Federal bill on niqab undermines fundamental rights, says national advocacy group

-For Immediate Release-

(Ottawa – June 19, 2015) The National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), a prominent Muslim civil liberties & advocacy organization, says the federal government’s announcement of new legislation to ban the niqab (face veil) from citizenship oaths only undermines Canada’s cherished principles of freedom and equality for all.

The government announced today its introduction of the Oath of Citizenship Act which will require new citizens to show their faces while taking the oath during citizenship ceremonies.

The Federal Court of Canada ruled last February that a previous decree implemented by the government to ban women wearing niqab from taking the oath was “unlawful”. The government is appealing that ruling.

“It is very disheartening that our government is spending so much time and effort to revive what is essentially a manufactured issue which appears to be being used for political purposes,” says Ihsaan Gardee, NCCM’s Executive Director. “Fundamental rights, including religious freedom, cannot be determined based on a popularity contest or on the whims of elected leaders heading into an election. When it comes to writing new laws or amending existing ones, core principles should inform our policies.”

“Canadian women have long established their right to make their own decisions; taking away that right has nothing to do with equality as the government claims and everything to do with marginalization and political pandering. We’ve already seen a Quebec Muslim woman prevented from accessing justice because a judge thought her hijab was unsuitable. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms applies to all of us, not a select few,” says Amira Elghawaby, NCCM’s Communications Director.

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

The NCCM is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit grassroots advocacy organization. It is a leading voice for Muslim civic engagement and the promotion of human rights.

CONTACT: Amira Elghawaby, Communications Director, 613.254.9704; aelghawaby(at)nccm.ca