Michael Den Tandt: Justin Trudeau’s manifesto stakes a claim for pluralism and liberty

By far, the best commentary on Trudeau’s Toronto speech on the politics of fear and the reaction:

What’s most novel about Trudeau’s thesis, at root, is the claim it lays to upholding individual freedom against the encroachments of the state. It’s intellectual ground the Harper Conservatives have been pleased to occupy, virtually without competition, since their Reform Party days in the early 1990s.

Most curious of all: Monday’s speech and the strategy underlying it have been in the works for months, according to Liberal party sources. But the hook was a series of recent Conservative missteps — ­from a Facebook post caterwauling about a non-existent imminent attack on the West Edmonton Mall, to Immigration Minister Chris Alexander’s conflation of the hijab (headscarf) and the niqab, to Conservative MP John Williamson’s facepalm-inducing recent musings about “whities” and “brown people” –­ that together convey the impression that, contrary to all its careful messaging of the past two decades, this Conservative party may not be friendly to minorities, after all.

Clearly, the PMO now perceives some peril here: Late Monday, staffers sent out an email reiterating past assertions by Jason Kenney and by the PM of warm support for Canada’s million-strong Muslim community.

The question is whether it will be enough. Intolerance of minorities is a 35-year-old chink in the Western conservative movement’s armour, which long held it back in Ontario. It’s odd indeed to see this dialectic re-emerge now, long past the time when most had thought it dead and gone.

Michael Den Tandt: Justin Trudeau’s manifesto stakes a claim for pluralism and liberty

Other interesting commentary by Aaron Wherry, notes the contradiction between the public position and the one argued in Court:

It would seem useful here to turn to the actual ruling of the Federal Court, in the case of Zunera Ishaq, that overturned the government’s attempt to ban the wearing of the niqab during the citizenship oath. What undid the government’s position was simple incoherence—the policy directive by the minister, Jason Kenney in his previous portfolio, conflicted with the regulations that govern the citizenship process. So while the directive demanded that the niqab be removed during the saying of the oath, the regulations instruct the citizenship judge to allow “the greatest possible freedom in the religious solemnization or solemn affirmation thereof.” The regulations also do not require visual confirmation that an oath has been sworn—only that the applicant sign their name to a certificate bearing the oath. In the case of a discrepancy between the minister’s directive and the regulations, the judge ruled that the regulations took precedence.

And then there is paragraph 30 of the ruling: ”The Respondent argues that this application is premature. In its view, the Policy is not mandatory and citizenship judges are free not to apply it.”

Unless the judge has misunderstood the arguments, this seems a remarkable concession by the government. One imagines the government’s lawyers might’ve thought they had a novel argument for the case’s dismissal—that the ban on the niqab was not mandatory and therefore “there is no way to know what would have happened had the Applicant attended the ceremony and refused to uncover her face.” But, as the judge noted, this clashed with both the public statements of the minister and private statements of government officials.

On those grounds, the government’s claim of an option was dismissed by Justice Boswell. But that doesn’t quite absolve the government of the contradiction. In the House today, the Prime Minister said, “We do not allow people to cover their faces during citizenship ceremonies.” But in the court the Prime Minister’s government would seem to have argued that we do allow for people to cover their faces, so long as the presiding citizenship judge agrees. So which is it? And if it’s the former, why were the government’s lawyers arguing the latter?

(I’ve asked Immigration Minister Chris Alexander’s office for an explanation on this point and will post what I receive.)

Justin Trudeau and the niqab What Justin Trudeau says and what the Federal Court said

Terry Milewski of the CBC provides the play-by-play of  the political jousting back and forth over Trudeau’s remarks:

Niqab controversy: Stephen Harper, Justin Trudeau wade into culture war over the veil

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.

2 Responses to Michael Den Tandt: Justin Trudeau’s manifesto stakes a claim for pluralism and liberty

  1. The niqab, the hijab, and the burka are NOT fashion statements, nor are they religious or cultural statements. A woman wearing any of these is saying: “You are a Kafir (unbeliever/infidel) and I am firmly committed to the Shariah” We all know what the Shariah is—a political, evil ideology that subjugates and oppresses women (think Taliban, ISIS, Al Qaeda, Boco Haram), just as Prime Minister Harper said. Obviously, he knows history well, unlike a lot of others. Check out a video by Dr. Bill Warner on the subject and learn something: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PQEcEYtWYB0

    • Andrew says:

      Not that simple as you portray it. And how does this differ from the wearing of a cross, a kippa or turban? Or other expressions of faith? Does expressing one’s faith automatically mean denying the legitimacy of the faith of others?

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