‘You are not suitably dressed’: Quebec judge refused to hear single mother’s case because of hijab | National Post

Outrageous. Has she made the same ruling for men wearing a kippa or turban? Does she not understand what religious freedom means?

A Quebec Court judge refused to hear the case this week of a single mother trying to retrieve her car because the woman would not remove her Muslim head scarf.

“In my opinion, you are not suitably dressed,” Judge Eliana Marengo told Rania El-Alloul Tuesday, according to a courtroom recording obtained by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.

“Decorum is important. Hats and sunglasses, for example, are not allowed, and I don’t see why scarves on the head would be. The same rules need to be applied to everyone.”

Ms. El-Alloul testified she was on welfare and the mother of three sons. She was trying to get back her car, which had been seized by the provincial automobile insurance board after one of her sons was caught driving it with a suspended licence.

She told the judge she needed the car to provide for her family. “I’m facing money problems,” she said.

But Judge Marengo refused to hear the merits of the case, citing a regulation governing court decorum that states simply, “Any person appearing before the court must be suitably dressed.”

She noted Ms. El-Alloul had said her hijab was a religious requirement. “In my opinion, the courtroom is a secular place and a secular space,” she said. “There are no religious symbols in this room, not on the walls and not on the persons.”

It seems given the outcry, many feel the same way.

‘You are not suitably dressed’: Quebec judge refused to hear single mother’s case because of hijab | National Post.

Chris Selley: NDP and Liberal positions on niqab during citizenship oath are pleasantly surprising

Chris Selley on the courage of both opposition parties in opposing the government in appealing the niqab ban at citizenship ceremonies:

It’s good news because it does seem unreasonable, as the Federal Court found, to go after veiled oaths when citizenship judges’ marching orders stipulate they should allow “the greatest possible freedom in the religious solemnization or the solemn affirmation [of the oath].” It does seem unreasonable for Mr. Harper to suggest allowing people to wear niqabs is “not how we do things here” when, like it or not, it plainly is. It does seem unreasonable to spend goodness knows how much appealing the Federal Court ruling on what seem to be highly dubious legal grounds. And it’s certainly unreasonable in a country that has enshrined religious freedom in the constitution — indeed, it’s grotesque — for the Conservatives to fundraise on the backs of someone wishing to exercise a religious freedom that the courts have thus far upheld. It’s one thing to support unveiled oaths; it’s quite another to endorse this approach to the issue.

No doubt fighting the good fight is reward enough for Mr. Mulcair and Mr. Trudeau. But the risk they’re running may not be as acute as it seems. With their seemingly popular niqabs-and-anti-terror package, Conservatives are essentially fronting a watered-down version of the Parti Québécois’ “values” campaign with a war bolted on. The values charter was popular in the polls, and so was the PQ. And when it came time for Quebecers to vote, it was no help to the PQ at all — not, it seems, because anyone changed their minds about Islam, but because their identitarian angst simply didn’t rank as a priority. Considering how unpopular the Conservatives are in Quebec on just about every other issue, that has to be an encouraging precedent for the opposition.

Chris Selley: NDP and Liberal positions on niqab during citizenship oath are pleasantly surprising

And on a less positive note, the BQ plays to xenophobic card, even less subtly than the Government:

A new ad from the Bloc Québécois is targeting NDP voters unhappy with NDP Leader Tom Mulcair’s comments Wednesday defending women’s right to wear the niqab at citizenship ceremonies.

“Should you have to hide your face to vote NDP?” the ad asks in French.

​The text is superimposed on an image of the House of Commons through the eyeholes of a black niqab, the full-face covering worn by certain Muslim women.

Bloc Québécois anti-niqab ad takes aim at NDP

Islam and extremism: Looking within | The Economist

Good piece in The Economist on some of the challenges within Islam regarding radicalization and extremism:

Complicating attempts to shore up traditional sources of authority is the fact that the establishment is precisely what many extremists reject. Salafists (devout Muslims who seek to emulate the times of the Prophet), both of the quietist and the violently jihadist sort, see much of the centuries-old tradition of Islamic jurisprudence as distorting the true religion. When denounced by the emir of Kano, a former central banker who is now Nigeria’s second-most-important Muslim leader, Boko Haram retorted: “We do not practise the religion of Lamido Sanusi…but the religion of Allah.”

