OTTAWA, Dec. 12 (UPI) -- The Canadian government Monday banned all face coverings for immigrants reciting the country's oath of citizenship, the immigration minister said.
The mandate, which took effect immediately, means women must remove niqabs, other face-covering veils or any part of the Muslim burqa obscuring the face before they may take the oath to become Canadian citizens, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported.
It's a "public declaration that you are joining the Canadian family and it must be taken freely and openly," Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said, adding it was "frankly, bizarre" that previously women were allowed to wear face veils while swearing fealty to their new country.
Kenney said he's had complaints from ministers and citizenship court judges alleging, when someone's face is covered, it's hard to ascertain whether a citizenship oath is actually being recited -- a requirement needed to become Canadian, the CBC said.
"Canadian citizenship is not just about the right to carry a passport and to vote," Kenney said.
Kenney said immigration and citizenship authorities ask "all those taking the oath do so openly," describing it as a "deep principle that goes to the heart of our values."