Barbara Kay: New niqab law puts Canadian values first
As part of a wider circle of reforms in his department, Citizenship and Immigration minister Jason Kenney has announced a regulation requiring Muslim women who observe the custom of wearing the niqab to remove it before taking the oath of citizenship, the final step in becoming fully Canadian. According to the new rule, the judge must see her face as she takes the oath, but she can replace the face cover afterwards.
Minister Kenney is to be applauded for this new regulation, as much for its symbolic value as for its common sense. Taking the oath of citizenship should not be an empty formality. It should be a pledge of loyalty to one’s newly-adopted home, and a declaration, uttered in good faith, that Canada’s democratic values will henceforth be those of the new citizen.
One of Canada’s fundamental values is equality of the sexes. Face cover for women is not commensurate with this value. The custom of face cover for women originated in, and continues to be observed, only amongst tribes or in countries where women are second-class citizens at best, and often chattel, to be treated, or even disposed of, by their male relatives as they see fit.