At least 2 women decided not to take citizenship oath due to niqab ban
Zunera Ishaq talks to reporters outside the Federal Court of Appeal after her case was heard on whether she can wear a niqab while taking her citizenship oath, in Ottawa on Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2015. (Patrick Doyle / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Christina Commisso, CTVNews.ca
Published Thursday, October 1, 2015 9:29AM EDT
At least two women decided not to proceed with their Canadian citizenship ceremony since 2011, when the government banned face coverings for those taking the citizenship oath.
A spokesperson for Citizenship and Immigration Canada said citizenship applications have not been refused based on the 2011 policy.
"We are only aware of two individuals who have chosen not to proceed to the citizenship ceremony based on the requirement to remove their face covering," ministry spokesperson Remi Lariviere told CTVNews.ca.
The debate over the niqab centres on Zunera Ishaq, a Mississauga, Ont. woman and devout Muslim who refused to take part in a citizenship ceremony because she would have to show her face.
Ishaq, who immigrated from Pakistan in 2008, challenged the rule in Federal Court and won.
A Federal Court judge ruled that the ban violates the Citizenship Act. The court said the scope of the policy affects about 100 women per year.
In September, a Federal Court of Appeal dismissed a government appeal over the ban.
The government said it would appeal the issue to the Supreme Court.
The debate over the niqab, a veil worn by Muslim women that obscures nearly their entire face, except for their eyes, has morphed into a major election issue.
If re-elected, the Conservatives have said they will re-introduce and adopt legislation banning face coverings during citizenship oaths within 100 days.
NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair said he supports the existing law, which requires would-be citizens to show their faces to prove identity during the citizenship process, but does not require individuals to remove face coverings for the purely symbolic, public oath-taking ceremony. Mulcair has also said he would withdraw the government’s appeal to the Supreme Court on the niqab issue if elected.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, meanwhile, has said banning the niqab during citizenship ceremonies violates the Charter of Rights.
Ishaq says she hopes to take her citizenship oath in time to vote in the Oct. 19 election.