Feds to chal­lenge niqab rul­ing

Con­ser­va­tives pledge to rein­tro­duce law that would ban face cov­er­ing


OT­TAWA— The fed­eral gov­ern­ment says it plans to chal­lenge a Fed­eral Court of Ap­peal de­ci­sion that quashed its at­tempts to ban face cov­er­ings at cit­i­zen­ship cer­e­monies.

Immigration Min­is­ter Chris Alexan­der has is­sued a terse, one-line state­ment say­ing the gov­ern­ment will seek leave to ap­peal the case to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Zunera Ishaq, a 29-year-old woman with de­vout Mus­lim be­liefs who came to On­tario from Pak­istan in 2008, re­fused to take part in a cit­i­zen­ship cer­e­mony be­cause she would have to show her face.

On Tues­day, the Ap­peal Court dis­missed the gov­ern­ment’s ap­peal of an ear­lier Fed­eral Court rul­ing on Ishaq’s case that de­clared the ban on face cov­er­ings at such cer­e­monies was un­law­ful.

The three-judge panel ruled from the bench, say­ing they wanted to pro­ceed quickly so that Ishaq could ob­tain her cit­i­zen­ship in time to vote in the Oct. 19 fed­eral elec­tion.

One of Ishaq’s lawyers, Marlys Ed­wardh, said the Immigration Depart­ment would be con­tacted this week so Ishaq could at­tend a cit­i­zen­ship cer­e­mony, ac­com­pa­nied by her lawyers, “just in case.”

The ban on face cov­er­ings sparked a bit­ter de­bate in the House of Com­mons when it was first an­nounced. Tues­day’s rul­ing — and the de­ci­sion to fight it — are sure to put the is­sue firmly on the cam­paign agenda.

A spokesman for Con­ser­va­tive Leader Stephen Harper ex­pressed re­gret Tues­day about the court’s rul­ing. “We un­der­stand the gov­ern­ment is con­sid­er­ing all le­gal op­tions,” spokesman Stephen Lecce said in an emailed state­ment from the Con­ser­va­tive elec­tion cam­paign.

“As the prime min­is­ter has said, most Cana­di­ans find it of­fen­sive that some­one would hide their iden­tity at the very mo­ment where they are com­mit­ting to join the Cana­dian fam­ily. Both Justin (Trudeau) and Thomas Mul­cair are off­side with Cana­di­ans on this is­sue.”

The Con­ser­va­tives would rein­tro­duce a law ban­ning face cov­er­ing and their cam­paign will have more to say about the is­sue in the com­ing days, Lecce said.


Zunera Ishaq, a 29-year-old woman with de­vout Mus­lim be­liefs, will at­tend a cit­i­zen­ship cer­e­mony ac­com­pa­nied by her lawyers, “just in case.”

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