Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Cancel Anytime
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Canada’s most-awarded
newsroom for a reason
Stay informed for a
lot less, cancel anytime
“Exemplary reporting on
COVID-19” – Herman L
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

A Muslim woman wearing the niqab (veil which covers the body and leaves only a small strip for the eyes) participates in a meeting with Imam Ali El Moujahed on May 18, 2010 in Montreuil, outside Paris.

FRED DUFOUR/AFP / Getty Images

A requirement for new Canadians to show their faces while taking the oath of citizenship puts the federal government on one side of a simmering debate over how far the state should go to accommodate minorities.

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced Monday that Muslim women who wear burkas or niqabs must remove the garments when they are becoming citizens.

The decision comes as the Supreme Court of Canada considers whether a woman should be allowed to testify in court with her face covered. And Quebec is debating a bill to ban face coverings for people receiving some government services, and those providing them. Two federal Conservative attempts to ban veiled voting have stalled before becoming law in recent years.

Story continues below advertisement

Speaking to reporters in Montreal, Mr. Kenney said showing one's face while taking the oath is a matter of "deep principle" that strikes at Canadian values of openness and equality.

"The citizenship oath is a quintessentially public act. It is a public declaration that you are joining the Canadian family and it must be taken freely and openly," he said.

He said he spoke with citizenship judges who told him they are concerned that they can't tell whether some people are actually reciting the oath during the ceremony because of the garments.

But some experts say the move appears more political than practical.

"It's a hotly contested issue. It might have been appropriate to wait for the Supreme Court decision," said Sharryn Aiken, who teaches law at Queen's University in Kingston, Ont. "The message seems to be that if you want to live in Canada, don't wear the niqab in any interactions with the state."

The niqab and burka have come under increasing scrutiny in recent years, as governments and courts try to determine what constitutes reasonable accommodation for the garments.

"I think it's the right decision," said Raminder Gill, a citizenship judge and former Tory MPP for a riding northwest of Toronto. "We have certain rules and regulations in Canadian society … and we want everybody to be together, taking the oath and being part of the Canadian fabric."

Story continues below advertisement

Mr. Gill said other officers are present during the swearing-in ceremonies, and they help him monitor groups of about 80 new Canadians to be sure they say the oath. "Are we 100-per-cent accurate? No. But yes, we can notice," he said.

He added that he only sees a couple of people each year who cover their faces at the citizenship ceremonies he presides over.

Mr. Kenney dismissed questions about whether the new rule would interfere with religious freedoms, noting that Muslim women show their faces when they participate in the Haj, a religious pilgrimage to sites in Saudi Arabia.

"That's totally true, but it's totally irrelevant," said Mohammad Fadel, an expert in Islam and law at the University of Toronto. "Clearly going on pilgrimage is a religious ritual with its own rules and taking the oath of citizenship is not."

Prof. Fadel said it's hard to understand why judges need to see peoples' faces, adding he thinks the new rules seem more likely to stigmatize the person wearing the veil than anything else.

Speaking on CHQR, a Calgary-based Conservative radio show Monday morning, Mr. Kenney said he isn't worried about legal objections to the ban.

Story continues below advertisement

"I'm sure they'll trump up some stupid Charter of Rights challenge. That's democracy. They're welcome to object," he told host Dave Rutherford.



With files from Dawn Walton in Calgary

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the authors of this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies