From National Post
A Muslim woman is asking to be sworn in as a Canadian citizen as soon as possible while wearing a niqab, even as the Harper government considers appealing a court ruling overturning its policy requiring women to remove face coverings while reciting the oath.
“I hope my wait [to become a citizen] is not very long,’’ said Zunera Ishaq, the 29-year-old Toronto resident and mother of three who challenged the policy.
Kevin Menard, a spokesman for Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander, said Wednesday “all available legal options” are being kept open in the wake of a new Federal Court ruling that found the policy violated the government’s own regulations.
“New citizens are obliged to confirm their identity when taking the Oath of Citizenship, which is sworn or affirmed in public,” he said in an email. “It is simply common sense to require the removal of facial coverings or other items that hide new citizens’ mouths from view.”
But Ms. Ishaq said she was hopeful that the government would let the decision stand as she has been “imagining for so long” to become a Canadian citizen.
“The basis of my challenge was proved true,” she said.
Ishaq’s lawyer, Lorne Waldman, said Wednesday he was sending a letter to the citizenship office requesting a quick date for his client to take the oath, and advising that his client expects to be able to wear her niqab.
“The Court found that the policy of requiring a woman to remove her facial covering, where there is no question of identity or security, was illegal. The government is required to follow the law,” he said.
Naseem Mithoowani, Mr. Waldman’s colleague, added that if the government chooses to appeal, it would have to seek a separate stay to stop the enforcement of the court order. That’s a high bar because the government would have to show that it was suffering “irreparable harm” from women being allowed to take the oath while their faces are covered, she said.
About 100 niqab-wearing women are affected by the policy each year. It was introduced by Jason Kenney, the former immigration minister, in 2011.
The policy didn’t sit well with Ms. Ishaq, a Pakistani national and devout Sunni Muslim, who says her religious beliefs obligate her to wear a niqab. While she did not object to unveiling herself in private so that an official could confirm her identity before taking the citizenship test, she drew a line at unveiling herself at the public citizenship ceremony.
“I feel that the governmental policy regarding veils at citizenship oath ceremonies is a personal attack on me, my identity as a Muslim woman and my religious beliefs,” she told the court.
Her lawyers also pointed out that while the Citizenship Act requires people to take the oath, it does not require them to be “seen” taking the oath.
She rejected a government offer to seat her at the front or back of the ceremony so her face would not easily be seen.
In a ruling last week, Judge Keith Boswell said the government’s own regulations require that citizenship judges administer the citizenship oath “with dignity and solemnity, allowing the greatest possible freedom in the religious solemnization or the solemn affirmation thereof.” How is this possible, Judge Boswell asked, if a policy requires citizenship candidates to “violate or renounce a basic tenet of their religion?”
“For instance, how could a citizenship judge afford a monk who obeys strict rules of silence the ‘greatest possible freedom’ in taking the oath if he is required to betray his discipline and break his silence?” he wrote.
The government had argued that the policy was not mandatory and that citizenship judges were free to apply it or not.
But the judge cited internal department emails stating that it was “pretty clear that [the Minister] would like the changes to the procedure to ‘require’ citizenship candidates to show their face … regardless of whether there is a legislative base.”
The judge also cited a media interview in which Mr. Kenney said it was “ridiculous” that a face should be covered during the citizenship oath.
The ruling was hailed by the National Council of Canadian Muslims, which said in a statement this week that while the niqab was controversial even among Muslims, “this ruling reflects what Canada is about: accommodating differences that harm no one in order to preserve and protect individual freedom.”
From The Star
OTTAWA—Vowing to appeal a federal court decision that allows people to take the oath of citizenship while wearing face coverings, Prime Minister Stephen Harper says it’s “offensive” that someone would want to hide their identity “at the very moment where they are committing to join the Canadian family.”
“That is not the way we do things,” he told reporters in Victoriaville, Que., on Thursday.
“This is a society that is transparent, open and where people are equal, and I think we find that offensive.”
Mrs. Ishaq…. You came to Canada for freedom yet you insist that you are allowed to wear your face veil according to your so called religion of peace that subjugates women to the lowest form of living being. It does not state in your pseudo- religious book, the quran, that you be veiled! It says that you must dress modestly!
In your so called religion you are not suppose to take any oath that would make you a subject of a country….your only allegiance is to allah. So…right there you are already breaking one of the beliefs of your so called religion!
No Mrs. Ishaq….. I do not believe that you truly want to be a citizen of Canada. You do not believe in our values or our principles!
If I went to Saudi Arabia and wished to be a Saudi citizen I would subject to the laws of that country. I could not demand or take to court my religious beliefs to over ride the Saudi Sharia laws! Why do you think it should be any different in Canada? If you can’t abide by the Canadian Laws for even a moment of time…..why would we want you here? You are a troublemaker! Most importantly….Why are here in the first place?
If you won’t or can’t assimilate then flock off to another country….we don’t need you here!