutes of Canada are to appear in book form. (CBC)

“As the Annual Statutes contain important information for elected members and many MPs are in their first term, Minister Foote, in consultation with the deputy minister, has determined that the department will formally consult with MPs and senators before making any changes to the delivery format,” press secretary Jessica Turner said in an email.

But Lemay had specifically cautioned against delay in her briefing note last spring.

“It is important to proceed … as soon as possible,” she wrote. “On January 1, 2016, Justice Canada changed the layout of its laws and regulations. They are now incompatible with the format of the Annual Statutes as required.”

“Consequently, it will be impossible to print the 2016 Statutes.”

Source: Liberals urged to scrap 19th century rule that requires laws be printed in books – Politics – CBC News