And Muslim-majority populations that have risen up against dictators are less willing to trust religious authorities—especially those they regard as captured by political or government interests. Egypt’s government appoints the head of al-Azhar. Members of Dar al-Ifta, Lebanon’s official body for teachings and fatwas (rulings on Islamic law), come from its two main political groupings. Middle Eastern rulers have a history of alternately backing religious groups and denouncing them as terrorists for short-term political gain.

The internet, social media and improving literacy in the region make other sources easier to find. “I think about religion myself by searching and seeing the different opinions,” says Muhammad Gamal, a chemistry teacher at Cairo University. Alternatives are often better packaged and more appealing to young people, too. A region-wide joke says that Mr Baghdadi, in his 30s, is the youngest person to head an Arab organisation.

“You see ISIS videos, all slick Hollywood style, and what a stark contrast with the turbans and robes of the sheikhs of Al-Azhar,” says Raphaël Lefèvre, a French scholar who studies Lebanon’s Sunnis. “Radical groups seem closer to the people. Institutions are seen as bourgeois, stuffy and speaking a language people don’t understand.” Some Muslim scholars compare the appeal of jihadism to that of fundamentalist Christianity: the message is clear and certain.

Firm government action against those who preach violence is probably worthwhile. And traditional centres of Islamic authority could surely do more to explain their interpretations of Islam, and in more appealing ways. But the result of the debate within Islam about the roots of extremism may not be entirely to the taste of liberal Muslims—or Western politicians.

Imposing state-sanctioned creeds has in the past pushed jihadists underground. And these versions of Islam are by no means sure to be more liberal: the Saudi regime uses harsh sharia punishments such as beheading and last year al-Azhar launched a campaign to rid Egypt of unbelief after a survey claimed the country held precisely 866 atheists. But the alternative, attempting to promote liberal doctrines in a free market of religious ideas, has dangers, too. Georges Fahmi, an Egyptian scholar, detects a conservative mood among Muslims: “What is shocking is how many people support IS’s actions even if they would not do them themselves.”

via Islam and extremism: Looking within | The Economist.

Oath of allegiance to Queen stays as requirement to obtain citizenship

No surprise that the ruling was upheld by the Supreme Court. Oath should be changed, but should be through political process, not the courts.

Would-be Canadians will have to keep taking an oath to the Queen after the Supreme Court of Canada on Thursday refused to hear a challenge to the citizenship requirement.

The decision by the top court leaves intact an Ontario Court of Appeal ruling that upheld the “symbolic” oath.

At issue is a provision in the Citizenship Act that requires would-be citizens to swear to be “faithful and bear true allegiance to Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, her heirs and successors.”

Oath of allegiance to Queen stays as requirement to obtain citizenship – Politics – CBC News.

Brunt of public service cuts outside of Ottawa, report finds

Not surprising, the people making the decisions are in Ottawa-Gatineau. One of the factors contributing to the dramatic fall in citizenship processing in 2012 was cutbacks to CIC’s regional network:

“The bottom line is that, proportionately, there have been more cuts in the regions than in the NCR,” said Mostafa Askari, assistant parliamentary budget officer.

The report found about two-thirds of the job cuts were outside the National Capital Region, where the head offices of most departments and agencies are located.

Overall, the number of jobs in the federal public service has fallen by 7.5 per cent – 6.5 per cent in the National Capital Region – since the 2012 restraint budget.

At that time, the government said 70 per cent of the reductions would come from operational and “back office” efficiencies and wouldn’t even be noticed by most Canadians. The regions, where most of the front-line employees work providing programs and services to Canadians, were to be largely unaffected.

The bulk of the job cuts were supposed to come in the Ottawa area, where the size of the public service has mushroomed over the past decade. The government estimated that 12,000 bureaucrats would be laid off and the remaining 7,000 cuts would be through its five per cent yearly attrition rate.

