Opposition treading carefully in niqab controversy
Federal opposition parties trod carefully Friday on the issue of whether a Toronto Muslim woman should be allowed to wear a niqab while taking the oath of citizenship.
NDP multiculturalism critic Andrew Cash said the Conservative government was conflating matters of security and ceremony by appealing a court decision permitting the woman to wear the facial covering.
“It’s unfortunate that in matters of ceremonial issues, Conservatives are willing to play partisan politics to simply ratchet things up to win votes,” Cash said.
Liberal immigration critic John McCallum said that the matter is before the courts. And party spokesman Cameron Ahmad said “the responsibility to present the case falls on the government.”
Last year, Ishaq postponed her attendance at a citizenship ceremony to challenge a policy — introduced in 2011 by then-immigration minister Jason Kenney — that forbids women from covering their faces during the oath taking.
A federal judge last week deemed the policy to be unlawful because it “interferes with a citizenship judge’s duty to allow candidates for citizenship the greatest possible freedom in the religious solemnization or the solemn affirmation of the oath.”
But on Thursday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the government would appeal the ruling because covering one’s face while being sworn in is “not how we do things here.”
“It is offensive that someone would hide their identity at the very moment where they are committing to join the Canadian family,” he said.
Ishaq said she was determined to keep fighting. The 29-year-old mother, who moved to Canada from Pakistan in 2008, says her religion — she is a devout Sunni Muslim — obligates her to wear a niqab.