NCCM welcomes Federal appeals court ruling on citizenship oaths

-For Immediate Release-

(Ottawa – September 15, 2015) The National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), a prominent Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization, welcomes today’s decision by the Federal Court of Appeal to uphold a federal judge’s earlier decision to strike down a policy that prevented women wearing niqab (face veil) from taking the oath of Canadian citizenship.

This past February, the Federal Court ruled that an arbitrary regulation implemented by Citizenship and Immigration Canada, at the behest of then-Minister of Immigration & Citizenship Jason Kenney, to ban women wearing niqab from taking the oath was “unlawful” as it interfered with the discretion given to citizenship judges under the Citizenship Act.

The federal government appealed that decision and arguments were heard today. In dismissing the government’s appeal from the bench, the Federal Court of Appeal said it wanted the complainant, Zunera Ishaq, to be able to obtain her Canadian citizenship quickly in order to vote in the upcoming federal election.

“We welcome today’s ruling as consistent with our country’s democratic principles. Although the niqab is clearly unpopular, misunderstood by many, and deeply controversial even among Muslims, equality before the law as articulated by the Charter and not popularity contests are what determines the values Canadians wish to uphold and cherish,” says NCCM Communications Director Amira Elghawaby.

“We have seen and heard from a variety of women, legal and civil liberties groups and individuals, who have stood in support of Zunera Ishaq and other women who choose to wear the face veil. This ruling reflects what Canada is about: accommodating differences that harm no one in order to preserve and protect individual freedom. So long as women show their identity for security and identification purposes, they should be permitted to practice their faith as freely as anyone else,” says Elghawaby.

“New Canadians have come from a variety of ethno-cultural and religious backgrounds since pre-Confederation. Canada’s strength has rested in its ability to accommodate a rich and diverse multicultural and multifaith tapestry that has served our country well,” adds NCCM Executive Director Ihsaan Gardee.

Research shows that only a small minority of Muslim women wear the niqab and have no issue removing it for security and identification purposes. In a landmark ruling in 2012 on wearing a nibab while testifying in court, the Supreme Court of Canada articulated the need to balance fundamental rights and freedoms.

CONTACT: Amira Elghawaby, Communications Director, 613-254-9704