Natasha Bakht

Associate Professor, University of Ottawa

Professor Bakht’s research interests are in the intersecting area of religious freedom and women’s equality.

Media

Natasha Bakht Interview

Final Project for CMN 2167 at the University of Ottawa Assignment was to make a 5 min + credits video on an Artist in Ottawa Made by; Ben Gronfors, Erin Chapman, Meghan Turner, Annette Ejiofor

In Your Face: Piercing the Veil of Ignorance About Niqab-Wearing Women

NATASHA BAKHT Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, Common Law Section, University of Ottawa 26 February 2016 The paper will examine three judicial decisions in three different jurisdictions involving niqab-wearing women in courtrooms. Particular emphasis is paid to the Canadian Supreme Court case of R v NS in which a sexual assault complainant wanted to wear her niqab while testifying. The uniquely challenging context of sexual assault, which has garnered much feminist attention and reform internationally, is considered. It is argued that serious consideration must be given to the multiple rights of Muslim women by reassessing the traditional use of demeanor evidence. Some judges in these cases attempt to be inclusive of niqab-wearing women in accordance with policies of multiculturalism, yet they do not go far enough in protecting Muslim women’s rights. Other judges refuse to accommodate the niqab entirely. This troubling analysis parallels attempts made to exclude niqab-wearing women from public spaces generally permitting dubious objections that certain requests for accommodation have gone too far.

Zunera Ishaq on why she fought to wear a niqab during citizenship ceremony: ‘A personal attack on me and Muslim women’

National Post, February 16, 2015Online

URL: http://news.nationalpost.com/news/canada/zunera-ishaq-the-woman-who-fought-to-wear-a-niqab-during-her-citizenship-ceremony

The government seems to be sending mixed messages — depicting niqab-wearing women as victims who are forced to wear a veil and as aggressors who can’t be trusted to say the oath of citizenship, said Natasha Bakht, a law professor at the University of Ottawa...

Wearing a niqab isn't 'anti-women'

Ottawa Sun, September 26, 2015Online

URL: http://www.ottawasun.com/2015/09/26/wearing-a-niqab-is-not-anti-women

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has suddenly discovered feminism. He is deeply concerned that Muslim women who cover their faces are wearing a garment that is "anti-woman". One presumes that he is of the view that they are being forced to cover themselves into submission, despite the fact that niqab-wearing women deny this allegation outright. Zunera Ishaq, the woman at the centre of the niqab-citizenship controversy has specifically said "It's precisely because I won't listen to how other people want me to live my life that I wear a niqab. Some of my own family members have asked me to remove it. I have told them that I prefer to think for myself."...

What Canadians can learn from niqab-wearing women

TVO, September 23, 2015Online

URL: http://tvo.org/article/current-affairs/shared-values/what-canadians-can-learn-from-niqab-wearing-women

When Quebec tried to introduce the Charter of Quebec Values Bill in 2013, which would have prevented all people who wore conspicuous religious symbols from working in the public service, the federal government denounced it. But no similar concern was expressed about Bill 60’s provincial predecessor, Bill 94, which targeted only niqab-wearing women and would have required a “naked face” in order to provide or receive a state service...

The niqab and the vote

Ottawa Morning, October 6, 2015Online

URL: http://www.cbc.ca/player/play/2676690301

A ruling yesterday put the spotlight back on clothing and the oath of citizenship. We take a look at the impact of this debate on women who wear the face covering...

Power Play: Gov't loses Niqab ban appeal

CTV NewsOnline

URL: http://www.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=706058

University of Ottawa's Natasha Bakht discusses the issues and politics behind the ban appeal on wearing Niqabs during citizenship oaths...

Muslim convert attacked while wearing niqab in Toronto

The Globe and Mail, October 4, 2015Online

URL: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/muslim-convert-attacked-while-wearing-niqab-in-toronto/article26646425/

“It’s very similar to what happened in Quebec during the charter of values debate, when there was a huge increase in violence against women and human-rights violations,” University of Ottawa law professor Natasha Bakht said in an interview. “What’s happening with the niqab becoming this huge issue is unnecessary resentment.”...

Niqab debate recalls RCMP turban furor of the '90s

CBC News, September 26, 2015Online

URL: http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/canada-election-2015-niqab-debate-citizenship-turban-rcmp-1.3244817

"Both the turban and the niqab are seen as religious requirements. So the link is obvious in my mind," says Natasha Bakht, law professor at the University of Ottawa, who studies the intersection of the Muslim face-covering and the law. "We went through a situation where we were not used to seeing Sikh men. We were not using to seeing them on the streets, we were not used to seeing them in positions of authority, and usually when you're not used to seeing something, you are uncomfortable with it, or you are fearful of it. But we got past that."...

