Update: see previous post – October 07, 2015 Niqab Ban at Citizenship Ceremonies Unlawful, as Harper Loses Appeal
Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould is expected to formally withdraw the federal government’s request for an appeal of a court decision that had a huge impact on the recent federal election campaign.
The Conservative Party decided in mid-campaign to fight a Federal Court of Appeal decision allowing women to wear face veils such as the niqab at citizenship ceremonies.
It sought leave to appeal at the Supreme Court of Canada. The Conservative Party’s former leader Stephen Harper also said his government would consider banning public servants from wearing face veils at work.
Former citizenship and immigration minister Chris Alexander filed the notice of application for leave to appeal on September 21, 2015.
The federal government has, under the Supreme Court Act, 60 days from the day of the judgment to file all supporting materials. That’s tomorrow.
Speaking to reporters today, Wilson-Raybould said it’s on her radar, “I will update in the next day or two.”
Case became election wedge issue
Few believed the Supreme Court would agree to hear the case as the Federal Court of Appeal was unanimous in upholding the earlier Federal Court Justice Keith Boswell’s ruling that declared the niqab ban unlawful.
The case started with a lawsuit from Zunera Ishaq, a devout Muslim who moved to Ontario from Pakistan in 2008 to join her husband. Ishaq agreed to remove her niqab for an official before writing and passing her citizenship test two years ago, but she objected to unveiling in public at the oath-taking ceremony.
In his ruling, Boswell said the government policy, introduced in 2011, violates the Citizenship Act, which states citizenship judges must allow the greatest possible religious freedom when administering the oath. Boswell asked how that would be possible, “if the policy requires candidates to violate or renounce a basic tenet of their religion.”
The niqab issue became a huge issue in the election campaign as the Conservatives used it as a wedge issue that didn’t help them outside of Quebec. In Quebec, the issue is widely seen to have harmed New Democrats after Leader Tom Mulcair made it clear that he supported the courts’ decisions to allow women to wear the niqab at citizenship ceremonies.
As for Ishaq, she is now a Canadian citizen.