We think it’s a resounding affirmation of the rights of Muslim women who wear the niqab and people who wear religious symbols generally to bring those symbols and those articles of their faith into the courtroom. The court made it very clear that people are not required to park their religion at the door, so to speak.
Faisal Bhabha, A lawyer for the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations
Basically we are satisfied because we know that there is no way anyone can prove that this is a religious requirement. So it’s a step in the right direction and we hope that the niqab will never be allowed.
Salma Siddiqui, President of the Muslim Canadian Congress
The Supreme Court has only stated the test. What lawyers like is a test, but lawyers also like a few examples of how the test has been applied. This will be the first one, it’ll be a big one and it will help other women going forward. … Sometimes being a legal pioneer means cutting through a lot of forest that other people can just walk through afterward.
David Butt, The lawyer for N.S., the woman at the centre of the case
To me, the litmus test really is does the judgment ultimately come down on the side of protecting against wrongful convictions? And here the court has given trial judges the tools to say, look, if credibility is important, we need to see the witness’s face.
Frank Addario, A lawyer for the Criminal Lawyers’ Association of Ontario
I’m concerned about making it open season that women have to choose between availing themselves of their right to the protection of the law versus their religious right. … With a religious woman who considers it a violation of her religious rights to have to remove the niqab if she goes to court, she simply may decide not to report it or not to participate as a witness if the purchase price for justice is that she has to disregard her religion.
Susan Chapman, A lawyer for the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund
We see it as a thoughtful decision setting out the issues. I think the fact that the court split in three ways – not that usual – shows the complexity of the issues and the fact really that each case is different and those differences always need to be explored.
Barbara Hall, Chief commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission
Nothing short of an absolute decision that would send a clear message to the public that women in sexual-assault cases wearing niqab would be able to keep their niqabs on would be a comfort to our clientele. But we knew that that was an unlikely outcome. So we’re comforted by the strong language that allows the judge to at least make some determinations in a case-by-case basis that might consider the facts of a woman’s situation and her likelihood to testify.
Amanda Dale, Executive director of the Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic, which helps female victims of violence
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