Conservatives vow to establish ‘barbaric cultural practices’ tip line

The Globe and Mail, October 2, 2015Online

URL: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/conservatives-vow-to-establish-barbaric-cultural-practices-tip-line/article26640072/

Natasha Bakht, a law professor at the University of Ottawa and a Muslim, called the act gratuitous because the practices it focuses on are already illegal in Canada. “It strikes me that it’s really just another way for the Conservative government to be targeting Muslim communities,” she said. “Obviously that’s what they’re doing with the niqab debate."...

Canada AM: A religious fight that ended in victory

CTV NewsOnline

URL: http://www.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=705527

Natasha Bakht of the University of Ottawa says the ruling sends a message that citizenship rights are incredibly important...

Belonging and Banishment: Being Muslim in Canada
by Natasha Bakht
TSAR Publications
189477048X

A variety of Canadian voices come together here to explore some of the vital issues facing Muslims in Canada. Who, indeed, is a Canadian Muslim? This is only one of the fundamental questions addressed in this volume. The authors are from diverse ethnic backgrounds, hail from coast to coast, and profess varying degrees of practice and belief. In their thoughtful contributions, they explore matters of faith, identity, sectarianism, human rights, and women’s rights. Specifically, the essays collect

Reinvigorating Section 27: An Intersectional Approach

Published by Journal of Law & Equality

2010 It is in contemplating how equality can be most fully understood and reinvigorated in parts of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms other than s. 15 that this paper is written. In several recent controversies in Canada, the claims by minority groups for recognition of their diverse and deep commitments to their cultural/religious specificity have produced the reaction that multiculturalism has gone too far, that it threatens the core values of Canadian society. This construction of minority rights, necessarily in opposition to Canadian values, creates a false opposition; one that many have argued permits the demonizing of a minority group typically seeking equality, while simultaneously and uncritically putting on a pedestal Canadian law and policies that continue to perpetuate inequality for many groups in Canadian society. In this article, I argue that the protection of minority rights as articulated in section 27 of the Charter’s multiculturalism provision need not be understood in opposition to the protection of equality. Rather, section 27 should inform all Charter rights through an intersectional analysis that more readily captures the lived realities of many individuals, women in particular.

URL: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1544482

Religious Arbitration in Canada: Protecting Women by Protecting them from Religion

Published by Canadian Journal of Women and the Law

2007 Historiquement, la relation entre le fiminisme et la religion a et lourde de tension.

URL: http://heinonline.org/HOL/LandingPage?handle=hein.journals/cajwol19&div=10&id=&page=

Modern Law, Modern Hammers: Canada’s Witchcraft Provision as an Image of Persecution

Published by Windsor Review of Legal and Social Issues

2014 This article examines Canada’s retention and application of the archaic offence of pretending to practise witchcraft in the Criminal Code. The disproportionate effect that the offence has on women and certain religious and racialized groups is highlighted. The historic persecution of women accused of practising witchcraft is discussed in order to provide some background to the history and ideology of the witchcraft offence in Canada. The gendered nature of the offence is considered along with the imperial role of the dominant Judeo-Christian belief structures in curtailing religious deviance and suppressing women’s powerful positions in the community. An analysis of the confused judicial interpretation of the offence and consideration of the social goals achieved in criminalizing such activity when several fraud offences already exist in Canada follows. Finally, the constitutionality of section 365 is examined using a feminist and religious freedom lens. The recent case of R v Persaud provides the modern day backdrop to examine Canada’s witchcraft offence and propose the repeal of section 365.

URL: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2606165

In Your Face: Piercing the Veil of Ignorance About Niqab-Wearing Women

Published by Social Legal Studies

2015 This article examines three judicial decisions in three different jurisdictions involving niqab-wearing women in courtrooms. Particular emphasis is paid to the Canadian Supreme Court case of R v. NS in which a sexual assault complainant wanted to wear her niqab while testifying. The uniquely challenging context of sexual assault, which has garnered much feminist attention and reform internationally, is considered. It is argued that serious consideration must be given to the multiple rights of Muslim women by reassessing the traditional use of demeanor evidence. Some judges in these cases attempt to be inclusive of niqab-wearing women in accordance with policies of multiculturalism, yet they do not go far enough in protecting Muslim women’s rights. Other judges refuse to accommodate the niqab entirely. This troubling analysis parallels attempts made to exclude niqab-wearing women from public spaces in Canada and permits dubious objections that certain requests for accommodation have gone too far.

