Second woman files human rights complaint in fight to have face covered during citizenship ceremon

By Douglas Quan
September 4, 2015 | National Post

A second Muslim woman is challenging a government policy that prohibits people from covering their faces while swearing the oath of citizenship.

In a complaint filed with the Canadian Human Rights Commission, Maiia Mykolayivna Zaafrane says she was discriminated against on the basis of religion when she was not allowed to participate in a citizenship ceremony because she refused to remove her niqab, a garment that covers her head and face, except her eyes.

The niqab ban became a major political flashpoint this year after another Muslim woman, Zunera Ishaq, challenged the policy in Federal Court. A judge ruled in February that the policy was unlawful because it violated federal regulations requiring citizenship judges to allow would-be citizens the “greatest possible freedom in the religious solemnization or the solemn affirmation of the oath.”

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But Amira Elghawaby, a spokeswoman for the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), which assisted Zaafrane with her complaint, said Zaafrane showed up at a citizenship ceremony consisting of 400 people in December 2013 but was not allowed to take part because she refused to remove her veil. Citizenship officials later offered to reschedule her for a smaller ceremony with about 80 people, but Zaafrane didn’t accept the offer, Elghawaby said.

Zaafrane has no problem showing her face in a private room to a female official to confirm her identity but insists on keeping her face covered during the public ceremony, Elghawaby said.

“NCCM believes she is within her rights to request an accommodation of her religious beliefs,” she said….

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