Canadian Court Rules on Admissibility of Full Veil in Trial

News Agencies – October 14, 2010

The right of a Muslim woman to wear a niqab while testifying in a criminal trial may be determined by judges on a “case-by-case assessment”, Ontario’s highest court has ruled.

The Ontario Court of Appeal ruling upheld a Superior Court decision. The court also set up a framework for lower courts to apply in balancing a defendant’s rights with a veiled woman’s religious freedoms. A lower court had ordered a woman to remove her veil, prompting the appeal.

The case involved a 32-year-old Muslim woman who alleged that her cousin and uncle had repeatedly sexually abused her when she was a child. A lower court judge ordered the woman to remove her veil during a preliminary inquiry, sparking controversy in the Canadian Muslim community. The Superior Court then quashed that decision following an appeal.