4.24.2013

Courtroom Common Sense Prevails - Sort Of

A judge has made an important decision in a sexual assault case that is not only the correct one, but one that hopefully others will follow.

The decision was not on the guilt or innocence of the men charged, but on the complainant’s desire to wear a niqab while testifying.  The woman, known only as N.S., had taken her fight all the way to the Supreme Court, which chose not to choose.

The Supreme Court ruled that it was up to each individual judge to determine on a case-by-case basis if the wearing of the religious cloth – essentially the ‘mask’ portion of the hijab – is or isn’t allowed.

At first blush, it’s just another in a long list of milquetoast moves by Canada’s top justices, who have built a reputation for raising eyebrows (see: Bill Whatcott).

Kudos to the judge in this case.  While walking the fine line between religious freedom and the law, Justice Norris Weisman made the correct call.  It is true that the reason the complainant wanted to cover her face was solely a religious one, however the Canadian justice system cannot have a different set of rules for each religious, or non-religious, person.

The defendants had a right to face their accuser, even if they have known each other for years.

This touches on the bigger picture of assimilating religious rights into our society.  As a person of faith, I expect others to respect my beliefs, but I do not expect anyone to adjust their lives to accommodate me.  The same goes for our justice system.  Whether you were born in Canada or immigrated, your religious beliefs cannot trump the rights of others.

Years ago, two issues came to the forefront.  The family of a student in the public school system successfully fought for their child’s ‘right’ to carry a kirpan while in class.  For those not familiar, that is an item a baptized Sikh wears.  It is a dagger or a miniature sword.  You can understand how non-Sikh parents were a little uncomfortable at the prospect of having their child sit in class next to a kid who is, in reality, armed.

Earlier this month, the province of British Columbia started allowing kirpans in their provincial courtrooms.  Brilliant.  Does this mean that if I’m ever on trial, I can haul in my shillelagh?  Sure, it’s not a religious item per se, but it is part of my culture. 

I would bring in a Christian fighting dagger, but incredibly I have yet to be accepted into the Fellowship of Christian Swordsmen.

Several years ago, an RCMP officer (another Sikh, coincidentally) stated his case to be allowed to wear a turban on duty.  Much like the Supreme Court, the RCMP, not wanting to be seen as politically-incorrect, granted the request.

Back to the trial in question.  No doubt there will be calls of ‘racism!’ and ‘intolerance!’ filling social media after this decision.  That is absurd.

Canada has long enjoyed the honest reputation of accepting people from all points of the globe.  We are accommodating and welcoming.  But those wishing to come to our country should not confuse accommodation with apathy about our laws and traditions.

We welcome anyone who wishes to come here for a better life, but in spite of some of the more ‘sensitive’ progressive elements, Canadians do not accept having our culture and traditions infringed upon.

Live in our country, live by our laws.

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His Name Was Steven