The niqab ban: 2011-15

The new Liberal government officially puts an end to an attempt to ban the niqab during the citizenship oath

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, September 15, 2015. (PATRICK DOYLE/CP)

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, September 15, 2015. (PATRICK DOYLE/CP)

The federal government’s attempt to ban the wearing of the niqab during the swearing of the citizenship oath came to an end this afternoon. It was nearly four years old. It is survived by 60 fewer Conservative MPs in the House of Commons.

The ban was announced on Dec. 12, 2011. The case for the regulation was weak and uninspiring, the issue misunderstood, and the ban likely would have been struck down by the Supreme Court as an infringement on one’s right to freedom of religion, but it did at least inspire the greatest non sequitur in the history of Canadian politics. “I will never say to my daughter that a woman has to cover her face because she is a woman,” Stephen Harper said in September, as if this had something to do with anything.

The niqab’s emergence as an election issue was unexpected and odd, but perhaps fated—a consequence of the Conservative government’s own policy; its determination to defend the policy in court and at the whim of the Federal Court of Appeal’s calendar.

Though appearing to be popular, the ban on the niqab is now linked with the Conservative government’s defeat. “Voters—including many who supported him—were personally offended by Harper’s blatant effort to exploit the niqab issue as a divisive wedge in the campaign,” Ensight reported after the election. As a result of that defeat, history will record Bill C-75, an attempt to put the ban into law, as the last piece of legislation tabled in the House of Commons by the Conservative government—its tabling coming just hours before the House adjourned for the last time before the election, an entirely symbolic gesture of pre-campaign posturing. Both the sponsor of the bill, Chris Alexander, and the minister who tabled the bill on his behalf, Tim Uppal, were subsequently defeated on Oct. 19.

The Liberal government’s decision to abandon its predecessor’s legal appeal does not seem to have roused much, if any, condemnation from Conservatives.

Meanwhile, Zunera Ishaq, the woman who ultimately defeated the ban in court, and whose case pushed the issue into the election, was recently among those invited to a swish reception at the Four Seasons in Toronto as one of the city’s 50 most influential people.



The niqab ban: 2011-15

  1. Yeah, sorry, I can’t get behind this notion that the oppression symbolized by the niqab is some CPC invention.

  2. Ms. Ishaq is to be commended for her strident niqabvocacy in defiance of the public sentiment against public displays of Islamic extremism in the days following the latest atrocity. I recommend, however, against pushing her luck by responding to the prolix congratulations her “brothers” are now posting on the jihadi-infested social media she apparently subscribes to. She’s also well advised to avoid travel to certain regions in the next while, notwithstanding how niqab-friendly they may be:


    Based on the news clip of her leaving the court she does need to work on the whole “modestly following males at a respectful distance” thing, as she was a tad close to a couple as she strolled home (presumably she is not possession of a driver’s license).

    • Mr Fire is to be commended for his acceptance women being allowed to dress as they like, and his astute note that the concurrent victory of Kurdish socialists has allowed women in part of Iraq to do the same.

  3. It is interesting how the Canadian population (~80%) had indicated that they were in favour of the ban. Yet here, and in other media publications, there is some desire to down-play, indicating that the niqab is a “non-issue” or that support for the ban only appeared to be popular. ~80% is a fairly significant value when it comes to Canadian political opinion polls, or in statistics for that matter. These numbers are paramount to personal opinions or vocal minorities and should be guiding this country’s political aim. If else, what does democracy mean?

    • Indeed.
      If democracy doesn’t mean that all freedoms and rights exist at the whim of the majority, what does it mean?

      • Indeed exactly. Spoken with all the conviction expected of someone out of touch with the world and the matter at hand.

        The whim, as seem fit to dismiss it, is the Canadian population asking people who seek a better life in our country to respect our way of life, rules, and customs. The same respect we give when we travel or live abroad and follow a different way of living. Spin it as you wish, trying to reason with the irrational, misinformed, and emotionally blinded is futile.

        • As much as you may not like it, our ‘customs’ include wearing niqabs, as I’m pretty sure that there are people who wear them that are just as Canadian as you and your customs are.
          And our “way of life” is that we protect one persons freedoms from another person’s desire to tell the first person how to live or what to wear.

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