Canada bans Muslim face veils during citizenship ceremonies

December 13, 2011

(Herouxville resisdent Jean-Marc L'Archeveque (L) talks with Muslim women during a meeting in the Quebec town, February 11, 2007. The Muslim group of women met with the residents to voice their objection to the town council's recently passed code of social norms that new immigrants would have to adhere to. REUTERS/Shaun Best)

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.

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Revealing one’s face when taking an oath of allegiance to your new country and accepting the right of citizenship seems like a small price to pay. If this is abhorrent then clearly Canada may not be the right country to immigrate to…if one’s homeland traditions outweigh the promise of a new life in a new country.

Posted by canajuneh | Report as abusive

The racist Conservative Party have enacted a regulation that Muslim women must disrobe for citizenship ceremonies. (They must remove the veil they consider necessary for public decency.) I suggest a modest proposal. If Muslims must disrobe, so should everyone else, including the judge. After all, Christians can hide firearms, bottles of acid and bombs under all that unnecessary clothing.

Posted by RoedyGreen | Report as abusive

If one wants to become a citizen and the Immigration Law forbids wearing the Hijab, then the law must be followed.
I honestly feel that if a person does not wish to abide by the laws of the land, then the oath they will take to become a Canadian citizen is a hypocritical one. And just for the record, I am a muslim woman.

Posted by noem | Report as abusive

Taking off veil is not disrobing Roedy, what an angry hyperbole.

Just so you know women have to lift veil for photos in most Muslim countries too.

Posted by abuhamdani | Report as abusive