Montreal, Quebec, October 14th, 2010- The Muslim Council of Montreal (MCM) welcomes yesterdayâ€™s decision from the Ontario Court of Appeal in the case of R. vs, N.S., safeguarding the right of a sexual assault complainant to testify in court wearing her niqab. The Court ruled 3-0 to uphold an earlier ruling by the Supreme Court, after a lower court had previously ordered a woman to remove her niqab for her testimony.
â€œWe applaud the court for protecting the religious freedoms of the complainant and also ensuring that the fairness of a trial is not compromised,â€ stated Salam Elmenyawi, president of MCM. â€œTo outright ban the wearing of the niqab would have allowed for the legalization of discrimination and disadvantaged certain individuals due to their personal and religious beliefs.â€
The Court of Appeal recognized the history of discrimination against Canadian Muslims and indicated that objections to the wearing of a niqab in court must be examined carefully to ensure that the rights of the complainant are protected and respected, without compromising the justice system. The Court also ruled that â€œif, in the specific circumstances, the defendantâ€™s fair trial right can be honored only by requiring the witness to remove the niqab, the niqab must be removed if the witness is to testify.â€
â€œOur Canadian society and justice system should be a model for people around the world,â€ Elmenyawi stated. â€œWe can achieve that by all working together to ensure a secure and prosperous Canada founded on tolerance, respect, justice and social harmony, celebrating the multiculturalism and diversity that makes our nation so unique. It never has been, and should never be, the Canadian way to introduce any legislation that authorizes the state to regulate the dress code of citizens and deny access of public services to tax-paying citizens.â€