Thursday, April 25, 2013

On Remand From Superme Court, Canadian Trial Court Says Key Witness Must Remove Niqab

As previously reported, last year in the case of R v. N.S., the Canadian Supreme Court held that whether a Muslim woman could be required to remove her niqab (full face veil) while testifying in court in a preliminary hearing should be decided by balancing concerns about trial fairness with religious freedom rights of the witness. In the case, N.S. (now 37 years old) accuses her uncle and cousin of abusing her 25 years ago. The Supreme Court remanded the case to the trial court to apply the balancing factors. Yesterday, according to the Toronto City News, Ontario trial Judge Norris Weisman handed down his decision requiring N.S. to remove her niqab while testifying. His opinion said in part:
I am satisfied by the evidence I have heard … that [her] wish to wear her niqab in court is based on a religious belief that is both sincere and strong Permitting her to wear her niqab while testifying in court does, however, create a serious risk to trial fairness. She is the key witness in the Crown’s case. Her credibility is very much in issue.