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Tue 13 Dec 2011 10:50 AM

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Canada bans the burqa during citizenship oath

Ban on full face and body veil during immigration ceremony is ‘matter of principle’

Canada bans the burqa during citizenship oath
France was among the first to introduce a ban on full face veils in public

In a move likely to increase tension with Canada's Muslim minority, the government said on Monday it would bar all women wearing face coverings from taking part in citizenship ceremonies.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said he had received complaints from citizenship judges and parliamentarians about veiled women taking the oath to formally become Canadian.

"Requiring that all candidates show their faces while reciting the oath allows judges and everyone present to share in the ceremony," Kenney said in a speech in Montreal.

"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."

Kenney's announcement will affect women wearing the niqab - a face veil with an eye opening - as well as the burqa, which has a full face covering with a mesh area to allow vision.

The move might well trigger a court challenge from those who say the restriction violates freedom of religion provisions under Canada's constitution.

The most recent figures from Statistics Canada show that, in 2001, around 2 percent of the population was Muslim. Community leaders say the figure now is more like 3 percent of the country's 34.5 million people.

The Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations said Kenney's move questioned the sincerity and good faith of some citizenship applicants and not others.

"This decision will have a damaging effect on our democracy because it forces those who wear the niqab to choose between their religious convictions and adopting Canadian citizenship," said Ihsaan Gardee, the council's acting executive director.

In the predominantly French-speaking province of Quebec, where tension over the assimilation of immigrants is rising, the provincial government said last year it planned to ban Muslim women from receiving all official services if they have their faces covered.

Earlier this year, a court in France fined two Muslim women for wearing full-face veils in public, the first time a judge had imposed punishment under a "burqa ban" law.

Canada, which aims to accept around 250,000 immigrants a year, has also started cracking down on what it says are people trying to cheat the system.

Last week Kenney announced an official prove had identified 6,500 people who had obtained citizenship illegally. He also says he wants all immigrants to be able to speak either French or English, the nation's two official languages.

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Vincent 8 years ago

Oh boy! Here we go again.

Peter Bench 8 years ago

wearing such face coverings is not a religious conviction so it won't wash. Plus no-one is 'forced' to choose - that's the point of a democracy.

Farooq 8 years ago

Covering face in court is not an Islamic requirement. People who insist have something else they are trying to hide. Another instance of hijacking religion

Abu Zahra 8 years ago

The true purpose of an Islamic Hijab or Burqa is to prevent the Muslim men from gazing at women. Now, who on earth can vouch that muslim men do not commit the sin of staring or watching women who do not wear burqa unless they live in countries like Afganishtan/Saudi Arabia where Burqa is 100% compulsory on all women. This implies that muslim men who intentionally migrate to societies where Burqa is not worn by women are actually going against Islam. The double standard followed by muslim men is questionable. They have no right to impose burqa on their women and enjoy the sight of other women which is nothing but hypocracy.

Expat 123 8 years ago

@ Abu, covering of the face is NOT an Islamic requirement, it's simply a cultural tradition thats been misunderstood and led to a widespread exploitation of womens rights. What about women who gaze at men, should men also cover their face?! Human nature is human nature, right or wrong.... even if it is a 'sin' there are much bigger sins to be concerned with than gazing at women and it certainly shouldnt prohibit woman from electing not to wear it. If women want to wear it by choice thats their decision, however, they should never be forced/pressured to wear it and they should also abide by other nations identity laws.

gordon 8 years ago

an interesting slant....one could argue the fact that as the western women have the right to wear what they want, then these men who demand that there wives wear a burqa should in fact wear a blindfold when they themselves go out...

Abu Bon Jovi 8 years ago

Abu....I love how some groups will twist the facts a thousand ways until they get the implication that they want.....
Interpretation of Abu ....."Men are weak and cannot help but stare at women in a sexual manner...so since this is the fault of women.....they must, practically, live their lives covered up so, of course, any man that leaves a country that forces women to cover themselves entirely....must be bad men (not seeking work, of course). Keep in mind that this article had nothing to do with what you said (or made up)....

Different Gordon 8 years ago

So, you are saying that it is the men that really have a problem with self restraint.....and the women should suffer for it.

Saudi Engineer 8 years ago

Hmmm... I see a lot of liberals here. I'm amused that 2/3 of the commenters so far are expats, and the other two seem to have their own misunderstanding of Islam. Now don't get me wrong, I don't believe face covering is mandatory - but at the same time we should not prohibit it, nor believe it is un-islamic. Some argue it is a must, while all the commenters so far believe it is a big no-no. Many muslims *and* Islamic scholars believe it is a choice. A choice of the woman, and an agreement of the family.

I'm not quite sure why some people insist it must be one or the other. Life is not always black and white... There are many differing shades of grey.