CASE OF POLICE REMOVAL OF THE HIJAB DURING SEARCH SENT TO INVESTIGATION
Montreal, October 29, 2015 — In what could be a “first” in Canada, the issue of whether during an arrest and search, police officers violate a Muslim woman’s civil rights by forcibly removing a woman’s hijab in plain public view without her permission, will be addressed in a complaint filed with the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission.
The case involved a Muslim woman visiting from Morocco who was intercepted and arrested by police officers while driving from a mosque with her son, in the north-end of Montreal, last year. Both mother and son were arrested near their home by numerous masked police officers armed with automatic weapons.
During the arrest, an officer removed the mother’s hijab in plain public view to perform a search. The mother’s dress was also lifted during the search, in full view of her son who was detained in a nearby police car. Both mother and son were later released once the police realized that it was a false report.
The woman experienced deep shock, trauma and humiliation to the point where she had to take medication and consult a psychologist even after returning to Morocco.
The Montreal Police at first accepted to participate in the mediation to resolve the case but changed its position after learning that the mediation session would take place through video conference, since the woman was ready to participate from her native country. The case is now sent to investigation by the human rights commission.
“We welcome the opportunity to clarify this important constitutional rights question, because contrary to the United States, this matter has not been adressed by our courts,” said CRARR Executive Director Fo Niemi.
In the U.S., several Muslim women whose hijab was removed during detention and arrest have filed civil rights lawsuits against the police departments involved. Some of these cases have been settled out of court.