The Politics of Fear?

Photo from MacLean's

Photo from MacLean’s

Lately, we have been speaking about the politics of fear with our recent investigation into Bill C-51. MacLean’s Magazine has recently created an aggregate page looking ta last week’s national discussion on the Niqab and whether or not a state has the right to take away someone’s right to wear what they want a certain ceremonies. You can listen to an interview with Minister Jason Kenney below:

Here is an editorial from the Toronto Star which counters what the Minister states:

Here is Nadia Kidwai, parent of SJR students, in the Winnipeg Free Press:

Here are the comments from CPC MP Larry Miller:

What do you think? Should the state be able to restrict the civil liberties of citizens, or does this have to do with another issue?

Let’s use our historical thinking skills to help us understand Canada’s history with restricting civil liberties. Below is a photo of the legislation signed by then Justice Minister Louis St. Laurent designrf to segregate Japanese citizens. St. Laurent would become Prime Minister


Here is also a fantastic article on the War Measures Act, both in 1914 and 1970, and the alien exclusion legislation (the fastest created in history) created during the Winnipeg General Strike:

What do you think? Should women be denied the right to wear a Niqab in Canada? How has Canada defended and restricted civil liberties in history and is this important for our current discussion?

Please use #CCW2015, #SJRLaw and #SJRCanHis to respond, or use the space below. Be concise, courteous , and smart.

52 thoughts on “The Politics of Fear?

  1. I think this really isn’t about civil liberties, but rather wether or not face veils can be worn during the citizenship ceremony. What Larry Miller said was worded wrongly and should not have been said that way. Now if we were “restricting civil liberties” any face veil such as the niqab would be forbidden. The Conservatives are not saying they want to forbid it but rather don’t want it in Citizenship ceremonies. Their reasoning is that the niqab is rooted into a culture that oppresses women, denies them of their rights, and makes them wear it to remind them that they are inferior to men. Canada is a country that is open to diversity and does not discriminate, but part of this is to make sure that everyone is equal no matter of race or gender. And those that say that not wanting the niqab in Citizenship ceremonies is wrong, thats what people who want to become citizens of Canada say when they have to swear allegiance to the Queen. And how did Canada respond? This is how Canada is and it is part of our culture and tradition. Even when Michelle Obama visited Saudi Arabia, the Presidents wife they asked her to be covered up. Why? because those are the customs and beliefs. You can still wear it everywhere else except in Citizenship Ceremonies, and the occasional court room.

  2. After reading more into this story with the Niqab and the right to wear it during ceremonies I have been able to understand the dilemma more clearly. Recently a Bill was banned for infringing upon the rights to life, liberty and security of person; this bill previously restricted assisted suicide. Having conflicted with human rights in this case, I strongly believe that the same thing is happening again. I believe that section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is extremely vital. The ongoing case with the Niqab, in my point of view, seriously violates this section.

    For many people’s lives, religion plays a major part. Religions in this case that wear the Niqab find it necessary to wear it in all circumstances. Taking away someone’s right to wear and represent a part of their religion clearly violates necessary rights and freedoms.

    I believe that the NIqab should be able to be worn during ceremonies.

  3. Here in Canada we have many regrettable mistakes in our country’s past, such as internment camps, and the War Measures Act, which was actually put in place three times in our history. Although our country has made an effort to try and make up for the mistakes in our past, that doesn’t seem to stop us from making similar mistakes in our future. Stephen Harper, and our federal government’s position on the Niqab is another mistake that our government has made.
    Harper continues this stand against the Niqab during citizenship ceremonies even though our own judicial system has ruled that women should be able to wear them during the ceremonies. No matter what Harper argues, whether it is matters of religion, or gender rights, or whatever else he chooses to use to try and justify this it just is simply not the issue. Haroon Sidiqui stated simply, “In Canada it matters not whether the niqab is Qur’an-compliant but whether banning it would be Charter-compliant.” and I agree completely.
    Banning the Niqab would be a violation on sections of the charter such as our right to religion and we simply cannot stand for this in our democratic country of Canada.
    I support the Niqab being worn in citizenship ceremonies completely.

  4. As Hannah has said, Canada has created some regrettable legislation in its past. This includes the War Measures act, which stripped many innocent Canadians of their freedom rights. Nonetheless, numerous Canadians supported this act because it made them feel ‘safer.’ According to the Toronto Star, fear of Muslims may also be causing people to agree with another form of religious oppression.
    The article tells us that Harper’s opinion of the niqab is a hypocritical mistake, and I would have to agree. Harper and his cabinet may believe that the niqab is a symbol of oppression, but they have no right to go against the charter because of this opinion. The article states,
    “You can dislike the niqab. You can hold it up it is a symbol of oppression. You can try to convince your fellow citizens that it is a choice they ought not to make. This is a free country. Those are your rights. But those who would use the state’s power to restrict women’s religious freedom and freedom of expression indulge the very same repressive impulse that they profess to condemn.
    It is a cruel joke to claim you are liberating people from oppression by dictating in law what they can and cannot wear.”
    I agree with this one hundred percent. The fear being induced by the government is impressive. Fear caused Canadians to agree unlawful legislation in the past, and it is happening again. Not allowing the niqab would be going against the charter’s freedom of religion. Women and people should have the freedom to wear what they choose, regardless of a matter of opinion.

