New Canadians will have to remove garments that cover their faces when undergoing an oath of citizenship, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said Monday. The minister told a news conference in Montreal that the ban includes the Islamic niqab or burqa. It takes effect immediately.
Kenney said there have been complaints that it is difficult to say whether individuals are actually taking the oath if their faces are covered when doing so. He also said that new Canadians should be taking the oath in front of fellow citizens.
"This is really a matter of pure principle -- which is at the heart of our public values," Kenney said in French.
"The oath of citizenship is a public gesture."
The ban comes at a time when the Supreme Court is hearing arguments as to whether a Muslim woman has the right to wear her veil when testifying against two men she accuses of sexually assaulting her.
Legal analysts say wearing a face covering during testimony raises serious questions in terms of a jury or judge's ability to evaluate a witness' affect and veracity.