TORONTO: Women aspiring for Canadian citizenship have been barred from wearing burqa or Islamic hijab when they take oath of citizenship, the Immigration Minister, Mr Jason Kenney said.
The move was announced by the minister yesterday, who said it was necessary as women with face coverings could not be fully identified at ceremonies to swear-in new citizens, the Montreal Gazette reported.
The ban has triggered widespread concerns among the Islamic community here as they fear that it could lead to similar ban in other settings. Canada has now joined countries like France, Belgium, Australia and Netherlands who have banned women from covering their face in public. In Australia, the ban has been imposed in only two states.
The Immigration Minister said that there were misgivings about covering of faces by women. He said the feelings were that new citizens should take oath in full view of other fellow citizens.
Mr Kenny said he had received complaints from lawmakers and judges who said that they found it difficult to know whether individuals who masked their faces were actually reciting the oath or not.
The conservative minister said the issue went deep into the heart of Canada's identity as a nation valued its openness and equality. The Gazette quoted Mr Salam Elmenyawi, the head of the Muslim Council of Montreal, as labelling the ban an attempt by the conservative government to divide Canadian Muslims.
The minister made the announcement in the French-speaking province of Quebec, which is in the middle of a raging debate on how much Canada should bend to accommodate newcomers.
Though the ban went into force with immediate effect, the Immigration Minister assured that the authorities did not intend to go further by drafting laws to ban women from wearing veil in public.
Quebec Province has already banned veils at polling booths on election day.