Canada's Quebec province has prohibited government workers and anyone receiving government services from covering their face, in a move critics say unfairly targets Muslim women who wear a niqab veil.

The legislation applies to bureaucrats, police officers, teachers, and bus drivers, as well as doctors, midwives and dentists who work in publicly-funded hospitals or clinics.

Exceptions can be made on a case-by-case basis.

The government insists that the law applies to all face coverings and does not target Muslim women.

Speaking to reporters, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard cited improved "communication, identification and safety" as reasons for the ban.

Mr Couillard said: "I should see your face, and you should see mine."

Critics say it will effectively marginalise Muslim women by limiting their access to government jobs and services.

The National Council of Canadian Muslims said in a statement that the law "boils down to ugly identity politics" ahead of a general election in Quebec next year.