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Top Five 2013: R v NS

Each year at OJEN’s Toronto Summer Law Institute, a judge from the Court of Appeal for Ontario identifies five cases that are of significance in the educational setting. This summary, based on these comments and observations, is appropriate for discussion and debate in the classroom setting.

R v NS, 2012 SCC 72, [2012] 3 S.C.R. 726

N.S., a Muslim woman, alleged that her uncle and cousin had sexually assaulted her repeatedly when she was a child. At their trial, the accused sought an order requiring N.S. to remove her niqab when testifying against them in order that her demeanor, facial expressions and other body language could be seen. She argued that her religious beliefs required her to wear the niqab when in the presence of men other than close family members. These arguments meant that the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) had to weigh conflicting Charter interests: the right of the accused to make full answer and defence and to a fair trial versus the interests of the witness to freedom of religion and conscience. The full decision is available here.

Key Words: Criminal Law – Evidence – Sexual assault – Constitutional Law – Charter of Rights and Freedoms – Freedom of religion – Trial fairness – Gender

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