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A 2006 file photo of a woman wearing a niqab in Blackburn, England. Quebec's move to require removal of the veil to receive public services is likely unconstitutional, legal experts say. (PHIL NOBLE/Phil Noble/Reuters)
A 2006 file photo of a woman wearing a niqab in Blackburn, England. Quebec's move to require removal of the veil to receive public services is likely unconstitutional, legal experts say. (PHIL NOBLE/Phil Noble/Reuters)

Earlier Discussion

Discussion on the niqab's place in Canadian courts Add to ...

On Wednesday the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled that Muslim witnesses wearing a face-covering niqab must remove it to testify if the covering would truly jeopardize a fair trial. The nuanced ruling left it to judges to balance, case by case, a witnesses' religious rights with a defendant's right to a fair trial.

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The ruling suggested possible 'constructive compromises' for Judges who will have to grapple with the situation. They include the use of all female court staff and a female judge, having a witness be cross-examined by female counsel, and closing the court to males other than the accused and his counsel.

Are the court's suggestions a sufficient compromise?

Where does this ruling fit in the niqab debate taking place across Canada and around the world?

Taking questions in Thursday's discussion were Sheema Khan and Farzana Hassan.

Sheema Khan has been a monthly columnist with the Globe and Mail since 2002, writing on issues pertaining to Islam and Muslims. She holds a Ph.D. from Harvard in Chemical Physics, and is a patent agent. In 2009, TSAR Publications published a collection of her columns in "Of Hockey and Hijab: Reflections of Canadian Muslim Woman".

Farzana Hassan is a former president of the Muslim Canadian Congress and author of Islam, Women and the Challenges of Today. She has just returned from Qatar where she participated in the Doha Debates, and argued in favour of banning the niqab. She has also written opinion pieces for the Globe.

Editor's note: Specifics of the Toronto sexual assault case that could lead to the indentification of the complainant or a witness will not be discussed due to publication ban.

Readers using mobile devices should read the discussion by following this link.



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