The Canadian Justice System on the niqab in court: some thoughts

A close decision on whether or not a Witness may be required to remove niqab while testifying: top court (The Globe and Mail). The entire article and decision should be read, but a key passage is this:

In its 4-3 decision, the court said there are times when even a significant religious belief must bow to other social and legal concerns.

“An extreme approach that would always require the witness to remove her niqab while testifying, or one that would never do so, is untenable,” Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin said, writing on behalf of several of the judges in the majority.

“The answer lies in a just and proportionate balance between freedom of religion and trial fairness, based on the particular case before the court,” she said. “A witness who for sincere religious reasons wishes to wear the niqab while testifying in a criminal proceeding will be required to remove it if (a) this is necessary to prevent a serious risk to the fairness of the trial, because reasonably available alternative measures will not prevent the risk; and (b) the salutary effects of requiring her to remove the niqab outweigh the deleterious effects of doing so.”

I believe this is a fair decision, though I am interested in knowing what others think. My thoughts towards the niqab is similar to what Voltaire said on free speech, namely, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”. I think women should not have to cover themselves up, period. But I think they should have the right to decide to do so if they want to. I think there are better ways to fight for the rights of Muslim women that making them take off what to do them is a very important garb. Finally, I also think that Canadian courts can find a way to accomodate this right while not infringing on the rights of the accused. Let’s see.


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