09.17.2015 09:20 AM

KCCCC Day 46: the politics of division

  •  Here is a CITY-TV video from yesterday on the niqab ruling: 

  • TV being TV, quite a bit of what we talked about ended up on the cutting room floor. But here is a quick summary.
  • One, this is classic writ-period dog whistle politics.  And, sadly, it works.  For the Conservative core vote, it is red meat.  It angers them, and gets them out to vote for the only option that favours “cracking down” on the niqab.  In that way, it’s like the refugee thing.
  • Two, there is no downside for the Tories on this.  They know – they absolutely know – that they are going to lose at the Supreme Court of Canada.  They are counting on it, in fact.  The Department of Justice has repeatedly advised them that they cannot win.  But they press on, regardless, because – at the end – it permits them to say: “See? See? Those unelected liberal judges are attempting to impose their will again.  We’re the only party that opposes judge-made law.”
  • Three, it’s a classic wedge.  It divides progressives: some feminists are okay with the niqab, some are vehemently against it.  Some classical liberal free expression types are wholly for it, other liberals see it as the beginning of the end of civilized society.  Politically, too, it divides: in 2011, Michael Ignatieff was with Stephen Harper on the issue.  In 2015, Justin Trudeau is against him.  And so on and so on.  The conservative monolith is united, however: they’re against it.  They’ll  vote for the anti-veil party.
  • Bottom line? For the Conservatives, it works.  It gets them votes, whether they win in court or not.  But – as I’ve written before – it’s wrong for religions to dictate to governments.  And it’s wrong for governments to dictate to religions.


  1. doconnor says:

    “party that opposes judge-made law”

    The thing is that it isn’t a judge made law. The ruling isn’t based on the charter, but that the regulation wasn’t consistent with the law (passed by the Liberals) that allowed accommodation in citizenship ceremonies. Maybe if the Conservatives get a majority, pass a new law that changes then there might be a charter challenge that overturns it.

    The Parti Quebecois secularism charter didn’t work out well for them. I don’t think very many feminists who oppose the niqab will be convinced to vote Conservatives because there are lots of other reason not to vote for them, but it will put off a lot of Red Tories.

    • Nicole says:

      Correct, feminists who don’t like the niqab are not so foolish to think that the Harper Government actually cares about women’s issues here. They are trying to use the authority of the state to tell this woman what to wear and rile up the racist base, as well as those who are still uncomfortable with the symbolism of the Niqab.

  2. MississaugaPeter says:

    With the Duffy affair behind them, or in front of them but after the election, the CONS will show why you can’t have amateurs and nitwits running your campaigns.

    If Mulcair or Trudeau do not break out in one of these debates, another party of CONS majority is not out of the question.

  3. Curt says:

    Do you need a “clear” face to get a passport picture? Diver’s License?

    • GFMD says:

      yes. Mennonites on the prairies tried to have exemptions from photographed driver’s licenses and were denied. (I am actually against requiring photo ID for driver’s licenses because I am old enough to remember when they weren’t mandatory in every province. If a place doesn’t want to accept a non-picture driver’slicense as proper ID that is OK for them, and when the cops stop you if they have doubts about your identity they can detain you. But it’s nto guaranteed by the Charter and I don’t write the rules so I go by the will of the government for my license).

      But a driver’s license is not an oath of citizenship, now, is it?

      • Ron says:

        Try driving without one. And what about the health cards ? They’re phasing out the old red stripers and replacing them with new hitech ones. With pictures.

        I’m in my late sixties and made the switch today, as instructed by Service Ontario, within 30 days. Or else.

  4. DougM says:

    I honestly don’t understand why so many liberals, progressives and feminists consider the wearing of the niqab to be a woman’s choice. It is not based in the Quran, it is a relatively recent (revival) thing and is predominant in the more oppressive (to woman) middle eastern countries (like Saudi Arabia). When a woman who was raised as a child through adult hood in such an oppressive country I simply don’t believe them when they say they wear it out of free will. To me the niqab = extreme oppression of woman, not religious freedom.

    • doconnor says:

      You can’t assume that a woman is wearing this because she is oppressed. In the diversity of human expression, people can legitimately choose to do this.

      If someone does this because they are oppressed, demanding she remove her niqab won’t make her any less oppressed. Two oppressions don’t make a right.

    • Nicole says:

      I understand what you are saying that a woman raised in that culture is heavily influenced by the restrictive mores, but if the woman is actually saying that she has chosen to wear this in Canada and yet you aren’t listening to her, then you are denying her agency and dismissing her own words. That is just as bad as the oppressive country she came from.

      • Matt says:

        Is it really about religion though or choice?

        Even Muslim scholars who study the Quran for a living seem divided on what it actually says.

        People look at the same passage and interpret it differently. Some say the Quran says women must cover their hair. Others feel the Quran says women must cover their face.

      • DougM says:

        Doconnor/Nicole: Even if she truly isn’t oppressed, woman are not allowed to cover their face when visiting Mecca. Why would we allow that when swearing a citizenship oath? Isn’t Canadian citizenship the greatest gift we have to give as a nation? Isn’t that worth something?