  5. At this point, these people are honestly just taking advantage of our legal system and what “freedom of religion” really depicts. Citizenship ceremonies are a long standing tradition of Canada and for what it’s worth, in Islam women are required to wear a hijab (covering the hair) and be conscious of their body, but wearing the Niqab isn’t a requirement it’s a choice. This is what our Canadian government believes, and these people should respect that. This is our country therefore, our rules should be emphasized and followed. If these people so badly don’t want to take the face mask off, they have full right to go back to their home country, but it isn’t in their place to change how society functions. Canada, as it is, offers to many rights to individuals, that the sae amount of discipline and respect should be shown, but we have much more to worry about in our government then people refusing and debating the rules. Rules are rules. This is why if these individuals would like the honour of becoming a Canadian citizen, the Niqab should be taken off in citizenship ceremonies.

  6. Most people see the niqab, the hijab, and all other articles of clothing like them as being things that everyone should have the right to wear. They appear to be symbols of free religion, free speech, and general freedom of expression. However, I my personal opinions are significantly different from those that are often displayed in pro-freedom protests, or even in many biased newscasts. I see the niqab not as a symbol of freedom, but rather, a symbol of oppression.

    Having grown up in the “Islamic Republic” of Iran, I have seen my fair share of niqabs and hijabs. In Iran, women wear them everywhere – at the mall, at the doctor’s, and sometimes even at home, in the presence of men who are not relatives. The only difference here is that it is not a choice – women are required by law to wear hijabs that cover the entirety of their scalp. Yet when I discuss this issue with Iranian women, or even see women on the street, I realize that they show a massive opposition towards this Islamic, seemingly-arbitrary regulation. Most women only wear them half on, so as to show off their latest hairstyles. Of the minority who wear the scarf properly, a vast number only do so to avoid arrest and harsh persecution.

    When I see a woman wearing a niqab, I don’t see a free, proud woman. Rather, I see a woman who has suffered significant religious indoctrination (through no fault of her own). I see it as a symbol of the systemic oppression existent in theocratic nations. It is a symbol for religious extremism and the unjustifiable oppression of women in Islamic states.

    Principles like the freedom to religion and expression are not merely abstract concepts – they exists primarily for the practical ramifications caused as a result of failing to recognize them. Restricting highly religious women from wearing niqabs makes them extremely uncomfortable, and this is something that the government should definitely not be doing. If the ultimate goal is the smothering of extremist beliefs and the alleviation of oppressive policies, this proposed policy is in no way contributing to any of these goals. Through communicating with governments of oppressive nations and solving the problems at their very root, we might be able to solve these issues. However, by punishing the innocent women who had no say in their own indoctrination, we are merely making them feel unsafe in their own country. I personally believe that the ultimate intentions of these controversial actions are highly admirable. I also believe that niqabs are in fact something that should, and will hopefully soon become less prevalent in Islamic culture. However, social progress is rarely achieved through arbitrary, meaningless violations. The religious oppression of today can not cure the oppression of the past.

  7. Why is something so minor receiving so much national attention? Yes in my opinion this argument is pointless. There are flaws in both sides of the arguments. I don’t believe that people of the Muslim faith should be forced not to wear their Niqabs during a ceremony but I also believe that it is necessary for their face to be visible. Let me point out the main flaws in both arguments. The fact that the Canadian government doesn’t want women wearing Niqabs in the first place is not for discrimination, but priority, they want to see the face of the person they are making a Canadian citizen. Most Canadians will agree that it is tradition. Well there are many traditions out there that we realize are not for the best. The guillotine was a traditional in medieval France, but that simply does not happen today. Slavery was a tradition in the American south, but we all what happened to that tradition. My solution is that Muslim women may be allowed to wear their Niqabs when they are sitting down but must take it off when they are actually becoming a citizen of Canada, (such as saying the oath). That solution I came up in an hour and yet this argument is still going on and on in Canada. Canada has more important issues that need dealing with.

  8. I’m not really sure where I stand on this topic.

    On one hand, I do believe that no one should hide their faces during an important ceremony such as a citizenship ceremony. They are swearing into our country, becoming official Canadians (whatever that means), and their faces should be visible. It’s just common sense.

