Court Hears Kenney ‘Dictated’ Niqab Ban at Citizenship Ceremony

A Mississauga woman, Zunera Ishaq, has filed a case against the federal government over its policy that forbids wearing the face-covering veil, called niqab, while taking the oath of citizenship. It is being argued that the ban breaches her Charter rights and fails to accommodate her religious beliefs and dress code.

Zunera Ishaq’s lawyer, Naseem Mithoowani, alleged that the niqab was banned from citizenship ceremonies by former immigration minister, Jason Kenney, who imposed his own ideology of “Canadian values” on the process. Federal court Justice, Keith Boswell, was told at a hearing in Toronto on Thursday that “the true motivation of the policy is to compel Muslim women to abandon, albeit briefly, their religious adherence.” Mithoowani stated that “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.”

This is the first challenge of its kind against the niqab ban at citizenship ceremonies and if it is accepted, it would strike down the policy. The ban was imposed by Mr. Kenny in December 2011, when he mentioned that “(the) cultural tradition. . . reflects a certain view about women that we don’t accept in Canada.” Now Canada’s employment minister, Kenney, stated then that “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.”

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