News: Order to take off niqab pits law against religion

The Star
A judge has ordered a Toronto woman to testify without her niqab at a sexual assault trial – raising the thorny issue of whether Muslim women should be allowed to appear as witnesses wearing a veil that covers everything but the eyes. The issue is a collision of two rights, pitting religious freedom against the right of a defendant to face an accuser in open court.

The case could be precedent setting because it doesn't appear there is any Canadian case law addressing the question of Muslim women in the courtroom. In Canada, home to about 580,000 Muslims, the case will be closely watched, amid fears about Muslim women coming forward in criminal cases.

In October, Ontario Court Justice Norris Weisman reached his "admittedly difficult decision" to force the complainant to testify with her face bared after finding her "religious belief is not that strong ... and that it is, as she says, a matter of comfort," he wrote in his ruling.