Reuters|Dec 20, 2012
Judges should decide, on a case-by-case basis, whether women can wear the niqab, a full-face veil, while testifying in court, but a blanket rule on the issue would be “untenable,” Canada’s top court ruled this morning.
“Two sets of Charter rights are potentially engaged — the witness’s freedom of religion and the accused’s fair trial rights, including the right to make full answer and defence. An extreme approach that would always require the witness to remove her niqab while testifying, or one that would never do so, is untenable,” wrote Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin for the majority in R. v. N.S.
The majority decision, supported by four of the seven judges who heard the case at the SCC, said lower courts must consider, among other things, the harm that could come if Muslim women who wear the niqab feel discouraged from reporting offenses.