    Also, as someone else brought up during class, a tradition if you will for a person’s hands and face to be visible during a Canadian citizenship ceremony. Why should Canada’s traditions have to be compromised, but not other people’s traditions? What makes their traditions so special? That they’re older? That they’re written in a book? That’s not right. If one believes one tradition should be upheld for the sake of promoting equality among all beliefs and traditions, then one should also believe that every other tradition is just as important. Essentially what I’m trying to say is that Canadian beliefs and traditions are just important as anyone anyone else’s beliefs and traditions.

    Not to mention, the people this new law would affect directly are coming to our country of their own free will. No one is forcing anyone to come to Canada specifically, so Canadians should not be the ones to compromise. This is our country, people choosing to join our country should have enough respect for us to follow our traditions. Otherwise they should join another country.

    Yet at the same time, I also believe that people should be allowed to wear whatever they bloody well want. This is Canada after all. Although we do have our traditions, we also supposedly strive to be accepting of all cultures. We should not discriminate against one culture/religion in specific, especially since wearing a veil is not causing harm to anyone else. That’s not right either. In fact, we shouldn’t discriminate against any cultures.

    Theoretically, one of the main reasons people immigrate to Canada is to be accepted for who they are and what they believe in, as long as their beliefs are not harming other people. If we can accept that as a truth, then we should allow people to wear and believe whatever they want, whenever they want. This absolutely includes wearing a veil during important events such as citizenship ceremonies.

    • I agree with Alexandera. I am at a cross bench with this issue. It is more safe for niqab’s not be worn in ceremonies so that it is easier to make out the face and as for tradition. But we need to uphold what Canada stands for, freedom and equality. Therefore, I don’t have an opinion on this issue.

  9. Bottom line is, we are not forcing people to get a Canadian citizenship. Getting a Canadian citizenship is about becoming a part of Canada. If our government believes you should uncover your face during the citizenship ceremony, I believe the request should be met out of respect for the country. We give people more than enough freedoms and rights. They should be thankful they are even allowed to live in this wonderful country. Asking for more is simply abusing our generosity. This is less about rights and more about respect for Canada.

  10. After listening and reading about this situation with the Niqab, I find it shocking that a member of parliament, Larry Miller said all these things about these people and their Niqab. I think it is embarrassing to say that Canada is the best country yet we do not accept the fact that people have the freedom of religion. Canada as a country has made poor decisions in the past and we exploit ourselves on being the best country in the world. Banning the Niqab would be a violation of sections of the charter such as our right to religion. People such as Larry Miller see this as immigrants coming to Canada trying to change our country but they have the right to their religion and you cannot change that. If Canada was really the best country, we need prove that.

  11. I recently read the biography of Nellie McClung, an extraordinary Canadian woman, who fought amongst other things for women´s suffrage, women´s rights and better living condition for immigrant families.
    I presented the class how progressive Canada as a country is.
    But with this article and the speeches of Prime Minister Stephen Harper it seems like Canadians are falling behind/back and the equalization of cultures and sexes fails again in the country´s history.

    Why should women be denied the right to wear a Niqab in Canada?
    It is their way to express themselves, their cultural heritage and their religion. “Muslims are Canadians and vice versa”. Canada is populated by many different cultures and this is what makes it so special. Every culture has their own traditions and they should have the right to express them liberal.

    Recently in the MacLean´s article, Winnipeg was declared the most racist city in Canada and the whole government assured that they do what they can to change the situation. With the comment of Canada´s Prime Minister and his plan to forbid women wearing a Niqab during citizenship ceremonies, he disposes Muslims and their freedom of religious expression.

    One of the main reasons why we study history is to learn from our faults and to prevent us from doing them again. “People must know the past to understand the present and to face the future“. But the recent Canadian government is doing the exact opposite. The past reflects that Canadians discriminated other races and that the government restricted civil liberties. The segregation of Japanese citizens, internment camps and the War Measures Act reveal dark chapters of Canada´s past. The government always apologized for these actions afterwards…but why does our current government want to take another wrong step?

    It is everyone´s own decision in which dimension a person wants to adapt to a new country it is immigrating to. For me with German heritage, it is less difficult to adapt to Canadian traditions and the way of life here. For Muslims, however, women´s religion is clearly stated with a Niqab and therefore total adaption to Canada´s life is difficult.

    Although the majority of the society has prejudices against Muslims, due to every day’s news that report about terror outrages of Muslims, we need to avoid stereotism. Only because several Muslims are suspected to have made an attack, this does not automatically mean that every Muslim is a criminal.

    I truly hope that the Canadian government won´t blind the Canadian society and that the Bill C-51 won´t get passed.
    Only if we tolerate different people, religions and traditions, a peaceful living together is possible! So let´s don´t be prejudiced against others….live together and respect each other!

