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Supreme Court rules women can wear niqab to testify in some cases

File photo of a woman wearing a niqab. REX FEATURES/MOODBOARD/WEST COAST SURFER

The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that a witness can — in certain circumstances — wear a religious veil known as a niqab while testifying in court.

In a split decision released Thursday, the court affirmed both an accused person’s right to a fair trial and the right to religious freedom.

The controversial issue, which has divided the Muslim community, has reared its head in recent years, leading to a new law in Quebec for public sector workers and new federal immigration rules that ban face coverings while taking the oath of citizenship.

In this latest case, a Toronto Muslim woman sought to wear a niqab while testifying against two men she claims sexually assaulted her when she was a child.

Due to a publication ban, the woman can only be identified as N.S.

The two accused claim the Charter of Rights and Freedoms allows them to confront their accuser and observe her facial expressions as she testifies.