Update: see previous post September 15, 2015 Harper’s Conservatives Lose Attempt to Ban Niqabs At Citizenship Ceremonies
Harper Vows to Ban Niqabs at Future Oath-Taking Ceremonies through the Courts (Supreme Court) or through Legislation.
Conservatives doubled down on their position that women should not wear face coverings during citizenship ceremonies, saying the government would take the matter to the Supreme Court, while vowing to reintroduce the niqab ban within 100 days of re-election.
On Tuesday, the Federal Court of Appeal dismissed the government’s appeal of an earlier Federal Court ruling that declared the ban on face coverings at such ceremonies was unlawful.
The decision stemmed from the case of Zunera Ishaq, a 29-year-old woman with devout Muslim beliefs who came to Ontario from Pakistan in 2008. She refused to take part in a citizenship ceremony because she would have to show her face under a ban introduced in 2011.
The three-judge panel ruled from the bench, saying they wanted to proceed quickly so that Ishaq could obtain her citizenship in time to vote in the Oct. 19 federal election.
One of Ishaq’s lawyers, Marlys Edwardh, said the Immigration Department would be contacted this week so she could attend a citizenship ceremony — accompanied by her lawyers “just in case.”
New legislation promised
The Conservative campaign moved swiftly on Wednesday, lining up key Tory heavyweights to reassert their position on the niqab, less than 24 hours after suffering the latest in a series of losses before the courts.
Chris Alexander issued a one-line statement saying the government will seek leave to appeal the case to the Supreme Court of Canada.
In June, with days to go before Parliament adjourned for the summer, the Conservatives proposed legislation requiring all would-be Canadians to show their face while taking the oath of citizenship. The Oath of Citizenship Act died on the order paper.
Denis Lebel, Stephen Harper’s lieutenant in Quebec, said during a morning news conference in Trois-Rivières, Que., that a re-elected Conservative government would reintroduce legislation within the first 100 days to ban the niqab during citizenship ceremonies.
Lebel said that citizenship isn’t just a privilege, but also brings with it the responsibility to clearly identify oneself when taking the oath.
“When a government tables legislation, it’s more than just desire,” Lebel said. “We have the political belief that this is the way it has to be.”
Jason Kenney, who first issued the policy directive in 2011 when he was immigration minister, defended the niqab ban and the government’s decision to take the matter to the Supreme Court, saying it was consistent with the view held by the majority of Canadians.
“I’m proud to have made the decision to underscore the public nature of the citizenship oath,” Kenney said during a news conference in Calgary Wednesday morning.
“Like the vast majority of Canadians — including I think the vast majority of Muslim Canadians — I do not believe that the public declaration of your loyalty to your fellow citizens should be obscured or hidden.
“I think it’s entirely reasonable to ask, for those 30 seconds, that someone proudly demonstrate their loyalty to Canada.” Kenney said.
While the niqab ban was popular in some parts of Quebec, both the federal New Democrats and Liberals have come out against it.
On Wednesday, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau criticized the Conservatives for using this as a wedge issue in the middle of a federal campaign.
“In any situation where a government chooses to limit or restrict individual rights or freedoms, it has to clearly explain why. This government has not done that,” Trudeau said during a campaign stop in Calgary.
“It is continuing with the politics of division and even fear and that’s not worthy of a country as diverse and extraordinary as Canada.”
Trudeau said the heart of the debate was the issue of protecting minority rights.
NDP Leader Tom Mulcair, who is also in Calgary preparing for Thursday’s upcoming leaders’ debate, did not have any campaign events scheduled for the day.