In a case believed to be a Canadian first, a Superior Court judge will hear arguments next week about whether a Muslim woman can testify in a sexual-assault case while wearing a veil that leaves only her eyes visible. The case turns on two competing human-rights principles: religious freedom versus the right of defendants to face their accusers in open court.

At issue is an application by the Ontario Human Rights Commission for interveners status in the proceedings against two men accused of sexually attacking a Muslim woman who wants to testify while wearing her niqab. The preliminary hearing for the two accused has been on hold since last year, when Justice Norris Weisman of the Ontario Superior Court ordered the complainant to remove her niqab. Justice Frank Marrocco ordered that she provide no testimony until this issue is resolved. As is routine where sexual assault is alleged, the woman’s identity is shielded by a court order. So too is the evidence that has surfaced so far in the preliminary hearing, including the identities of the two defendants.

Share Button