        But regardless, I am still amazed at how women and progressives can defend the niqab, ven if the Quran says they should wear it (which most scholars do not believe). Weren’t we (the collective we) upset and didn’t we chastise the Catholic Church for not allowing woman to be priests? How is religious oppression any more valid just because the oppressed believe in it?

        • doconnor says:

          We may chastise the Catholic Church, but we don’t legally require them to have women priests.

          I wonder if people from other cultures assume that Canadian women who dress revealingly do so because of oppression.

          • DougM says:

            There is a big difference between my Catholic example and the niqab. The former is an opportunity (to be a priest) denied and the latter is a physical act of oppression. The former is “no you can’t have that” and the latter is “you must do this”.

          • doconnor says:

            You must do this: wear a niqab

            You must do this: don’t wear a niqab


  5. Maps Onburt says:

    I’m a guy who obviously can’t claim to talk for a lot of feminists but it’s only the most radical Muslim sects that choose to wear the full on face and eye coverings. Most Canadians (including conservatives) have no issue with the full hair coverings (after all Roman Catholic Nuns wear them too). They are visibly uncomfortable when presented with someone wearing a mask and that typically is walking 10 feet behind the men in her family. This country was founded on inclusive values. The Burka and Niquab are anything but. While polls might suggest that there is broad support for this, when people get to the ballot box, you see they are much less progressive on it. Warren is right (again) that this isn’t an issue for progressives as proven by how the socialist Bloc in Quebec has been the most forceful in resisting this of any area in Canada.

  6. billg says:

    With both Liberals and Dippers depending on the Quebec Socialist vote, and, with the majority of Quebec Socialists leaning the same way as right wing Conservatives on this issue, it will be interesting to watch the response from both Trudeau and Mulcair.

  7. GFMD says:

    I like to think it will make Harper lose one or two per centage points in tight races among people who have swallowed the “sound fiscal management” bit but are still put off by the racist blow ups that keep happening in the CPC.

  8. billg says:

    Cant get that “Harperman” song out of my head.
    That was well done.

  9. KevinB says:

    I tend conservative with both libertarian and socially conservative views, depending on the issue (I know, a paradox). On this one, if (and only if) wearing the niqab is based on the woman’s sincerely held religious belief, I think the government is wrong. That said, I do agree that it seems to be a pretty good political wedge issue for the CPC. Love to seek if it comes up this evening in the debate and how the other two deal with it without offending at least part of their base.

  10. davie says:

    Just caught Nenshi on tv on this topic. I hope I paraphrase him properly.
    He said that isolation leads to anti social behaviours, it is why young people join gangs, and why radicalization can happen. Cops have always known this. When we are trying to reduce the sense of isolation so as to avoid gang formation and radicalization, it is wasteful to say and do what undermines those efforts. We want to let people know that they belong, but when leaders say things and spend millions of dollars over the use of a niqab and show that those who use that niqab do not belong, are not real Canadians, we undermine efforts to reduce isolation.

    I would also suggest to those arguing that the niqab reminds us of societies where women are repressed, are those the societies that we are selling weapons to?

  11. e.a.f. says:

    as a life long feminist I’m opposed to the niqab. As a life long feminist I support a woman’s right to wear a niqab. ‘who am I to tell a devout Muslim woman what is appropriate for her to wear. To this an issue is stupid. For me its just another e.g. of why tis is ABC.

    Once again the Cons are wasting tax dollars on a non issue. really have you seen the out fits worn by the women in Bountiful. Yes our favorite b/.C. polygamist sect. don’t see the Cons doing much about that. if they had staffed the immigration office close to the community they might have prevented young women from being trafficked between the U.S.A. and Canada.

    WE have Chris Alexander and Jason making their announcments but hey, lets check with the Vancouver Province newspaper this week which had an article about aan immigration counsultant who was charged with fraud. it is alleged he helped over 100 ?Communist Chinese gain Canadian citizenship by fraud. now where is Chris on all of that. any investigstyions? /any announcements regarding investigations into immigration counsultants? Like who needs citizens who gain their citizenship by fraud. lets get working on that and forget the woman who wants to wear a niqab at her ceremony. I wonder if thee are enough staff left in immigration and citizenship to investigate any of these frauds. Most likely not. Steve did fire approx. 50K federal workers to try to balance his budget and what did we get, fraudulent citizens. Nice going /steve.

    • Bruce Marcille says:

      Okay, e.a.f., you’re a feminist. As am I. While we’re being declarative, I am also a small-c conservative.
      But you’re also using a straw-man to attack Harper. Bountiful BC is a disgrace that this country, specifically the province of British Columbia, must address, but it has nothing to do with the 30 seconds that a people are asked to stand and declare their loyalty to Canada, prior to being able to claim everything that it entails.

      It is a woman’s right to wear a niqab, as hideous as I find it. And I cannot square the circle of logic it must take for feminists who burned their bras and declared marriage as a form of slavery, yet now declare face coverings as a woman’s right to choose. But hey, I’m a guy, so my opinion doesn’t matter.

      But here’s my typically Canadian attempt at accommodation: Uncover your face at a scheduled niqab-only swearing-in. The calendar may be inconvenient, but it will be worth it. And being isolated from the rest of society and your fellow new Canadians, as is your desire, will have been accommodated.
      Maybe I’m a Liberal.

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