decision to allow photo-free driving licenses
CALGARY - The Muslim Canadian Congress has expressed
serious reservations at the recent decision by the Alberta
Court of Appeal allowing photo-free driver's licenses to
the Hutterite community. It is asking the
Government of Alberta to appeal the decision to the Supreme
Prof. Mahfooz Kanwar, a Calgary-based board member of the MCC said, the court’s decision will set the wrong precedent for other ultra conservative religious communities who will use this decision to seek accommodations that have the potential of negatively impacting public safety and security.
The Muslim Canadian Congress is a staunch advocate of public security in Canada. Consistent with its stance, it strongly opposes the wearing of face masks like the Niqab or Burqa in public dealing.
"The decision to allow photo-free driving licenses for Hutterites is a serious mistake," Prof Kanwar said. "This will spark a furor over Quebec's recent decision to ban Muslim women from voting without revealing their identify. It will also be exploited by Islamist groups who continue to sow seeds of discord between Muslims and the rest of Canada, and create a climate of vitcimhood among Muslim youth," he added.
The decision by the 3-member Alberta Court of Appeal was not unanimous. In a dissenting opinion, Justice Frans Slatter said even if Alberta ’s decision to mandate photo-ids was a breach of the group’s religious rights, the charter breach was a justifiable one. “Driver’s licenses ... have become a near universal form of identification" Slatter said. "The integrity and reliability of the driver's license system benefits all Albertans who require, on a routine basis, proof of their identity.
"The presence of photographs is an important part of the integrity of the system," he said. "There unfortunately are significantly large groups of people who seek to exploit the identities of others for financial or other purposes."
Professor Kanwar said that because of Judge Slatter's dissenting opinion, Alberta automatically has the right to take the case to the Supreme Court. “We urge the Alberta government to exercise this right and appeal the decision.” He added.
"If the decision by the Alberta Court of Appeal is allowed to stand, it will prompt conservative groups to seek similar rights over and above considerations of public safety. It is the latter consideration that must always be held paramount in any debate about religious freedoms and public safety issues" Prof Kanwar added.
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For more information, in Calgary please call Mahfooz Kanwar at 403-251 6497 and in Toronto call Farzana Hassan at 647-504-5650