Denying Quebec woman day in court because she was wearing of hijab went against Canadian law principles: judge

Surprised that the judge, while making the correct ruling in the particular case, refused to make a general ruling that wearing a hijab (or kippa, or turban) is permissible in court. Hard to understand what hypothetical situation he was thinking of:

Seventeen months after a Quebec Court judge told her to remove her hijab in court, Rania El-Alloul has received partial vindication from the justice system, but no guarantee it will not happen again.

In a ruling released this week, Superior Court Justice Wilbrod Décarie writes, “The court has a lot of sympathy for (El-Alloul) and deeply regrets how she was treated.”

Judge Eliana Marengo’s February 2015 refusal to hear El-Alloul in the “secular space” of a courtroom unless she removed her Muslim head scarf flew in the face of a 2012 Supreme Court of Canada decision that a witness was entitled to testify in a face-covering niqab, Décarie found.

But he did not issue the judgment sought by El-Alloul — declaring that her rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms had been breached and affirming her right to appear in court wearing her hijab.

“Each case is a specific case that has to be evaluated in the context of the witness’s court appearance,” Décarie wrote. “It cannot be declared in advance, absolutely and out of context, that El-Alloul will have the right to wear the hijab during her future appearances before the Court of Quebec. Nobody can predict the future.”

What happens next, I don’t know. I hope no one ever feels what I felt in the past

Julius Grey, one of El-Alloul’s lawyers, called Décarie’s finding “wrong in law and very dangerous.” It opens the door to litigants trying to destabilize a witness by filing motions asking she remove her hijab.

“A person will feel insecure before the courts,” Grey said, adding he favours an appeal.

The lawyer said the issue is important as restrictions on religious dress become more common.

“It’s not a particularly Quebec matter. All over the West there is an unhealthy irritation, I would say, with religious garb, with religious practice, with other customs,” Grey said.

Source: Denying Quebec woman day in court because she was wearing of hijab went against Canadian law principles: judge | National Post

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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