Canada bans niqap in courts
OTTAWA - Agence France-PresseCanada’s top court ruled Dec. 20 that Muslim women wearing the niqab can be forced to remove their veils when testifying, but only if absolutely necessary and after any objections have been considered.
The case, considering a rape victim’s request to wear the veil at trial, pitted religious freedoms set out in the constitution against a defendant’s right to face an accuser in court, which is deeply entrenched in Canadian law.
“An extreme approach that would always require the witness to remove her niqab while testifying, or one that would never do so, is untenable,” the Supreme Court said.
Fair trial threatened
“The answer lies in a just and proportionate balance between freedom of religion and trial fairness, based on the particular case before the court.” The justices said women wishing to wear the niqab while testifying may be required to remove it if it threatens a fair trial, there are no alternatives, and the pros of requiring her to remove the niqab outweigh the cons.
They also set out a list of criteria for judges to consider in making these decisions, including assessing the strength of a woman’s religious convictions, and possible harms.