Canada has banned applicants from wearing veils while swearing the oath of citizenship, the National Post reported.
Muslim women will be unable to wear traditional face coverings, such as the burqa and niqab, under new rules announced on Monday by Jason Kenney, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration.
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Speaking at a press conference in Montreal, Kenney said with immediate effect, any individual will be made to show his or her face when taking the Canadian oath of citizenship.
Kenney told journalists:
“Allowing a group to hide their faces while they are becoming members of our community is counter to Canada’s commitment to openness, equality and social cohesion.”
Muslims in Canada number an estimated 940,000, or 2.8 percent of the population.
Kenney said there had been complaints from citizenship judges and lawmakers that it was difficult to determine if veiled applicants were actually reciting the oath, the BBC reported.
Kenney said that every week in Canada, a citizenship applicant turns up to recite the oath wearing a face veil – and that he found it “frankly bizarre” that this had been allowed to occur.
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Muslim women in Canada may remain veiled while voting in elections, while at airports they have the option of showing their face to female security staff only, the National Post reported.
In Quebec, face coverings are already banned for customers of some government services, and Canada is looking at widening the ban in government offices, hospitals and schools.