A Case For Banning Bank Tellers From Wearing Niqabs

Oh, the Narrative!

Should Canadians be required to deal with veiled bank tellers, airline flight attendants, police officers or even judges?

A major debate in this election has been about legislating the prohibition of face coverings, for citizenship oaths and working in the federal government. But the government could, as easily, ban face coverings in federally regulated industries, such as banks, airlines, the RCMP — or your local cable or telephone provider — taking the same position, as with the public sector, that Canadians should be able to see the faces of the tellers, airline check-in clerks or service workers with whom they have to interact. Even if such a law impacted upon only those employees who deal directly with the public. …

In Saudi Arabia, the most radical Wahhabist state in the world, where full-length chadors with niqabs are de rigueur, women have their passport photos taken — in every case, showing their full face. How then could anyone legitimately claim that they cannot remove it to become a Canadian citizen? …

This debate seems less about religion than about a clash of values. Most Canadians believe that they should be able to interact with others without a face veil, since so much of communication in our society is visual. A person is obviously free to cover their face in their non-working life or in contexts that are not customer-facing, but whose values should be paramount in the workplace? To what extent are employees free to impose an individual preference, if it is not genuinely a religious requirement, upon others? That’s where the real debate lies, and it shouldn’t be silenced by religious-freedom arguments that may not even be genuine.