The Committee, mandated with monitoring the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, received the two complaints in 2016.The women had been prosecuted, convicted and fined in 2012 for wearing the niqab, based on a 2010 French law which stipulates that “no one may, in a public space, wear any article of clothing intended to conceal the face.” The law has the effect of banning the wearing of the full Islamic veil in public, which covers the whole body, leaving only a narrow slit for the eyes. The Committee of 18 independent experts from around the world, stated in two rulings, that the right to practice one’s religion includes the wearing of distinctive clothing and head coverings. “The State has not demonstrated how the full veil presents a threat in itself for public security to justify this absolute ban,” the decision read, adding that the French Government had not adequately explained why hiding one’s face is forbidden for religious reasons, while it is authorized in other contexts such as sports, or artistic settings.The experts also concluded that the ban, rather than protecting fully veiled women, could have the effect of confining them to their homes, impeding their access to public services and marginalizing them.The Committee acknowledged that Governments’ law enforcement entities must be able “in some circumstances” to demand that individuals show their faces, meaning they would have to uncover them in specific and “concrete situations”, where public security was at stake, or for formal identification purposes.Committee members noted, however, that the scope of the French law was not limited to such specific contexts and that it prevents people from hiding their faces in public spaces “at all times”.“The decisions are not directed against the notion of secularity, nor are they an endorsement of a custom which many on the Committee, including myself, regard as a form of oppression of women,” said Yuval Shany, Chair of the Committee.He explained that the decisions reflected the position that a general criminal ban did not allow for a reasonable balance between public interests and individual rights.Anyone can bring an alleged violation of human rights to the attention of the United Nations committees tasked with monitoring the realization of various international human rights treaties, and thousands of people around the world do so every year. Once a case has been deemed admissible and a decision has been made, there is no possibility to appeal against the committees’ decisions, as they are final.If a committee concludes that a violation of a treaty has taken place, the decisions – which are not legally-binding – offer recommendations for the State involved in the case, which then has 180 days to provide information on the steps it has taken to implement those recommendations.In these two specific cases, recommendations include a compensation of the two petitioners, and measures to prevent similar violations in the future, including a review of the 2010 law.
By Murray KnuttilaProvost and Vice-President, AcademicOn Friday, March 11, the University will resume negotiations with CUPE 4207 (Unit 1) and with a government-appointed mediator to pursue a fair and reasonable collective agreement with the union that represents Brock teaching assistants, course coordinators, lab demonstrators and grader-markers.CUPE 4207 has declared a strike deadline of 12:01 a.m. on Monday, March 14 if a settlement has not been reached.In recent days many people on campus, but especially the students, have expressed deep concern about the impact a labour disruption would have on their studies and on the fulfillment of their academic year.As Provost, I can assure the Brock community that the University truly realizes the concern being felt by students and their families, and as we head into this weekend of negotiations, we continue to work hard to reach a fair and appropriate collective agreement that would avert a strike.These are difficult economic times in Ontario for universities and unions to be negotiating collective agreements. However, Brock has been in collective bargaining for numerous months with several unions representing our employees, and in the past month we have successfully reached three agreements with unions.Earlier today we reached a tentative agreement with CUPE 4207 (Unit 2), the union that represents ESL co-ordinators at the University.We remain hopeful that we will also achieve successful results with CUPE 4207 (Unit 1).The University understands very clearly that students want to complete — and we want them to complete — their course of study in a timely fashion. If that should be delayed by a strike, the University, with the guidance of Senate, will make every effort to ensure that that time is made up in as reasonable a way as possible.As for contingency measures in the event of a labour dispute, the FAQ pages of the University’s Collective Bargaining website contain a lot of information about how a strike could affect campus operations and services. And every day we continue to expand the volume and types of information in those FAQs.If a collective agreement is not reached this weekend and a strike seems likely, the University will communicate detailed information to the Brock community through email, Facebook, Twitter, the University website and the Brock News online.In the coming days we will be continually updating the Collective Bargaining pages as new information becomes available, and I implore members of the Brock community to monitor the site to stay abreast of developments.Get The Brock News in your email.