  12. Canada has a history of implementing legislation that is motivated by fear. We have seen this with the Japanese internment camps, the alien exclusion legislation that was created during the Winnipeg General Strike, and the War Measures Act that was brought in multiple times including during the FLQ Crisis. Today, there are discussions going on regarding bill C-51, which is meant to restrict the freedoms of Canadians and give CSIS more power. The issue of “terrorism” in Canada was especially brought to light by the recent event of a shooting that took place on Parliament Hill, although the media and politicians have made illogical leaps and linked the event to ISIS.

    Parliamentarians and citizens alike begin to support legislation and mindsets that are “knee-jerk” reactions to events that take place.

    The case of Muslim women being allowed to wear the niqab when taking the Canadian citizenship oath is not an issue of restricting civil liberties for the betterment of the public, this is just another knee-jerk reaction to events that have occurred, primarily to the shooting on Parliament Hill. The state should not be allowed to suppress a religious practice such as wearing a headscarf in public given that every individual has the right to religion, and leaders shouldn’t characterize Muslims as misogynists that suppress their women.

    I don’t think that current discussion revolving around this issue has anything to do with whether or not it is acceptable for an individual to hide their face during a ceremony. I think that government leaders are interested in restricting civil liberties under the label of “taking necessary precautions to maintain safety”. When the War Measures Act was implemented, society felt that “the very rights and freedoms we cherish most would be turned against us by our enemies”. After the shooting at parliament hill, people once again feel the need to give up freedom for safety and we see this with the debate over Bill C-51.

    Fear is a powerful tool that can move masses of people to stand behind something and support it. If you can make people feel scared and feel unsafe, they will automatically do whatever is in their power so that they can feel “safe” and in control. By radicalizing Muslims and saying that “the niqab comes from a culture that is anti-women”, it makes it easier for us to blame our problems on them and we use them as scapegoats. We target those who are most susceptible to stereotyping and radical generalizations and we restrict their rights because we act as if they have created instability and danger. The Japanese, the Ukrainian, and even the French in Quebec have been punished and used as scapegoats as a result of fear. Especially due to the negative press and attention being given to groups such as ISIS in the Middle East, Muslims are finding themselves being used as the next major scapegoat.

    As Nadia Kidwai says in her article, we are being presented with a “black and white mindset”. Fear motivates us to see things as black and white, or good and bad. This leads us to make uninformed decisions and poor judgments.

  13. During Canadian citizenship ceremonies, I think everyone should be proud to show their faces since they are becoming an official Canadian citizen. Although, if Niqabs are absolutely mandatory to follow their religion, I believe they should be allowed to wear them. Citizens wearing niqabs can confirm their identity later on.

    But I do have a suggestion to make to make things fair for the tradition of Canadian citizenship ceremonies and the niqabs wearers. As I believe people with niqabs should be able to wear them as long as they want, I think at certain very important parts they must show their faces, such as when taking the oath.

    As niqabs are part of certain people’s life long religion, we as Canadians need to respect the value of freedom that every human has. By uncovering the face at certain important parts of the ceremony, this will be showing respect to Canada.

  14. *as an extension to my previous post – I realized I didn’t actually answer the entire question*

    Even as a “free” nation, Canada has knowingly restricted the rights of its citizens in the past. The War Measures act of 1914 allowed the government to take any necessary actions in order to protect its citizens from the threats associated with war. However, this situation involved the restriction of freedoms as a means of achieving greater security and societal safety. Whether or not it succeeded in doing that is a different question. What matters is that the government passed this act on the grounds that, if executed properly (which is was not), it would be able to effectively ensure the safety of Canadian citizens. This proposed niqab policy, however, does not fall under these same grounds. It is flawed in 2 fundamental ways:
    1. Firstly, it draws an obscure parallel between niqabs and the mass oppression of women. I agree that the niqab is a terrible symbol (as I explained in my last post), however, the women wearing them are in no way supporting their own oppression, and thus, should not be prevented from wearing what they wish
    2. Secondly, the individuals supporting this proposal have failed to substantiate that it would lead to tangible benefits. It feels like nothing will really be achieved by doing this – a few women will feel unsafe and uncomfortable, and that’s about it. Random restrictions can not cure systemic oppression. In this way, this proposal is far different from the War Measures Act. The WMA had a legitimate goal that it was attempting to achieve, and if executed properly, the act could have aided the country in achieving that goal. Preventing women from wearing niqabs achieves no tangible goal.

    In the end, it really doesn’t matter whether the government is aiming to prevent women from wearing niqabs in citizenship ceremonies, court hearings, wedding receptions, baptisms, or pool parties. When the government restricts one right (Freedom to “wear what you want” I guess) in order to enhance another one (freedom of security), they need to substantiate legitimate link between these rights that leads to palpable benefits, and they must show that the intended result is actually achievable. The government has failed to do either of these things, and is therefore unjustified in restricting women from wearing niqabs.

