In a letter to the Canadian Council on
American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-CAN), the Prime Minister’s office has
assured Canadian Muslims that their religious right to wear a hijab, or
Islamic headscarf, will be respected and protected when photographs are
taken for the Permanent Resident (PR) Card.
The letter came after a formal complaint was filed with CAIR-CAN by
numerous Muslim women who were told to remove their hijab for their PR Card
photograph by Canadian immigration officials at the Pierre Trudeau port of
entry. During the recent federal election, CAIR-CAN also called on other
party leaders to make their positions clear regarding this issue.
(CAIR-CAN’s original statement on the issue may be viewed at: http://www.caircan.ca/itn_more.php?id=A1023_0_2_0_M).
In his July 23, 2004 letter, the Prime Minister wrote: “Please be assured
that your concerns regarding Permanent Resident (PR) Card photographs have
been given careful and appropriate considerations…CIC policy is that
allowances be made for practitioners of religious faiths that prohibit the
removal of head coverings. CIC does not require the head covering to be
completely removed, but for security purposes, all facial features must be
visible for the photographs.”
NDP Leader Jack Layton responded by stating that “New Democrats strongly
support the protection of the fundamental rights to freedom of religion and
expression in Canada, and we view the behaviour of the immigration officers
in these cases as infringing on those rights. It is particularly
unfortunate that these were among the first Canadians the new immigrants
met on arrival, as it reflects poorly on our nation.”
The leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, Stephen Harper, has yet to
“We welcome the statement by the Prime Minister’s office clarifying this
important issue that has affected many recent immigrants to
Canada,” stated CAIR-CAN spokesperson Abdurahman Salman.
“We hope that the CIC officials in question, who clearly acted outside of
Canada’s guidelines regarding religious accommodation, will now conduct
themselves in accordance with the stated principles articulated by the
Prime Minister,” he added.
CONTACT: Abdurahman Salman at 613-254-9704; Cell: 613-795-2012