The Canadian government on Tuesday lost its appeal to ban the niqab, meaning the faces of Muslim women can be covered when they're sworn in as new Canadian citizens.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported that Canadian Federal Court of Appeal ruled from the bench so that the plaintiff could take her citizenship oath and vote in the Oct. 19 federal election, rather than delay a decision to a later date.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in 2011 that covering the face while taking the oath of citizenship is “not how we do things here” and reiterated his argument for the ban earlier this year.
“It is offensive that someone would hide their identity at the very moment when they are committing to join the Canadian family,” Harper said, as reported by Vice News.
However, that a devout Muslim woman Zunera Ishaq, who moved to Ontario from Pakistan in 2008 to join her husband, argued that it violated her religious belief to remove the niqab for the written part of her citizenship test.
A lawsuit was filed and the law was struck down, but the government appealed while Judge Keith Boswell said the government ban goes against the Citizenship Act that guarantees religious freedom.
He said it is contrary to the act “if the policy requires candidates to violate or renounce a basic tenant of their religion.”
CTV News reported that during the half-day hearing, the government reversed its course and said it never meant to make it compulsory for women to remove the face covering at citizenship ceremonies, which left the court and Ishaq’s lawyers “scratching their heads.”
Ishaq said outside the court she did not understand why the appeal moved forward if the government did not make the ban on the niqab compulsory.
“If it’s not mandatory, I would simply say, why they are fighting for it?” CTV reported. “Just let me go.”
Maryls Edwardh, one of Ishaq’s lawyers, said her client would soon attend a citizenship ceremony.