The Supreme Court of Canada will consider an appeal which looks at the issue of whether a sexual assault complainant may testify in Court while wearing a niqab for religious reasons. The case, on appeal from the Ontario Court of Appeal, arose when one of the defendants in a sexual assault case claimed that his right to full answer and defence was infringed by the complainant, N.S., testifying while wearing her niqab (at the preliminary hearing). He argued that in order to effectively cross-examine the complainant, it is essential to be able to observe her demeanour. CCLA intervened in the Court of Appeal and was also granted leave to make written submissions at the Supreme Court of Canada.
CCLA has argued that religious freedoms must be respected and that allowing a woman to testify while wearing her niqab promotes trial fairness. CCLA has also pointed out ongoing concerns about the use and value of demeanour as an indicator of credibility. The Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case on December 8, 2011.