An Ontario judge, Justice Norris Weisman, has finally ruled that a woman must remove her niqab, in order to be able to testify in a Toronto sexual assault case. Justice Weisman reached to the conclusion after carefully applying a newly formed test drafted by the Supreme Court of Canada, exclusively to deal with witnesses wearing a veil. The woman at the centre of the case is known only as N.S.
In his ruling, Justice Weisman mentioned that “I conclude that to permit N.S. to testify at the preliminary inquiry with her face obscured by the niqab will impair defence counsels’ ability to assess her demeanour, as well as the [judge’s] ability to assess her credibility.” The controversy of being able to wear a veil while testifying dates back to as far as six years, when N.S. began fighting for her right to wear a niqab during the trial of her uncle and cousin. The case of sexual assault entails that the culprits sexually assaulted the victim during her childhood in the 1980s. Weisman previously ruled in 2008 that N.S. must remove her niqab during testimony, although that decision was appealed all the way up to Supreme Court.
Consequently, the Supreme Court devised a test in December that instructs judges to consider four issues during such decisions, including the potential witness’s depth of religious belief, and whether the veil could lessen the fairness of the trial. Now, the preliminary hearing for the two relatives accused of sexually abusing the woman will begin next week, while N.S.’s lawyer claim, they will appeal the ruling against niqab once again.
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