  15. After reading and listening to this information I find it ridiculous that this women cannot wear a niqab for the citizenship ceremony. In 2009 the PM’s office said that “In an open and democratic society like Canada, individuals are free to make their own decisions regarding their personal apparel and to adhere to their own customs or traditions of their faith or beliefs.”. What Mr. Harper is doing at the moment contradicts this statement. I see no problem with the niqab and Harper does not seem to have a valid reason in my opinion, as to why women should not be allowed to wear this attire to become a Canadian. Especially when once you are a citizen, you may wear one. According to Tony Clement, even “federal civil servants can wear the niqab.”. Therefore, I think that this women should be allowed to wear this attire during the Canadian citizenship ceremony.

  16. There is a discussion going on in Canada that Muslim women are forced to take there Naqib off during the Canadian Citizenship Ceromony. The purpose of this is due to the large amount of Terrorist attacks in Canada. By asking Muslim women to remove there Naqib, are we taking away there civil liberty for the right reasons? Is it possible we are taking away the cival over these new Canadian due to fear? Should we be letting fear to dictate Canadian policy?

    A few weeks ago the Muslim community started a program called “Meet a Muslim” which invites Canadian to spend time with a Muslim family to learn about there Culture, Food and Religion. Right here in Manitoba the program was very succesful that it has been extended a few more weeks. Maybe instead of taking cival liberties away from people, Canada should get to know the people we are letting in. If we can’t trust are own citizens, then who can we trust?

    In my opinion I think that Muslim women should be allowed to wear there Naqib during the Canadian Citizenship Ceromony. Although the issue here is about security, by forcing them to take there Naqib off, it goes against there Freedom of Religion which is the one of the Basic rights of the Charter. Security is not written in our Charter but Religion is. Which do Canadians value more, Security or the Freedom of Religion?

  17. First I feel like Canadian Citizen Ceremony is very important. So people need to show their faces to prove their identity but there are many ways you can prove your identity for example like fingerprint or DNA and etc…

    Is part of their religion, the government have no right to force them to take it off. Canada is a multi-cultural country. People from all over the world and everyone has their own religion that they believe in.

    But on the other side, I also believe they should take it off just for a little bit for the Canadian Citizen Ceremony. You are becoming a Canadian citizen. You are now part of the Canadian society. Shouldn’t you be following the Canadian tradition now?

    We are not forcing you to become a Canadian Citizen. Going to a Canadian Citizenship is all about becoming a Canadian Citizen.

  18. I believe that you should be allowed to wear Naqibs while doing the citizen ceremony. It is there religion and we should respect that. We can identify them later even though it is not during the Citizen Ceremony. If our government can’t trust our citizens to do one ceremony, than how can we trust them? Even though security goes against that I believe that they should be allowed. Although Canada as a country has to enforce the rules that if you want to be a Canadian you have to show your face. Because without even showing their face how can we trust them?

  19. The purpose of this response is to provide an opinion on why the Canadian government has no right to develop policies that restrict civil liberties and to hypothesize the cause of a rule that affects the liberties of muslim women at this time. Once again Canada has responded in fear of the actions of a country by targeting members of their culture. This situation is very similar to the Japanese internment camps. The reason that the Japanese internment camps happened was because of pearl harbour. When the Japanese dropped a bomb in Pearl Harbour which resulted in the deaths of many US soldiers Japanese Canadians were feared and their liberties were restricted. If the Jewish State, Israel were to all of a sudden drop a bomb in Syria in opposition to Canadian policy, would it really be the right call to rally up all Jews into internment camps? Obviously the answer is no.
    Just because there are instances of terrorism, and gender discrimination in Islamic Nations, does not mean that Canada can respond with fear and restrict civil liberties of muslims. Just because a woman is wearing a niqab, does not mean that she is a terrorist. According to our very own Canadian Charters of rights and freedoms, every single Canadian citizen has the right to express religion, and the right to choose how they dress themselves. Muslim women have been wearing the Niqab for much longer than Canada has existed, and we have no right to take that away from them.
    Plenty of times over the past hundred years, Canada has in some way used fear to control its citizens. One of the things that they did was implement the war measures act. The war Measures act resulted in tens of thousands of innocent Germans being detained or killed. If Muslim women wearing Niqabs have no history of terrorism or violence, it is morally unacceptable to force them to abandon their culture and beliefs just to become Canadian. It is ironic really, the vast majority of Muslim women who come here, came to avoid the harsh circumstances they were facing in their former country. When Muslim women are becoming Canadian citizens, the first thing that they experience should not be the Canadian government forcing them to take off their Niqab. In reality that is the same way of thinking that the Anglican church had with residential schools. We shouldn’t be forcing the assimilation of Muslims into Canadian culture. Canada is built on the tradition of multiculturalism. There should be no cultural standard that any Canadian has to conform to.

  20. First off I would just like to reply to smithr22. You are a bit mistaken on the rights that are guaranteed in the Charter. First off, yes we do have the right of religion, in fact it is one of our four fundamental freedoms, but we also have the right to security as stated in section 7 of the Charter: “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.” I am not disagreeing with your point as you will see below but I just wanted to clear that up.

