Quebec woman told to remove hijab in court appeals for legal clarification on right to wear religious attire

Hard to imagine her not winning this appeal. The hijab is not the niqab where the Supreme Court, in a convoluted ruling, stated should be case-by-case (Supreme Court niqab ruling: Veil can be worn to testify in some cases):

A Montreal woman who was told to remove her hijab by a judge is appealing a ruling that declined to clarify whether Quebecers have a right to wear religious attire in court, her lawyer said Wednesday.

Rania El-Alloul had sought a legal clarification from Quebec Superior Court after she was denied an appearance in a lower court because she was wearing a hijab.

Superior Court Justice Wilbrod Décarie ruled last month that the Quebec court judge’s decision went against the principles of Canadian law protecting freedom of religion.

But he also said that although El-Alloul’s treatment was regrettable, he could not guarantee she would be allowed to wear her hijab during future court appearances.

“Each case must be evaluated in light of the context that exists during the witness’s appearance,” he wrote in his decision.

On Wednesday, one of El-Alloul’s lawyers said this case-by-case approach creates insecurity for his client and anyone else who may need to access the justice system while wearing religious attire.

“She would have to be worried every time whether she’d be heard or not, which might induce her to settle cases she shouldn’t settle or not to go to court,” Julius Grey said in a phone interview.

Grey also believes Décarie erred when he ruled it was out of his jurisdiction to make a declaration on whether all litigants have the right to wear religious attire in court.

“When you have a Charter issue, the procedure should not have the effect of depriving someone of their rights,” he said.

A judge refused to hear El-Alloul’s case against the province’s auto insurance board in February 2015 because of her attire.

El-Alloul refused to remove her hijab and the case was put off. It was ultimately settled when the car was returned.

In a statement, El-Alloul said she wanted more than just confirmation the judge had been wrong.

“It isn’t enough that I have been vindicated,” she said. “It’s so important that the successful resolution of my case ensures that no one is ever humiliated the way I was and deprived of their rights.”

Grey said the appeal likely won’t be heard until late 2017.

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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