Permitting alleged victims or any witness to wear a veil while testifying would fundamentally change core principles in the Canadian justice system, an Ontario Superior Court judge was told yesterday. Defense lawyer Jack Pinkofsky claimed that, “The face of justice cannot be faceless.” Superior Court Justice Frank Marrocco has been asked to decide whether an alleged victim in a sexual-assault case in Toronto will be permitted to testify while wearing her niqab.
The provincial court judge presiding over the preliminary hearing of the two defendants ruled last fall that the woman’s religious beliefs were not that strong and ordered her to remove the veil. She refused and was granted the right to appeal the decision to the Superior Court. The Criminal Code permits witnesses such as alleged sexual-assault victims or children to testify by video or behind a one-way screen. In both situations, the defense lawyer and accused can see the witness. The woman’s lawyer explained that this would not be acceptable for his client because men could see her without the veil. The hearing is set to continue on April 3.