Thursday, February 26, 2015

Wearing a hijab bars litigant from court

In truly bizarre story (see link below) a Quebec judge refused to hear a woman wearing a hijab. The judge cited Article 13 of the regulations of the Court of Quebec which says "Any person appearing before the court must be suitably dressed". 

The judge said that rules had to apply equally and no one would be allowed to wear a headscarf in Court. 

"In my opinion, you are not suitably dressed," Judge Eliana Marengo told Rania El-Alloul. 

"Decorum is important. Hats and sunglasses, for example, are not allowed, and I don't see why scarves on the head would be. The same rules need to be applied to everyone."

(One wonders if the judge has heard of the concept of disproportionate impact of facially neutral rule - for example a ban on breast feeding at work that applied equally to men and women). 

Most jurisdictions have a provision similar to Quebec's Article 13.  Nunavut, for example has Practice Direction 25 that deals with court attire - although it largely is drafted to allow lawyers to wear traditional clothing in court. Ontario generally requires that all persons in court be dressed respectfully and a judicial officer can refuse to hear someone who, for example, is wearing a swimsuit - and I have seen that (Ontario Court of Justice in Bradford). 

But it is unheard of (at least till now) for a modern Canadian court to disallow someone to be heard because of religious clothes. In Ontario (but not Nunavut) court clerks often say "remove your hat unless worn for religious purposes"; merely saying a hat is worn for religious purposes ends the issue.  

Freedom of religion does not end at a courtroom door; indeed case law protects the right of someone to attend court with full face covering absent good reason to require unveiling. 

For a judge in Canada today to refuse to hear someone because they are wearing a hijab is clearly an error of law - not to mention just plain bizarre. 


2 comments:

symon jaz said...

This is indeed a sad day in Canadian history. This invidious conclusions of the judge stains our justice system with such malice conjecture. The woman's dress is her choice and wont change regardless of the occasion.
The court is there to protect the public and produce a just ruling after a just hearing. Not to present a platform for a judge's opinions of how ethnic people should dress. The judge has blatantly exercised bigotry in the name of the Court and Justice.

symon jaz said...

This is indeed a sad day in Canadian history. This invidious conclusions of the judge stains our justice system with such malice conjecture. The woman's dress is her choice and wont change regardless of the occasion.
The court is there to protect the public and produce a just ruling after a just hearing. Not to present a platform for a judge's opinions of how ethnic people should dress. The judge has blatantly exercised bigotry in the name of the Court and Justice.

And for those who see this as a score against a muslim. This is the day my veteran life feels unworthy to read such cheap shots against a vulnerable woman who is also muslim.
its a good read for those who hate.