Niqab appeal by Ottawa is questioned over motivation

By Andrew Foote, CBC News | February 13, 2015

Critics are questioning the motivation behind the federal government’s decision to appeal a judge’s ruling that allows women to wear a face-concealing niqab while taking the oath of citizenship.

A Federal Court judge said last Friday that Zunera Ishaq, a Pakistani woman now living in Mississauga, did not have to remove her niqab when taking the oath of citizenship, ruling that the law only requires someone to sign a form saying they’ve taken the oath.

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Amira Elghawaby, human rights coordinator at the National Council of Canadian Muslims, said many Muslims and Canadians disagree with the idea of the niqab, but if it’s someone’s sincere religious belief, the right to wear one is a legal matter protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

« Our opinions about these things really are irrelevant, what’s important is what it means to be Canadian and what it means to have freedom of religion and conscience in this country, » she said.

« I think that unanimously, people who understand our Charter of Rights understand that this is a right that should be protected. She is not harming anyone by deciding to keep her niqab on … and whether I agree with it or not, I do not have the right to tell her to remove it because the law does not support that and the constitution does not support that. »

The Federal Court judge did not rule on charter issues, saying they did not need to be settled in this case.

Both Elghawaby and Ishaq’s lawyer raised questions about the government’s motivation for the appeal….