The Federal Court of Appeal has denied the government’s most recent attempt to deny Zunera Ishaq the right to wear a niqab during her citizenship oath ceremony.
This does not change the rules around the current procedure required before the group oath-taking ceremony. As part of the proof of identity process, anyone wearing a face covering goes before a citizenship official in private and removes it in order to confirm their identity.
Initially, Ishaq challenged the ban on wearing a niqab, and last month the Federal Court ruled in her favour. The government then requested the decision be put on hold until they could take it to the Supreme Court of Canada for a hearing.
But today, Court of Appeal Justice Johanne Trudel dismissed the government’s application for a stay, writing in her decision that refusing the application for stay would not result in irreparable harm to the public interest, which was one of the arguments made by Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
Justice Trudel questioned the government’s argument that the Burqa policy is “not mandatory and citizenship judges can apply it or not,” and yet at the same time would “cause irreparable harm if not enforced.”
“It is simply inconsistent to claim, on the one hand, that a policy has no binding effect on decision-makers, but that irreparable harm would result if that policy was to be declared unlawful on the other.”
Ishaq may now be able to obtain citizenship in time to vote in the October 19th federal election. Coming from Pakistan in 2008, Ishaq refused to take part in a 2014 ceremony because she would have to show her face.
The conservatives have taken a hard line on the niqab ban, with Defense Minister Jason Kenney, who introduced the ban as citizenship and immigration minister, saying in an interview with the Calgary Herald last week that the niqab is “legitimizing a medieval tribal custom that treats women as property rather than people”.
His comments were in response to Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi speaking out against the Conservative’s niqab ban.
Last week in Montreal, a pregnant Muslim woman was knocked to the ground by two teenagers when they grabbed her headscarf, known as a hijab, as she was walking down the street.
Yesterday, the Globe and Mail reported that a Canadian woman in Toronto was physically assaulted in front of her daughters while trying to enter a Shoppers Drug Mart. She was wearing a niqab. According to the Globe story, Merriman has roots in Canada that date back to the 1600s. This is an excerpt from her Facebook post detailing what happened to her.
Former Liberal leader speaks out against niqab ban
Over the weekend in an interview with CBC radio, former interim Liberal leader Bob Rae called the Conservative Party fight to ban the niqab divisive.
“This is not about the niqab. This is about diversity. This is about pluralism. This is about respecting difference.”
“Barbaric Cultural Practices”
Last week in Ontario, Conservative candidate Kellie Leitch promised that if elected, the government would establish a new tip line for citizens to report “barbaric cultural practices” in their communities.
This prompted the #barbaricculturalpractices hashtag to be born, eliciting some pointed, as well as some tongue-in-cheek, tweets:
Report Your Neighbour website takes direct aim at Conservative’s tip line promise
The promise of a tip line also prompted the launch of a satirical website, Report Your Neighbour. The site provides examples of what it calls un-Canadian behavior, including preventing women from exercising their rights, keeping kids poor, denying scientific facts, picking on the vulnerable, attacking veterans, and ‘creating a tip line to snitch on your neighbours’.