Harper Needs Some Face-Time

Harper squares off with another religious tradition

While wrapping up the APEC Summit in Sydney, Australia yesterday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper opined about Elections Canada’s recent decision to allow Muslim women dressed in a full burka or niqab to vote without facial identification, in direct contravention of federal legislation. Passed in June, Bill C-31 was intended to force visual identification of every voter, including people who traditionally shroud their appearance for religious reasons.

“I have to say that it concerns me greatly, because the role of Elections Canada is not to make its own laws. It’s to put into place the laws that Parliament has passed, so I hope they will reconsider this decision,” Harper said. “But in the meantime, if that doesn’t happen, Parliament will have to consider what actions it’s going to take to make sure its intentions are put into place.”

Where does this lousy schlup get off? Canada has a long history of proud multiculturalism and breaking down barriers in deference to religious sensitivities. What about Baltej Singh Dhillon, the first Sikh RCMP officer allowed to wear a turban during duty? Or light-flyweight boxer Pardeep Nagra, who was forced to seek a federal court order to compete with his beard unshaven? These prove beyond a reasonable doubt the highly-evolved Canadian cultural mindset; much more so that the French with their Muslim veil controversy in public schools, or the Dutch canvassing to ban Muslim burkas in public altogether. Right?

Well it turns out Muslims don’t really give a shit.

Sarah Elgazzar, a spokeswoman for the Canada Council on American-Islamic Relations, said Election Canada’s accommodation for Muslims was not something they wanted. Of the roughly 200,000 Muslims in Quebec, no more than 50 wear the full head covering. “If anybody had actually bothered to ask the women that are actually concerned, and we are talking about a very small minority of women, they would have told them that they always take it off to identify their faces,” she said. “And they do it at the bank, they do it at border crossings, they do it at the airport.”

Listen, I’m all for multiculturalism — how else could I observe my own made up religious holidays — but this whole thing is getting out of hand. Instead of being Johnny Proactive on the religious front, perhaps the government should make sure the involved parties are actually seeking the protections they’re so graciously defending. In this battle, score one for Harper Texas Ranger.

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3 Responses to “Harper Needs Some Face-Time”

  1. cbr Says:

    What is neat about this issue is that is that it is so hot that nobody dares defend Elections Canada or its new head.
    Now first for a bit of history Last December at Christmas Harpers’ Cons a couple of weeks before Elections Canada was to judge the case re-submitted their accounts for the time prior to the last election including 1.1to1.4 million of previously undeclared convention related donations (i.e.Fees). Almost nobody in the press took much notice probably because it was too close to Christmas. Then 3 week later the long time head of Elections Canada retires 2 years early “to pursue opportunities in the private sector”. Now Harper is on Record many many years ago at odds with Elections Canada on the issue of conventions expensing. And the Cons are the only party in the previous 20 years not to declare the fees as donations as required since Brian Mulroney was PM. Not the PCs, not the Reform nor Alliance even. Ok 7 months ago Parliament votes in Marc Mayrand a long time Public servant in the Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy. Marc has very good credentials with a masters in law from the LSE and a professorship at UofO before joining the Government 25 years ago. And I suspect his time in government has given him lots of accountancy related experience. Now come forward to less than 2 weeks ago when news got out that Elections Canada was refusing to reimburse Local candidates who received money from the party central, then had to pay it back to the national Con party because the party ran National ads in their regions that had fine print saying the ad was paid for by the local candidate without showing or naming them in the ad. Elections Canada rightly said that these were expenses by the National party not the local candidates.
    Now today Elections Canada in its instructions to its worker for the Quebec byelections to clarify the law said that since the law does not require photo ID nor a face to face unveiled view that the polling clerks should request that the veil be removed but failing that to follow the law and accept one of the identification combos that the law specifies. (see how clause 21 modifies sec143 p2 sub(b) http://www2.parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?Docid=2722944&file=4 )
    So whether Harper and the Cons figured this out when the bill passed back in June or in the last 2 days it is masterly political thinking. If they lose face over their election accounting funny biz they will be able to point (falsely) at the head of Elections Canada as some sort of untrustworthy activist who had it in for the Cons. And who will stand up and say (rightly) “you wrote the law and elections Canada followed it? Nobody. The NDP and Liberals can’t without risking their female voters who disapprove of the Burka, the Bloc can’t because like the Cons they want to attract the rural Quebec nationalists that supported Brian Mulroney and prefer a Quebec pur laine. And the Muslim community can’t because they are fighting the incorrect bias against them due to a very small number of their devout traditional families. Add to this that it might cause a reaction in the 3 Quebec byelections to decrease the vote for the Liberals such that the Cons can claim a moral if not actual victory, and I would say all that Harper needs for Game Set and Match is Marc Maynard’s resignation and you and I will pay for his wrongful dismissal win in our taxes (not that people will notice).

  2. cbr Says:

    On CBC tonight Elections Canada said that all parties were informed how this issue would be handled back in July (2 months ago) and Harper Attacked Elections Canada for a history of activist interpretations of which this was the latest example. Amazing technique get a fairly strictly by the wording in law guy in place then boot him for activism for not reading between and beyond the law. Reminds me of the latest head of the US supreme court who promised to not be activist but build on past jurisprudence and who in his first year has ignored legal precedence to an amazing degree in his first year!

    I think the secret war on Elections Canada or something has just begun.

  3. Bulletin News Says:

    Awesome view talking about Harper Needs Some Face-Time! I love your articles!

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