Canada’s heated debate about dress codes

canada 2Canada, a democratic utopia, is one of the most diverse countries in the world. Canadian culture has become affiliated with exotic sights, smells, and sounds. It may come as a shock that of all countries, Canada too, has had heated debates over dress codes, dictating what men and women can and cannot wear.

The niqab is a religious veil worn by women that covers the entire face except the eyes. The niqab and burka are often confused; the burka covers the body and face whereas the niqab exclusively hides the face. In 2011, a Conservative Canadian court banned niqabs or any face veil worn by women while being sworn in as Canadian citizens. This ban caused mass public outcry and was challenged by Canadian Sunni Muslim, Zunera Ishaq. She won her appeal arguing the ban to be unconstitutional.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is a bill of rights hidden inside their Constitution. This extensive and insightful piece of paper is the concrete on which Canada was built. It lists the rights and values all Canadians must uphold including democratic, legal, mobility, equality, and language rights. However, any dress related debate has centred around the Fundamental Freedoms section of the Charter. These include the freedom of belief, religion and expression. Therefore, it was undeniable that Ishaq had the right to wear her niqab while being sworn in as a Canadian citizen.

Another recent headline about Canadian dress code included another exciting government document: The Quebec Constitution. Quebec is a province where the French settlers built their community, and to this day, they are still very separated from the rest of English-Canada. Because of their separateness they have their own constitution that allows them room for different laws. In 2013, Quebec proposed a provincial law unique to them, that would prevent government workers from wearing conspicuous religious symbol. Quebec, though distinct from the rest of Canada, is still subject to the national Charter of Rights and therefore, the bill was unable to pass.

Other than the two controversies, both involving religious freedom, Canada is one of the most open countries when it comes to dress code. Of course there are still rules in schools that prevent girls from wearing revealing tops or boys showing off their underwear when their pants hang too low, but that isn’t too serious. People in Canada can wear whatever they want as long as it doesn’t offend or make anyone uncomfortable. So when anyone visits Canada remember to not walk around naked or impersonate a soldier. That could be bad.

(Although, Canadians do find the denim on denim look, or as Americans call it, the Canadian Tuxedo, quite charming.)


by Luise S.