The PBO offered no explanation as to why a larger portion of the public service has shifted to the national capital or whether this indicated a shift in the nature of work. The public service has changed considerably, becoming more “professional” in hiring new employees and facing an unprecedented generational turnover as baby boomers retire.

The public service has come under fire for being too Ottawa-focused, isolated and out of touch with Canadians. A big focus of the modernization of the public service now underway is to consult and collaborate more when making decisions.

Brunt of public service cuts outside of Ottawa, report finds | Ottawa Citizen.

In a Case of Religious Dress, US Justices Explore the Obligations of Employers – NYTimes.com

US Supreme Court hearings on religious accommodation (the Abercrombie & Fitch case):

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. on Wednesday warned that “this is going to sound like a joke,” and then posed an unusual question about four hypothetical job applicants. If a Sikh man wears a turban, a Hasidic man wears a hat, a Muslim woman wears a hijab and a Catholic nun wears a habit, must employers recognize that their garb connotes faith — or should they assume, Justice Alito asked, that it is “a fashion statement”?

The question arose in a vigorous Supreme Court argument that explored religious stereotypes, employment discrimination and the symbolism of the Muslim head scarf known as the hijab, all arising from a 2008 encounter at Woodland Hills Mall in Tulsa, Okla.

Samantha Elauf, then 17, sought a job in a children’s clothing store owned by Abercrombie & Fitch. She wore a black head scarf but did not say why.

The company declined to hire her, saying her scarf clashed with the company’s dress code, which called for a “classic East Coast collegiate style.” The desired look, Justice Alito said, was that of “the mythical preppy.”

…In response to Justice Alito’s question about the four hypothetical applicants, Shay Dvoretzky, a lawyer for the company, conceded that some kinds of religious dress presented harder questions, but he said the court should require applicants to raise the issue of religious accommodations.

Several justices suggested that an employer should simply describe its dress code and ask if it posed a problem. That would shift the burden to the applicant, they said. If the applicant then raised a religious objection, the employer would be required to offer an accommodation so long as it did not place an undue burden on the business.

That approach, Mr. Dvoretzky said, would itself require stereotyping.

But Justice Elena Kagan said that the approach was the lesser of two evils. On the one hand, it could require an “awkward conversation,” she said. “But the alternative to that rule is a rule where Abercrombie just gets to say, ‘We’re going to stereotype people and prevent them from getting jobs.’ ”

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg added that Ms. Elauf had not even known that her hijab was a problem.

“How could she ask for something when she didn’t know the employer had such a rule?” Justice Ginsburg said.

In a Case of Religious Dress, Justices Explore the Obligations of Employers – NYTimes.com.

At Malala’s citizenship ceremony, will she be forced to bare her head? – Sheema Khan

Sheema Khan makes the point regarding the wedge politics of the PM and Minister Alexander regarding the niqab, and in Minister Alexander’s case, the hijab (from someone who should and does know better):

… A few weeks ago, a federal court agreed with Ms. Zunera. However, our Prime Minister, who is campaigning for re-election, said that it was “offensive” to hide one’s face while joining “the Canadian family”. These comments were made in Quebec, where there is strong opposition to the niqab and increasing Islamophobic sentiment. Our Prime Minister chose to pander to these fears.

Citizenship Minister Chris Alexander went further, and tweeted “niqab, hejab, burqa, wedding veil – face coverings have no place in cit oath-taking”. He explained that a hijab can be used to cover the face.

Regarding the burqa issue in the U.K., you have told The Guardian: “I believe it’s a woman’s right to decide what she wants to wear and if a woman can go to the beach and wear nothing, then why can’t she also wear everything?”

Please Malala, ask Mr. Alexander if you will be required to remove your head-cover at your ceremony. And ask Mr. Harper and Mr. Alexander why Ms. Zunera should remove her niqab. Your carry great moral authority and your words will assist Muslim women who are being used as cheap political fodder. We know that you will stand by your principles.

At Malala’s citizenship ceremony, will she be forced to bare her head? – The Globe and Mail.

