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

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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