Hijab-wearing woman denied day in court files judicial complaint
Published Friday, March 27, 2015 1:11PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, March 27, 2015 6:55PM EDT
The Muslim woman who was denied her day in court because the judge thought she was being disrespectful by wearing a headscarf has filed a judicial complaint.
Rania El-Alloul has the support of noted constitutional lawyer Julius Grey, along with Mathieu Bouchard, as she files a complaint with the judicial council to obtain what they say is her right to have access to justice while wearing religious attire.
"I have every right to appear before any judge, in any courtroom, with my headscarf," said El-Alloul.
El-Alloul and her lawyers said they are not trying to punish the judge, but to show "a judge cannot choose their clientele."
El-Alloul's legal problems began in February when she appeared in court to apply to have her car returned. Her car had been seized because it was being driven by her son, who had a suspended licence.
When El-Alloul appeared in court, Judge Eliana Marengo immediately asked why she was wearing a hijab and El-Alloul replied that it was because she was Muslim.
Marengo called for a recess, then returned in about 30 minutes and said the wearing of a hijab violated the secular nature of the courtroom, and the case could not continue as long as El-Alloul was wearing the scarf over her head.
El-Alloul refused to remove the hijab so Marengo suspended the case.
"It has has raised a lot of questions about whether or not a woman practising her faith can equally access justice," said El-Alloul.
News of the judge's decision shocked many authorities who said the judge was in the wrong.
Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard and the leaders of the three major federal parties all denounced Judge Marengo's decision, while the Canadian Civil Liberties Association called it a violation of the Canadian Charter right to freedom of religion.
Two Vancouver residents who heard about the decision launched a crowdfunding campaign to buy El-Alloul a new car, but she refused the more than $50,000 that has been raised.
"The awareness raised by this campaign has brought us people from all over, who have offered support to carry this issue forward," El-Alloul wrote in March.