URL: http://sls.sagepub.com/content/24/3/419.short

Counting Outsiders: A Critical Exploration of Outsider Course Enrollment in Canadian Legal Education

Published by Osgoode Hall Law Journal

2008 In response to anecdotal concerns that student enrollment in "outsider" courses, and in particular feminist courses, is on the decline in Canadian law schools, the authors explore patterns of course enrollment at seven Canadian law schools. Articulating a definition of "outsider" that describes those who are members of groups historically lacking power in society, or traditionally outside the realms of fashioning, teaching, and adjudicating the law, the authors document the results of quantitative and qualitative surveys conducted at their respective schools to argue that outsider pedagogy remains a critical component of legal education. The article situates the numerical survey results against both a critical review of the literature on outsider legal pedagogy and detailed explanations of student decision-making in elective courses drawn from student survey responses. Notwithstanding the diversity of the faculties surveyed, the authors conclude the article by highlighting some of the shared and significant findings of the research, paying attention to various identity-based, institutional, and external factors influencing critical course engagement in Canadian law schools today.

URL: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1121163

D.B.S. v. S.R.G. : Promoting Women's Equality through the Automatic Recalculation of Child Support

Published by Canadian Journal of Women and the Law

2006 This article presents the arguments of the Women's Legal Education and Action Fund on the issue of retroactive child support. It argues that the systemic inequality experienced by women both prior to and after separation must not be exacerbated by an interpretation of the legislative child support regime that fails to recognize the feminization of poverty associated with the caregiving of children. By considering the family law case of D.B.S. v. S.R.G. and the legislative history of the child support regime, the authors contend that the Alberta Court of Appeal's progressive approach regarding the automatic calculation of child support best supports women's equality. The court of appeal's approach in D.B.S. is grounded in the principles of statutory interpretation, is in accordance with the equality guarantee of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and complies with international human rights obligations. The D.B.S. approach is contrasted with another line of reasoning in the jurisprudence that is more restrictive in its recalculation of child support and, accordingly, contributes to women's inequality. The article concludes by endorsing the D.B.S. approach, acknowledging the perils of reprivatization and critiquing the Supreme Court of Canada's recent decision in this case.

URL: http://muse.jhu.edu/article/230224

A v B and Attorney General of Quebec (Eric v Lola)—The Implications for Cohabiting Couples Outside Quebec

Published by Canadian Journal of Family Law

2014 This paper discusses the recent Supreme Court of Canada decision, A v B and Attorney General of Quebec, popularly known as Eric v Lola. In particular, it examines Eric v Lola by comparing it to an earlier family law case, Nova Scotia (Attorney General) v Walsh. The paper argues that though the consequences of the decision in Eric v Lola reinforces Walsh in that unmarried cohabiting couples in some provinces still do not have the same legislative benefits extended to them upon relationship breakdown, the equality analysis in Eric v Lola in fact overturns Walsh. It is contended that cohabiting couples should have access to the entire “economic readjustment” package available to married persons upon relationship dissolution, in order to avoid the feminization of poverty that leaves many cohabiting women economically devastated. By examining the majority’s equality analysis in Eric v Lola, and using same-sex spousal litigation as an analogy, the author argues there is reason to believe that recognition of full spousal status for cohabitants may be in our future.

URL: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2428211

Biography

Natasha Bakht is an associate professor of law at the University of Ottawa. She is called to the bar of Ontario and completed her LL.M at New York University School of Law as a Global Hauser scholar. She served as law clerk to Madam Justice Louise Arbour at the Supreme Court of Canada. Bakht’s research interests are in the intersecting area of religious freedom and women’s equality. She was an active member of the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) from 2005-2009, advancing women’s rights through litigation. She has worked with the National Judicial Institute to educate Canadian judges on matters of religion and culture. She is the current English language Editor of the Canadian Journal of Women and the Law (CJWL). Her articles have addressed religious arbitration in family law, Muslim women’s attire and she has edited the collection Belonging and Banishment: Being Muslim in Canada (Toronto: TSAR, 2008).

Recognition/Reconnaissance

Ottawa Life Magazine’s List of Top 50 People in Ottawa | Personal

2009

K.M. Hunter Artists Award | Professional

Ontario Arts Council, 2008

Dora Mavor Moore Award Nomination for Outstanding Choreography | Professional

Toronto, 2010, 2003

Additional Titles and Affiliations

Canadian Journal of Women and the Law : English Language Editor

Research Grants

Research Funding

Organization: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada
Grant amount: 42198

Details:

2015

Research Funding

Organization: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada
Grant amount: 34225

Details:

2007

Research Funding

Organization: Law Commission of Canada
Grant amount: 5000

Details:

2005

Expertise

  • Women's Equality
  • Religious Freedom
  • Minority Rights
  • Law
  • Culture Rights

Education/Éducation

  • University of Toronto
    Drama/Political Science
    B.A., 1996

    Distinction


  • University of Ottawa
    Law
    LL.B., 2002

    cum laude


  • Queen’s University
    Political Studies
    M.A., 1998
  • New York University School of Law
    Law
    LL.M., 2005

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