THE Supreme Court of Canada decision on whether a woman may wear a niqab (face veil) in court is not definitive, but it is - in the Canadian tradition - eminently fair.
In a split decision, the court essentially said each case is different and that it would be up to trial judges to decide the issue of whether a witness may remain covered on the stand or not.
The decision outlines the four steps to be considered at trial by a judge who must balance the right to a fair trial with religious rights.
Because the court did not deliver a yes or no blanket decision, the possibility of a trial turning on an appeal of a judge's decision on the wearing of a niqab is a concern.
Whatever the potential costs, Canadians should be proud of Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin's comment that when faced with a conflict between religious freedom and other values, we should "respect the individual's religious belief and accommodate it if at all possible."
To do that, the court said that a judge must decide on the sincerity of the wearer. If the religious belief is sincerely held and wearing a niqab compromises the credibility of the witness during cross-examination, the judge will have to balance the societal harm of forcing the removal of the niqab against the importance of the testimony in the trial.
The concern here is that forcing the removal might create a reluctance in some to report offences or participate in Canadian justice - a justice system that has wrestled with this difficult issue to the highest level.