And Geoffrey Hall’s commentary on the risks the Government is taking:

A sizeable number of Canadians have genuine concerns about Islam. Some may even view certain of its manifestations, including the wearing of a niqab, as un-Canadian. Sure, the Conservatives may be playing on fears and unstated prejudices. But there’s a political risk inherent in dismissing those fears and prejudices without confronting them — in allowing ignorance to fester below the surface and voice itself in chauvinistic bumper stickers.

What happened with the values charter in Quebec? Remember, the Marois government introduced it because it thought it had a winner — and in the early stages of the election campaign, that’s what it looked like. But then something happened: The discussion, dialogue and opposition it provoked brought together individuals and groups from diverse cultural backgrounds — all rallying around the shared value of tolerance. Intended to draw neat lines around what is and isn’t Quebec culture, the charter managed to unite a plurality of Quebecers against it.

Which is what happens sometimes when unspoken prejudices are uttered aloud — people are forced to confront what they think in the daylight of community opinion. Right now, the federal parties are road-testing their messages for the election campaign. The Conservatives, like all the parties, always need issues they can exploit to fire up their base — and going after un-Canadian outliers has worked for them in the past.

But a message intended for core or regional audiences can linger, and turn into a liability in the heat of a campaign. The question now is how far the Conservatives can push the “I love Canada — fit in” slogan before voters tell them to f@*k off.

The risks and rewards of identity politics (pay wall)

Program aims for greater ethnic diversity on boards

Good to see expansion of this program to improve diversity of public institution boards beyond Toronto:

This week Ms. Omidvar announced the national launch of a program aimed to break down the barriers of the old-boy network by identifying, training and selecting qualified board candidates who are also either immigrants or members of a visible minority group.

“Public institutions that are created to serve the public good make better decisions for their clients and customers if the boards are diverse,” Ms. Omidvar said. “We are going to close the gap between those who live in these cities and those who serve on these boards.”

The program is called DiverseCity onBoard, and it will expand from Toronto, where it has placed more than 700 candidates on boards over the past several years, to Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary, Ottawa, Hamilton and London. The program works by matching candidates with vacancies. If a board has an opening, the program looks to connect it with a suitable match, someone with the training and expertise they require who might never have come to their attention otherwise.

“When we did our research in Toronto we asked organizations, ‘Why is it that your board still looks like old Canada?’ They said, ‘We agree completely, we want to be more reflective of the community, but we don’t have the networks,’” Ms. Omidvar said. “By putting real-life candidates in front of them, we try to dispel that myth that, ‘Oh, we don’t know any body.’”

Program aims for greater ethnic diversity on boards – The Globe and Mail.

Ontario must combat racism, says outgoing human rights commissioner Barbara Hall

Barbara Hall’s exit interview:

In an interview at commission headquarters, Barbara Hall said she strongly believes the very success of our society depends on ensuring the disadvantaged or marginalized are able to contribute fully.

“The most discouraging part of this work is the persistence of racism, particularly as it impacts black Ontarians and aboriginal people,” said Hall, whose 10 years as chief commissioner ends Friday.

“We see progress on issues but we need to — as a commission, as a society — be vigilant about these issues. It requires constant pushing.”

Discrimination, Hall said, is something that can touch everyone. As examples, she cited women returning from maternity leave to find their jobs have “mysteriously” disappeared or those sexually harassed at work.

Ontario must combat racism, says outgoing human rights commissioner – Macleans.ca.

Austria Passes Law On Islam Banning Foreign Funding

Austria’s new law – not aimed at Turkish but likely Saudi and other funding:

The legislation also offers Austrian Muslims a mix of increased rights and obligations in practicing their faith.

But the law has generated opposition from Austrian Muslim groups who say the ban on foreign funding is unfair as support from abroad is still allowed for the Christian and Jewish faiths.

The new measures include the protection of religious holidays and training for imams.

Austria’s previous “law on Islam” dating from 1912, after the annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina by the Austro-Hungarian empire, had been widely held up as a model for Europe in dealing with Islam.

Turkey’s leading Muslim cleric, Mehmet Gormez, has decried the bill as “a 100-year regression,” arguing that no complaints have ever been lodged about the fact that Ankara funds many imams in Austria.

Austria Passes Law On Islam Banning Foreign Funding.