14 March 2015

Aaron Wherry: The weak and uninspiring case against the niqab


“Freedom in a broad sense embraces both the absence of coercion and constraint, and the right to manifest beliefs and practices,” Justice Brian Dickson once wrote. “Freedom means that, subject to such limitations as are necessary to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others, no one is to be forced to act in a way contrary to his beliefs or his conscience.”
We could say that the wearing of the niqab when an individual chooses to become a citizen of Canada does not threaten the safety, order, health or morals of this country. That so long as those things are maintained, we should make some attempt to accommodate each other. That we are secure enough to accept that some might choose to wear it. That we are stronger not for demanding the niqab’s removal, but for accepting that we must allow someone the choice to wear it.
There might be some rhetorically useful historical analogy to attempt here, but my knowledge of history isn’t what it should be and I’ve learned by watching politicians that the odds of sticking the landing on an analogy are low. In lieu of history, we might make do with practicalities, legalities and principles.

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