I disagree with this entirely, I know that it's a breach of religious rights, kinda, I guess. But people have the right to face their accusers, and on top of that how could you possibly know if someone was lying behind there? Thoughts?
The Supreme Court will weigh in Thursday on whether a woman will be allowed to wear a face-covering veil on the witness stand.
In a case described as "a perfect storm of issues," the Supreme Court of Canada weighed in Thursday on whether a Muslim woman accusing her cousin and uncle of childhood sexual assault should be allowed to wear a face-covering veil on the witness stand.
The court ruled that a Muslim woman can, under certain circumstances, wear a face-covering veil on the witness stand.
The court set out a framework to help judges determine, on a case-by-case basis, when the veil would be allowed.
The precedent-setting case of an Ontario woman identified only as N.S. has national significance for Muslim women in the Canadian justice system.
This is the first time the issue of a witness wearing a veil in court has arisen in Canada, and the judgment is precedent-setting in terms of how the court deals with the various interests involved, said Caris-sima Mathen, a law professor and expert in criminal law at the University of Ottawa.
The case - which had to balance Muslim religious rights, the sensitive issues involved when a sexual assault complainant is put on the stand, and an accused person's right to a fair trial - is "a perfect storm of issues,"
N.S. wears a hijab - a full body dress - as well as a niqab - a veil that covers her face other than a slit for her eyes - when she is in public or in the presence of men who aren't direct family members.
At a preliminary inquest into N.S.'s allegations of sexual assault, she requested permission to testify while wearing her niqab based on her Muslim religious beliefs. At that time, she'd been wearing the niqab for about five years.
The preliminary inquiry judge ordered that N.S. remove her veil before testifying at the inquiry. After she refused, the case made its way through the Ontario court system and was heard by the Supreme Court of Canada in December 2011.
Lawyers for the accused argued that if N.S. is allowed to testify with her face covered, neither the judge nor the cross-examiner will be able to determine the truth of her testimony.
"Important elements of our legal system presume the importance of observing a witness, and this long-established presumption should not be lightly set aside," the counsel submitted in their factum.
While it's important that an accused person should be able to cross-examine their accuser, most scientific literature shows people are only as good or slightly better than chance at reading other people's true facial cues, said lawyer David Butt, who represents N.S.