The Supreme Court of Canada reserved judgment today in a case that pits the right of an Islamic woman to wear a niqab against an accused individual’s rights to be presumed innocence, to have a fair trial, and to make full answer and defence. The Niqab is a garment which covers the entire face, save a slit for the eyes. The issue before the Supreme Court is whether the complainant in a sexual assault trial should be permitted to wear the niqab while she testifies.
This is admittedly a complicated issue; however, at the end of the day, our accommodation of religious freedom must yield to the the threat of wrongful convictions. Simple intuition suggests that covering a critical witness’ face is a barrier to the truth-finding function of the court. Imagine how hard it would be to lie in court under oath while being cross examined by an experienced lawyer. Now, imagine how much easier it would be to lie if your face was covered. Herein lies the problem with witnesses wearing the niqab in cituations where an individual’s freedom is at stake.
For more information, check out this article from today’s Toronto Star: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/judges-lawyer-clash-over-womans-right-to-wear-niqab-in-sex-assault-case/article2264483/