September 16, 2015 / 5:35 PM / 4 years ago

Canada government to press for ban on veil at citizenship ceremonies

Conservative leader and Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks during a campaign event at a factory in Stittsville, Ontario September 13, 2015. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - The Canadian government on Wednesday said it would go to the Supreme Court to press its case for banning Muslim women’s face coverings during citizenship ceremonies, an issue in the election campaign.

A federal appeals court on Tuesday found the ban on veils such as the niqab was unlawful. The case was brought by Zunera Ishaq, an immigrant from Pakistan who refused to take part in a citizenship ceremony because it meant she could not wear a niqab and would have to show her face.

“The government of Canada will seek leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada in the Ishaq case,” Immigration Minister Chris Alexander said in a one-line statement.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, a Conservative facing a tight three-way battle to remain in power, says the niqab, a face-covering veil worn by some Muslims, is rooted in an “anti-women” culture.

Defense Minister Jason Kenney, who has spearheaded a successful campaign to win support in immigrant communities for the Conservatives, said people’s faces should be visible when taking the oath in a citizenship ceremony.

“At that one very public moment, of a very public declaration of one’s loyalty to one’s fellow citizens and country, one should do so openly, proudly and publicly, without one’s face hidden,” he told reporters in Calgary.

The opposition New Democrats and Liberals say the ban violates the rights of Canadians and accused the Conservatives of fueling prejudice against Muslims.

“This government ... is continuing with the politics of division and even fear, and that is not worthy of a country as diverse and extraordinary as Canada,” Liberal leader Justin Trudeau told reporters when asked about the planned appeal.

A Conservative statement on Tuesday said: “Most Canadians find it offensive that someone would hide their identity at the very moment where they are committing to join the Canadian family.”

Additional reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn

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