OTTAWA (Reuters) – In a move likely to increase tension with Canada’s Muslim minority, the government said yesterday 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 per cent of the population was Muslim.