    Alright now on to the first question: Should women be denied the right to wear a Niqab in Canada?

    There are a few different sides to the story. Some people above are saying that if you are not willing to take off the Niqab during your citizenship ceremony, you should go back to your own country (a bit harsh but I digress), others state that women should be able to wear anything (including the Niqab) as long as it is because of their religion, then there are the people who are saying why does this matter it is just a cloth on someone’s face, what’s the big deal? These are the main arguments presented.

    I acknowledge Kasra’s point about how the Niqab can symbolize oppression but my knowledge of the subject is too narrow to go that deep. I am only speaking from what I know and what I’ve researched so far.

    The facts: The Niqab is a cloth worn by women that covers their entire face only showing the eyes. It is not required in Islamic law, it is a choice to wear the Niqab or not. The reasons for wearing the Niqab are not because of oppression but spirituality. From the CBC audio recording I heard, the women that wore a Niqab chose to themselves because they wanted to be more “connected with God.”

    If these are the facts, why is there a problem? The women in the recording said they do take their Naqabs off in public. For instance, one of the women said she takes off her Niqab when she are goes through security or gets a drivers licence so why is this any different? Sure since Niqabs are not mandatory Steven Harper COULD prohibit them from use in citizenship ceremonies but why? What does this even do? He says it is to protect the women from being oppressed but the women chose to wear the Niqabs themselves. The only reason Harper would do this is (which is related to the second question) using fear for election power but I will open that can of worms below. Now back to this question, all this is doing is limiting what a woman is allowed to wear during her citizenship ceremony and women as well as men should be able to wear anything they want to at their citizenship ceremony. We do have the right to expression don’t we? So the real answer to the question is women already have to be denied use of the Niqabs in some certain circumstances but we shouldn’t HAVE to deny even more situations.

    On to the second question: How has Canada defended and restricted civil liberties in history and is this important for our current discussion?

    As you can probably read from above, Canada has used fear as a tactic to restrict civil liberties, examples include: Internment Camps, Wartime Measures Act, and now the Anti-Terrorism Act.

    Lets start with the Wartime Measures Act. At the end of WWI (1917) Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden used the fear of war to get support for his Wartime Measures Act. What this Act would do is allow him to make decisions without having to go through parliament so he could pass laws fast which is very useful during a time of war. The only problem with this Act was that it allowed Borden to basically become a dictator (only during war however) and set up precedent for any future Prime Ministers.

    The Internment Camps were an idea to “concentrate” any Japanese into “camps” just to make sure they wouldn’t harm Canada. Oh by the way, this happened during WWII after the bombing of Pearl Harbour. William Lyon Mackenzie King was in office and the fear of terrorism allowed him to create this Bill even though it meant that Japanese Canadians that had lived in Canada for years were forced to go to these camps.

    Since it seems we as Canadians don’t learn from the past we are doomed to repeat it in Bill C-51. The Government of Canada is using the recent attack using the fear that Canadians experience from it to get support about the new Bills it is passing. This will make rushed Bills come into existence and we will have to fix the problems just like history shows us (If we are going to continue to make the same mistakes and not learn from them why do we learn history in the first place?). With Bill C-51in effect the Government will give more power to CSIS and it will be able to take down any “terrorist propaganda.” This doesn’t seem bad, how could it go wrong? Well, giving CSIS more power will be dangerous as no organization looks over them. By giving them more unchecked power you are increasing the likelihood of abuse of power. Also that “terrorist propaganda” that the Government is allowed to take down, is criticizing the government terrorism? Not right now, but it is a slippery slope. All in all, decisions made by the Government that are rushed due to fear are usually harmful and should be looked at carefully, we wouldn’t want to repeat our history.

  21. In my opinion, forcing people to remove their Niqabs is violating their right to religion. My knowledge on Islam is not very deep, but I do know that the Niqab is a part of their religion which is a large part of numerous people’s lives as stated by numerous people before me. If they ban the Niqab, why don’t they ban bibles or Kippahs? This notion of banning Niqabs show that the government stereotypes Muslim people as terrorists, showing their racist beliefs. Racism in Canadian government is not a new thing, for there have been numerous instances where people were racially profiled and were harmed by law. An example is the treatment of the Japanese people in Canada during the second world war. Japanese people were forced into a certain area and were given numerous restrictions such as having a curfew and not being allowed to possess motor vehicles or radios. Sadly, it seems that history is repeating itself.

