Niqab-citizenship ceremony ruling will be appealed, PM says
'This is a society that is transparent, open and where people are equal,' Stephen Harper says
The government will appeal a Federal Court ruling that women can wear a niqab when taking their oath of citizenship, Prime Minister Stephen Harper says.
The woman who launched the motion, Zunera Ishaq, said she removed her face-covering veil during her citizenship test in November 2013 because she was allowed to do so in private with a female citizenship official.
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However, in court documents she objected to the 2011 law requiring her to remove her niqab while she took the oath of citizenship, because she believes it requires her to temporarily abandon her Sunni Muslim belief that she wear the cloth that covers the face in public.
She also argued that female officials could easily take her oath in private, and that the law doesn't require people be "seen" taking it.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada argued the policy isn't mandatory and there's no way to know what would have happened had she refused to remove her niqab. As well, the department said, any violation of a charter right would be "trivial" because the oath takes less than a minute to recite.
On Friday, a Federal Court judge ruled the law is inconsistent with the duty given to citizenship judges. All that's needed, the judge ruled, is for citizenship applicants to sign a form saying they've taken the oath. The judge declined to comment on the charter aspects of the case because the decision could be made on a non-charter basis.
During a meeting with reporters in Victoriaville, Que., on Thursday, Harper said the government will challenge the ruling.
"I believe, and I think most Canadians believe, that it is offensive that someone would hide their identify at the very moment where they are committing to join the Canadian family," he said "This is a society that is transparent, open and where people are equal."
Ishaq's lawyer said the policy in question is discriminatory and ill-conceived.
"There is no security issue involved here, there's no legal basis for this policy in my view," said Lorne Waldman. "I find it disturbing that the government would persist in pursuing a policy that, in my view, has no legal foundation."