Accessible Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter February 8, 2017

The Place of the Niqab in the Courtroom

Vrinda Narain
From the journal ICL Journal


This paper analyzes the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in R v NS, 2012 SCC 72 where the Court considered if a witness who wears a niqab for religious reasons can be required to remove it while testifying. The Court identified the two Charter rights engaged: the witness’ freedom of religion and the accused’s fair trial rights, including the right to make full answer and defense. This paper focuses on those aspects of the Supreme Court’s decision that relate to religious freedom, multiculturalism and reasonable accommodation. Analyzing the Court’s reasoning through the lens of critical multiculturalism, I consider the potential of the reasonable accommodation framework to forward minority rights. I suggest that had the Supreme Court applied an intersectional framework to adjudicating NS’s claim, it could have crafted a more contextual response based on her location along multiple axes of discrimination: gender, religion and racialised minority. This paper aims to contribute to a better understanding of mediating individual and group tensions, to move towards a more inclusive notion of citizenship than can foster a commitment to a shared multicultural future.

Published Online: 2017-2-8
Published in Print: 2015-3-1

© 2017 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin/Boston