  22. There is a grey area between the practice of freedom and religion and the respect toward traditional regulations. In this particular case, I have found it excessively difficult to “pick a side”. However, since I myself belong to the minority population in Canada, I strongly agree with the basic fundamental rights and freedom that we as human beings deserve such as religious freedom and cultural practice. Nevertheless, let’s do not forget the fact that these Muslim women are pending to be Canadian citizens by participating in the citizenship ceremony on the Canadian soil. Therefore I hereby announce my agreement on our Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s disagreement toward these Muslim women wearing their Niqabs during the citizenship ceremony which I will provide my statements and reasons behind my proposal in the additional paragraphs in this blog comment. Note that this restriction is established for all the citizenship ceremony participants but not to target any particular majority and minority racial and religious groups of populations.

    In the year of 2009, the Prime Minister’s officer has stated that, “In an open and democratic society like Canada, individuals are free to make their own decisions regarding their personal apparel and to adhere to their own customs or traditions of their faith or beliefs.” This an absolutely agreeable statement and should be followed within a reasonable standard. Yet it is also important to remember to respect other majority and minority racial and religion based groups and such. These Muslim women have arrived to Canada and wish to become Canadian citizenships themselves in their own wills. Instead of respecting Canada’s original traditions and follow its citizenship ceremony regulations, these women have decided to force their own religious practice rules into an honourable Canadian ceremony. Isn’t it unreasonable and pathetic that such barbaric act has been corrupting the ordinary Canadian culture and its own traditions? If these women are seriously that obsess with following their practices, they have the option to return to their homeland, the Islamic States.

    Furthermore toward my given statement above, I truly believe that Prime Minister’s declaration does not mean any offence and disrespect toward each individual given freedom of religion but to remind people of Canada’s own original culture and tradition which should also be respected and followed within the same degree just as other religions and cultures that are being protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Therefore I would argue that it is not harming the Muslim women’s “rights” by denning them to equip Nigabs during the Canadian citizenship ceremony but rather to pay this reasonable amount of respect to follow the traditional ceremony’s regulation to not to wear this particular head wear during its progress. In order to enjoy the freedoms and rights as Canadian citizens, individuals should obey the given regulations and traditions of being Canadians. In this specific case, it is definitely reasonable to denied the Muslim women’s “right” to equip Niqabs during the citizenship ceremony and other Canadian cultural events with similar restrictions and such. Other than that, it is appropriate and these women deserve their right to wear Niqab at any other time as they pleased.

    Canada, the country itself has failed horribly when it comes to the deferences and restrictions the civil liberties in history. The incident with the Japanese Refugee Camp system during the World War II period has already demonstrated the Canadian Government and Minister of Defence’s poor determination and decision by sending the majority of innocent Japanese Canadian citizens to the poor conditioned camp sites and took away most of their personal properties after they were dismissed according to a documentary about this very issue produced by CBC Canada. However, the government has shown significant improvements and restorations for its crimes and harms that committed against individual racial and cultural groups such as the recent official “Statement of Apology” conducted by Prime Minister Stephen Harper on behalf of Canadians for the Indian Residential Schools system to the affected groups of indigenous people. As you can see, Canada is still going on a long journey until the complete advancement toward the more civilized and reasoning based governmental system and social mentality. Yet, I have found this to be irrelevant and should not even be compared to the Muslim women wearing Niqub case due to their contrasts against each other. One is about the protection of freedom and rights where on the other hand, is about the respect toward Canada’s very own traditions and cultures.

    Due to the provided statements and reasons as I have stated in the previous paragraphs, I hereby re-announce my agreement on our Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s disagreement toward these Muslim women wearing their Niqabs during the citizenship ceremony. Instead of treating this as an “unfair”, “injustice” issue that harms the Muslim women’s so-call “right” of wearing their religious practice head wear during the Canadian citizenship ceremony, we need to face the factt hese Muslim women are pending to be Canadian citizens by participating in the citizenship ceremony on the Canadian soil in their own wills. Therefore they need to respect Canada’s traditions and cultures by following the regulation to not wear any head wears during the Canadian citizenship ceremony. Also note that this regulation is not established to target specific groups of people but is meant for everybody no matter who you are and where you are from based off on Government of Canada’s official website on the citizenship ceremony. Canada is a muti-cultural country, your religion and cultural background will be respected by people, yet you need to respect other’s.

  23. There have been a lot of good points made above by my peers. I completely agree with Grayson when he said “for many people’s lives, religion plays a major part.” Religion plays a large role in lots of peoples lives across the world as well as in Canada. In some cases, the religion requires a person to wear something or do something, in this case wear a Niqab.

    Hannah Gibb also brings up a good point when she stated “banning the Niqab would be a violation on sections of the charter.” Banning women from wearing a Niqab in citizenship ceremonies is against multiple sections such as right to religion and right to freedom of expression. Everyone has a right to follow whichever religion they so choose and they have the freedom to demonstrate their beliefs in that particular religion, as long as it is not putting anyone in danger, and wearing a Niqab is definitely not putting anyone in danger.

    Personally, I believe that it is completely wrong for the government to try and ban the wearing of the Niqab in the first place. Canada as a nation prides itself on being diverse and welcoming, but banning Niqabs is the opposite of the image that we are going for.

