Feds to seek stay on niqab

The Canadian Press

OTTAWA—The federal government says it will ask a judge to put a hold on a court decision allowing would-be Canadians to wear face coverings while taking the oath of citizenship.
Conservative candidate Denis Lebel, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Quebec lieutenant, said the government will seek a stay of a recent Federal Court of Appeal decision quashing the so-called niqab ban.
The stay would be in place as the government seeks leave to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court of Canada.
They have until mid-November to file that application, meaning that if the stay is granted, the woman at the heart of the case may not have the opportunity to become a citizen before the Oct. 19 election.
Zunera Ishaq, a devout, 29-year-old Muslim woman, successfully argued the ban violates the Citizenship Act, which says candidates must be allowed the greatest possible religious freedom when they take the oath.
In a statement, Lebel said the government wants to prevent citizenship candidates from taking the oath with their faces covered until the Supreme Court can hear its appeal.
He said the government’s position is consistent with Canadian values—a message Harper echoed during a campaign event in Calgary today.
“The reason why now is because we had a court ruling that we’re responding to expeditiously,” Harper replied when asked why the government was taking this step.
“Look, when someone joins the Canadian family, there are times in our open, tolerant, pluralistic society that as part of our interactions with each other we reveal our identity through revealing our face,” Harper added.
“When you join the Canadian family in a public citizenship ceremony, it is essential that that is a time when you reveal yourselves to Canadians and that is something widely-supported by Canadians.”
One of Ishaq’s lawyers says they’ll seek more detail on where and when the government will ask for the stay, as Ishaq plans to contest it.
It could take the Supreme Court up to three months to decide whether to hear the case.
And if it goes to a hearing, a decision could take months.
Lebel has said a re-elected Conservative government would, in its first 100 days, re-introduce and adopt legislation banning face coverings during citizenship oaths.