US & Canada

Canada bans veils at citizenship oath ceremony

Woman wearing niqab 8 December 2011 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Canada is considering a wider ban on veils in government offices, schools and hospitals

Canada's government has introduced a ban on the wearing of veils while swearing the oath of citizenship.

Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Jason Kenney told a news conference in Montreal anyone wanting to become a Canadian would have to show their face.

He said citizenship judges and MPs had complained it could be hard to tell if veiled applicants were actually reciting the oath.

An estimated 940,000 Muslims live in Canada, about 2.8% of the population.

Veils and face coverings are already banned in Quebec for people receiving some government services.

Canada is considering a wider ban on veils in government offices, schools and hospitals.

Mr Kenney dismissed the idea that the ban could infringe the religious freedom of those taking the oath.

"This is not simply a practical measure," the Conservative minister said on Monday.

"It is a matter of deep principle that goes to the heart of our identity and our values of openness and equality."

He added that Canadian law took priority over religious doctrine.

"In my view Canadian law takes precedence," he said.

"This is a public act of witness in front of your fellow citizens, in front of the law and you should be willing to show yourself in that public act of witness. I think it's very straightforward."

Mr Kenney also announced further language requirements for new immigrants.

Some European countries are also debating the issue. France and Belgium have introduced a ban on wearing the full Islamic veil in public.

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