A Mississauga woman has taken the federal government to court over a policy that forbids wearing the face-covering veil while taking the oath of citizenship, arguing the ban breaches her Charter rights and fails to accommodate her religious beliefs and dress code.
The Star Banning the niqab from citizenship ceremonies is the result of former immigration minister Jason Kenney imposing his own ideology of “Canadian values” on the process, Zunera Ishaq’s lawyer, Naseem Mithoowani, told federal court Justice Keith Boswell at a hearing in Toronto on Thursday.
“The true motivation of the policy is to compel Muslim women to abandon, albeit briefly, their religious adherence,” Mithoowani said. “The failure to remove the veil is at the heart of this policy, more than being seen taking the oath . . . This is about Kenney deciding that niqab does not fit into the mode of Canadian citizens.” (It doesn’t!)
I believe people taking the public Oath of Citizenship should do so publicly, w/ their faces uncovered. Do you agree? http://t.co/5UxKm2sMKe
— Jason Kenney ن (@kenneyjason) October 17, 2014
It’s the first such challenge against the niqab ban at citizenship ceremonies; if successful, it could strike down the policy. The government lawyer arguing the case said becoming a citizen is a privilege, not a right, and pointed out that Ishaq had removed her veil to get a driver’s license.
In December 2011, Kenney brought in the ban in an operational manual — rather than new legislation — in a series of measurements meant to strengthen the integrity of Canadian citizenship that also included raising the pass mark for the citizenship test and stricter residency and language requirements.
“(The) cultural tradition. . . reflects a certain view about women that we don’t accept in Canada,” Kenney, now Canada’s employment minister, said then. “We want women to be full and equal members of Canadian society, and certainly when they’re taking the citizenship oath, that’s the right place to start.”
Ishaq, who was not in court, said it has become part of her identity. In 2008, she was sponsored to Canada from Pakistan by her husband. She put her citizenship ceremony on hold in January as a result of the ban. (Hopefully Canada will put her on the next flight back to Crapistan)
“This policy was dictated by the immigration minister (Kenney) that there had to be a change, and there’s no willingness to provide any accommodation,” said Waldman.
Everyone attending a citizenship ceremony must show their face and be identified by immigration officials. While in the past these women were allowed to take the oath with face covered, Waldman said, they now must remove the scarves in public during the two minutes of oath-taking before a citizenship judge.