I have a fundamental problem with giving the government – any government – the right to regulate clothing. From public nudity to the burqa – I am not owned by anyone else and therefore, I do not accept anyone else’s authority to dictate what I do or do not wear.
Having said this, I do agree with Mr. Fatah on just about all the important points: private businesses must retain the right to assert dress codes on their property, even if it is open to the public. In other words, ‘No shoes, No shirt, No face – No service’ must be at the discretion of the private business or individual (this would include taxis and private transportation firms as well as real property).
In addition, I also agree with Mr. Fatah that the government has the right – I would assert the responsibility – to ensure that people in publicly owned spaces, buildings and receiving publicly operated services (like, say, public transport) reveal their faces for ready identification, much as the Quebec government has asserted.
Perhaps some people think that this is ‘splitting hairs’, that ‘banning the burqa’ and ‘demanding facial visibility while on public property’ are the same thing.
I would beg to disagree: they may have the same effect in the sense that a person who wishes to partake in our society must show their face to do so. However, they are very different things because they are rooted in different principles. (And, contrary to popular belief, that does mean something.)
The banning of a particular piece or style of clothing sets up the precedent that the government has the right to tell us how to dress. I don’t happen to think it does. If my neighbour decides to start walking their dog in the buff, that is their own business – I might snigger or gossip, but I certainly do not have the right to demand they ‘cover up’, so I cannot delegate that right to my elected members of parliament: hence, the government does not have the right to tell us what to wear.
(Yes, I know, as shown in the above link, the Ontario courts of appeal have just recently upheld laws against public nudity: and I disagree with their belief they have the jurisdiction to rule on this subject.)
Because if we give the government the power to rule over what we may or may not wear, the chador is not far off….just wait for the demographics to change a little bit. No – we’d be much safer clearly setting the precedent that governments have no jurisdiction whatsoever over what we wear and how we wear it when we are on our own time, as private citizens.
Governments do have a responsibility to deliver citizen and resident services safely and effectively. This cannot be done if the citizens receiving/delivering the services are not readily identifiable. Therefore, I recognize the governments’ right to demand that faces be visible for the purposes of receiving/delivering public services (and driving, voting, and so on).
In addition, governments have taken upon themselves the responsibility to deliver services without discrimination, especially without discrimination to disabled individuals. Many people with hearing impairments partially or fully read lips in order to understand what is being said to them. It is therefore essential that hearing disabled citizens, whether receiving or providing a government service, must be able to read the lips of all those around them – which is also a valid reason for accommodating the ‘uncovered face in public places’ policy.
So, rather than expanding government powers to cover clothing, we should use already existing laws made in order to have an inclusive society to achieve this end.
To me, there is a huge difference between the two approaches, because, after all, the means define the end!