By Graeme MacKay, Editorial Cartoonist, The Hamilton Spectator – Thursday October 7, 2015
Harper’s proposed niqab ban among civil servants draws condemnation
He opened the door earlier in the week with a CBC television interview, saying niqabs could be nixed in the public service — echoing similar comments last week in the French-language leaders’ debate.
But on Wednesday, the Conservative leader went further, lauding Quebec’s Bill 64, which requires those who wear face coverings to remove them if they want to work in the public sector — or do business with government officials. Although tabled in the National Assembly, the bill has yet to be debated.
He called the Quebec Liberal government’s approach measured and pledged that when it came time for federal legislation, he would follow their lead.
“I believe the Quebec government has been handling this controversial issue in a responsible manner and we will do exactly the same thing in Ottawa,” Harper said during a campaign stop in Saskatoon.
As if to hammer home the point, the Conservatives released online attack ads in French Wednesday, going after Justin Trudeau’s position on the niqab.
A proposed ban on niqabs in the federal civil service would affect an infinitesimally small number of bureaucrats — if any at all. Statistics from 2011 show only 1.8 per cent of 257,000 federal employees are Muslim women and only a small subset of them is likely to wear face coverings.
The Conservatives have already tried to require Muslim women to show their faces at citizenship ceremonies, but those rules are being challenged in the courts. Harper’s comments on Wednesday make clear he is eyeing additional legislation to require women to unveil every time they want services from the federal government.
Harper insisted his government has been “saying the same thing for several months” on the issue.
Asked last spring whether the Conservatives would consider implementing measures similar to those in Quebec, Treasury Board President Tony Clement said the federal opposition to niqabs was limited to citizenship ceremonies.
“That is what the prime minister said and that is a point of view that one can hold,” Clement said on March 11, 2015. “That doesn’t mean that you can impose that view in the workplace or in the private sphere. The one place where I think we have a right and an obligation to stress Canadian values is in the act of obtaining one’s citizenship”
Both Trudeau and NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair condemned the latest proposal as an attempt to distract voters from serious questions about Conservative management of the economy. (Source: Globe & Mail)