The International Institute for the Sociology of Law in Onanti, Spain will hold a conference, “‘Illegal’ Covering: Comparative Perspectives on Legal and Social Discourses on Religious Diversity,” this Thursday and Friday, May 17-18. The conference organizers are Valerie Amiraux (University of Montreal) and Pascale Fournier (University of Ottawa). For details, follow the links here.
Reuters reports that Canada’s immigration ministry has decided to forbid women at naturalization ceremonies from wearing veils that cover their faces, even for religious reasons. The ban will affect Islamic veils like the niqab, which covers the face but has an opening to allow vision, and burqa, which has a mesh. The ministry argues that its decision will ensure that people who “join the Canadian family” do so “freely and openly,” but Reuters talks about a possible lawsuit by Canadians who believe the ban violates Muslims’s religious freedom. If such a case materializes, the governing precedent would likely be the Canadian Supreme Court’s 2006 Multani decision, the Sikh kirpan case, in which the court held that, under Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, any restriction on religious freedom must serve an important government objective and be proportional to that objective — a test that resembles the pre-Smith Sherbert doctrine in American law.
Nafay Choudhury (graduate of McGill University – Faculty of Law) has posted Niqab vs. Quebec: Negotiating Minority Rights Within Quebec Identity. The abstract follows.—YAH
Quebec recently proposed legislation (Bill 94) that would require all individuals to reveal their face when seeking a government service. The proposed legislation particularly targets Muslim women who don the niqab. Underlying the present debate is an artificial dichotomy – a tension between a society’s interest in defining a common sense of citizenship and minority claims that seem inconsistent with the will of the majority. A Charter challenge – even if successful – would not fully address this underlying tension. In this paper, I argue that the heart of the present controversy relates to the need for a clear conception of Quebec identity. By considering the historical, social, ethnic, geographic and intrinsic significance of the French language, I argue that the French language, not secularism, is the key element of Quebec identity and facilitates a common sense of citizenship in Quebec. If a minority claim is capable of fitting within this conception of Quebec identity, then it poses no threat to Quebec citizenship, and thus, there should be no reason to exclude the claim – in this case the claim to wear the niqab when seeking a government service – from Quebec society.