Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Canada to ban veil during citizenship ceremony

The Toronto Star has an opinion piece that talks about how the Canadian government may ban the niqab and burqa during the Canadian citizenship ceremony.

The two sides of the issue both have interesting points.

They should NOT remove their veils
On this side of the issue are those who say that forcing Muslim women to remove their veils during the ceremony is, as the Star puts it, “coercing women to fit into the mainstream.” The question arises whether one needs to look and act “just like us” in order to enter and join Canadian society.

Sympathizers say wearing the veil is not causing harm to anyone else, so why force a woman to do something she deems inappropriate? Is the very ceremony that welcomes people of all faiths and ethnicities the place to do that?

How is this any different from asking a Christian to remove a symbolic necklace? Is this the beginning of a slippery slope?

They SHOULD remove their veils
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney falls on this side of the debate along with the Conservative Harper government.

Kenney says the veil “reflects a certain view about women that we don’t accept in Canada. We want women to be full and equal members of Canadian society and certainly when they’re taking the citizenship oath, that’s the right place to start.”

The question arose as to whether one would be able to tell if the woman was really swearing the oath underneath the veil. She could be mouthing anything and no one would be able to tell.

Some who agree with Kenney may say if someone wants to join our country, they have to abide by our ways and customs. If not, they’re free to go elsewhere.

There are people who say that allowing a veil at the moment someone becomes a Canadian makes a statement. That statement could open doors to having other religious practices enter into Canadian society (for instance, Islamic Shariah law which has been implemented in minor courts in some countries).

Possible solutions
The Star’s editorial writer suggests a simple solution:

“Why not have the few veiled women who want to swear the oath unveil themselves before women judges, in private, or before a male judge if they are willing?”

The article notes that there have been no cases of women who have refused to show their faces when applying for licenses and other documents.

What do YOU think?
Do you think this is a precedent setting case? What does it mean for religious freedom? Is it comparable to any other cases? What does a Christian stance on this issue look like?


  1. Didn't this law already get passed? I was under the impression it had.

  2. The compromise of allowing a person to swear the oath in the presence of women only is reasonable. They truly believe it is indecent to expose themselves to men. Whether we agree or not is not the issue. This isn't unique; there are airport regulations with want to require that faces be seen. Why not have them go to a side room with a female security officer?

  3. While modesty may be a religious value, what modesty looks like depends on cultural values. What is considered modest in Canada, would be skimpy in some parts of the world and overdressed in others. Although it may be difficult transition for some new Canadians, no Muslim woman need fear that exposing her face will send the wrong message to a Canadian man.
    I applaud Kenny's initiative because covering one's face is a major obstacle to social interaction in Canada. No one can be treated equally with their face covered in our society and, of all places, everyone should be treated equally at a citizenship ceremony.


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