Canada’s Ringing ‘No’ to the Niqab

FrontPage Magazine 14 December 2011
By Stephen Brown

The Canadian government of Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper showed new immigrants that Canadian and Western values are paramount in Canada on Monday when it banned face coverings for Muslim women at citizenship swearing-in ceremonies. The prohibition occurred after the country’s immigration minister, Jason Kenney?, had received complaints from citizenship judges and other ceremony participants that it is "hard to tell whether veiled individuals are actually reciting the oath.

"Allowing a group to hide their faces while they are becoming members of our community is counter to Canada’s commitment to openness, equality and social cohesion,” Kenney stated.

The wearing of the Muslim face-veil was becoming a growing problem at citizenship ceremonies. Government officials across the country were being confronted "every week” with veil-wearing women. This went against the grain of the government’s belief that taking the citizenship oath, according to Kenney, was "a public declaration that you are joining the Canadian family and it must be taken freely and openly.” In fact, Kenney called it "frankly bizarre” that regulations had allowed for face coverings at the ceremonies in the first place.

"We cannot have two classes of citizenship ceremonies,” the immigration minister maintained. "Canadian citizenship is not just about the right to carry a passport and to vote.”

Canada is already wrestling with the veil-wearing issue in its Supreme Court, the country’s highest judicial body. An unidentified Muslim woman, a sexual assault victim, is currently seeking the right to wear a veil when she testifies at the trial of her two accused. The outcome of this trial has far-reaching implications for the Canadian legal system as a finding in her favour could introduce a special status or two-tier system that Keeny feared for trial participants: Muslim women who would be allowed conceal their faces and non-Muslim women who wouldn’t. (...)