AuthorNatasha Bakht
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1 The niqab is a face veil that leaves the eyes uncovered. Some Muslim women
believe this modest form of dress is either desirable or religiously required of
them. For a more in-depth understanding of why women wear the niqab, see
Chapter 1, “Listening to the Voices of Niqab-Wearing Women.
2 Bill 21, An Act respecting the laicity of the State, SQ 2019, c 12.
3 Katherine Bullock, “We Are All Niqabis Now: Coronavirus Masks Reveal
Hypocrisy of Face CoveringBans” Editorial, The Conversation (27 April 2020),
4 Québec National Assembly, Press Release, “Conférence de presse de M François
Legault, premier ministre et Mme Danielle McCann, ministre de la Santé et des
Services sociaux” (27 April 2020), online:
5 Dhillon went on to have a very successful career in the RCMP, working as a
specialist in interrogation and polygraph testing and in the Air India inquiry.
Richard Foot, “Baltej Dhillon Case” The Canadian Encyclopedia (14 November
2016), online:
6 The Government of Canada def‌ines “visible minorities” as persons, other than
Indigenous peoples, who are non-Caucasian in race or non-white in colour.
The term is used primarily as a demographic category by Statistics Canada in
connection with Employment Equity policies.
7 “The Turban That Rocked the RCMP: How Baltej Singh Dhillon Challenged
the RCMP — and Won” CBC News (11 May 2017), online:
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8 Grant v Canada (Attorney General), 1995 CanLII 11062 (FCA), 125 DLR (4th) 556
(leave to appeal to Supreme Court of Canada denied).
9 Indeed, the court found the plaintif‌fs’ evidence to be entirely theoretical and
speculative: “The assertion that a visible manifestation of a Sikh ocer’s reli-
gious faith, as part of his uniform, will create a reasonable apprehension of bias
was not based upon any concrete evidence.Grant v Canada (Attorney General),
[1994] FCJ No 1001 at para 93.
10 Allan Woods, “Appointment of Four Sikh Cabinet Ministers Shows ‘We Have
Arrived’” Toronto Star (7 November 2015), online:
11 Ibid.
12 Jennifer A Selby, Amélie Barras & Lori G Beaman, Beyond Accommodation:
Everyday Narratives of Muslim Canadians (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2018) at 5
[Selby et al]; Joan Wallach Scott, The Politics of the Veil (Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 2007) at 19 [Scott].
13 Lori G Beaman, Deep Equality in an Era of Religious Diversity (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 2017) at 2 [Beaman].
14 Benjamin L Berger, “Law’s Religion: Rendering Culture” (2007) 45:2 Osgoode
Hall Law Journal 277.
15 Selby et al, above note 12 at 19.
16 Sherene H Razack, “When Place Becomes Race” in Sherene H Razack, ed, Race,
Space, and the Law: Unmapping a White Settler Society (Toronto: Between the
Lines, 2002) 1 at 17.
17 Beaman, above note 13 at 128.
18 In October 2018, in two landmark decisions, the United Nations Human
Rights Committee found that France violated the human rights of two women
by f‌ining them for wearing the niqab. Yuval Shany, chair of the committee,
inexplicably noted that the decisions were not “an endorsement of a custom
which many on the Committee, including myself, regard as a form of oppres-
sion of women.” Oce of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, News
Release, “France: Banning the Niqab Violated Two Muslim Women’s Freedom
of Religion — UN experts” (23 October 2018), online:
NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=23750&LangID=E. See also
Emmanuelle Bribosia & Isabelle Rorive, “Insider Perspectives and the Human
Rights Debate on Face Veil Bans” in Eva Brems, ed, The Experiences of Veil
Wearers in Europe and the Law (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014)
163 at 166, where they note, “Our position is certainly not to advocate in favour
of the burqa, the niqab or any integral veil, which dehumanize women and lead
to self-exclusion.
19 Natasha Bakht, “Victim or Aggressor? Typecasting Muslim Women for their
Attire” in Natasha Bakht, ed, Belonging and Banishment: Being Muslim in Canada
(Toronto: TSAR Publications, 2008) 105.
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20 Jasmin Zine, “Introduction: Muslim Cultural Politics in the Canadian Hinterlands”
in Jasmin Zine, ed, Islam in the Hinterlands: Muslim Cultural Politics in Canada
(Vancouver: UBC Press, 2012) 1 at 9 [Zine]; Jana Kasperkevic, “Top US Court
rules for Muslim Woman Denied Abercrombie Job Over HijabThe Guardian
(1June 2015), online:
rules-favor-muslim-woman-hijab-abercrombie-f‌itch. See also Dahlab v Switz-
erland, No 42393/98, [2001] V ECHR 449.
21 CBC News, “Rule Against Hijab Stands: World Soccer Body” CBC News (3 March
2007), online:
22 Şahin v Turkey, No 44774/98, [2005] XI ECHR 173, 41 EHRR 8; News
Staf‌f, “Quebec Firm on Hijab Ban for Prison Guards” CTV News (15 March 2007),
23 Jim Bitterman, Sheema McKenzie & Catherine E Shoichet, “French Court
Suspends Burkini Ban” CNN News (26 August 2016), online: http://edition.cnn.
24 Beaman, above note 13 at 66.
25 Hannah Mason-Bish & Irene Zempi, “Misogyny, Racism and Islamophobia:
Street Harassment at the Intersections” (2018) Feminist Criminology at 1–2.
26 Selby et al, above note 12 at 19.
27 Hilal Elver, The Headscarf Controversy: Secularism and Freedom of Religion (New
York: Oxford University Press, 2012) at 125.
28 Scott, above note 12 at 19.
29 Zine, above note 20 at 9. For an explanation of why the pejorative characteriz-
ation of Muslim women’s dress persists in Europe despite the lack of evidence,
see also Valérie Amiraux, “Visibility, Transparency and Gossip: How Did the
Religion of Some (Muslims) Become the Public Concern of Others?” (2016) 4:1
Critical Research on Religion 37.
30 Selby et al, above note 12 at 11.
31 Zine, above note 20 at 6.
32 Syndicat Northcrest v Amselem, 2004 SCC 47, [2004] 2 SCR 551 at para 50.
33 The tendency to essentialize religious identities fails to acknowledge the f‌luid
and contextual manner in which religion is often practiced. Beaman, above note
13 at 4.
34 Selby et al, above note 12 at 12.
35 Eva Brems, ed, The Experiences of Face Veil Wearers in Europe and the Law
(Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2014) [Brems, ed].
36 Angela Campbell, Sister Wives, Surrogates and Sex Workers: Outlaws by Choice?
(Surrey: Ashgate, 2013) at 2.
37 SAS v France, No 43835/11 [2014] ECHR 1 at para 11; Erica Howard, “Burqa
Bans and Gender (in) Equality” MDX Minds (5 June 2018), online: https:// The burqa,
the Afghan style of veiling, characterized by its mandatory imposition by the
state, provokes an imagery that literally transfers the face veil to a dif‌ferent
space and externalizes the bodies concerned: “This terminology, in particular,

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