  24. I think that the state should not be able to restrict the rights of its’ citizens. Women have the choice to wear the Niqab, such as feeling more “connected with God”. I can see how the Niqab can be seen as a symbol of oppression, but this is obviously not the case as women choose to wear it. In the recording, the women said they would be willing to take off their Niqab in public, but I do not see the purpose in this. The Niqab is a symbol of spirituality, not oppression, so I do not see a real issue. All men and women should be allowed to wear whatever they want at a citizenship ceremony. In the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom, section 2 covers all fundamental freedoms including freedom of religion and freedom of expression. These are basic rights that all people should be given in any situation. The government is instilling fear in its’ citizens in order to gain support. The government is associating the Niqab with ideas of “terrorism”. It can be easy to blame our problems on the people that are most vulnerable to stereotyping. If Canadians are made to feel afraid and unsafe, they will do whatever they are told in order to get that control and protection back.

  25. Adding a tiny bit onto my last post if then they can wear the niqab during a citizenship ceremony which covers your face and obstructs your identity, could I wear a halloween mask because its part of my own kind of religion that is relatively new? or could I wear a hockey helmet because it’s part of my beliefs? because that is what I believe in? and it’s protected under section 2 of the charter of rights and freedoms.

  26. People should be able to become Canadian citizens no matter what they where. Taking away someone right to religion is completely unfair and no one should have to take it off if they don’t want to. I understand that they would only have to take it off for a short period of time, though people have the right to practise their religion and it should not be taken away, even for a short amount of time. For example some women have been wearing head dresses in public for their entire lives. It is unjust to make them take it off, because in Canada people have the right to practise any religion.

  27. The niqab is something that some muzlem woman wear. Although the niqab comes from a place where they treat woman badly they should still be given the choice to wear whatever they like because Canada is a free country meaning that we don’t tell our citizens what to do.

  28. Women should not be denied the right to wear a Nigab in Canada. Nigab is part of someones religion and Canada has no right to take that away. I find it very surprising that Canada is trying to take away the right to wear the Nigab during ceremonies. Citizens wearing niqabs can confirm their identity later on. Taking away someone’s right to wear a part of their religion clearly violates necessary rights and freedoms. I believe that people should not be denied the right to wear a Nigab in ceremonies in Canada.

  29. I honestly believe that this bill has nothing to do with hurting Muslims. I would remind everyone that this legislation not only applies to Muslims, but to anyone attending a citizenship ceremony. I agree that the government’s words were offensive to Muslims, however that doesn’t mean covering your face at the ceremony is correct.

    This legislation applies to anyone of any religion, who wants to cover their face. Some people say that it affects Muslims more than any other group, and that is correct. However, just because something affects one group more doesn’t make it the wrong thing to do. You wouldn’t use that logic when talking about tax raises, even though they affect the rich more than the poor. The legislation affects everyone and not just Muslims.

    Regardless, freedom of expression isn’t absolute. In fact, in 2013, Canada passed anti mask legislation during riot or unlawful assembly, even though it infringes on a Muslim’s right to wear a Niqab. Given that, why is it suddenly wrong to limit expression for the sake of safety? Charter rights aren’t absolute, and we’ve seen that safety comes first. Being patted down at the airport may infringe on a person’s privacy, but we do it anyway to protect people. We ban hurtful hate speech, even though that is clearly freedom of expression. So why is freedom of expression suddenly untouchable? The government preventing the wear of Niqab’s during citizenship ceremony’s shouldn’t be an issue.

  30. I believe that the debate concerning whether or not the Niqab and similar Muslim religious articles of clothing are oppressive or not is distracting and stalling the progress of women’s rights in the Muslim world. And many Muslim women would agree with me. While such debates are going on in the Western world, Saudi women place the dress code low on the list of priorities for reform or exclude it (Kendall, BBC). In fact, women’s rights activists in Saudi Arabia such as journalist Sabria Jawhar have called the Niqab “trivial” and would rather focus on bigger issues including education and jobs (Aboulola, Saudi Gazette). All these discussion are really successful at doing is distracting all Canadians from important and imminent issues including limited capacity in oil storage facilities (McCarthy, Globe and Mail) , potential cuts to healthcare for refugees and the missing federal budget (The Toronto Star) in the face of an upcoming federal election.

    However, if we are to have this debate we need to ask the questions that are most important and impactful to Canadian society: Is it the government’s responsibility and/or right to enforce a dress code of any kind? Would it be upholding our own values and Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms to do so?

    It is in my humble opinion that the simple answer to these to questions is an overwhelming nope. In order for the Canadian government to uphold the freedoms that are entitled to their citizens including the freedoms of choice and religion, they must not enforce a dress code or ban any religious articles of clothing in any situation. That would ironically be oppressive.

    The argument that banning Muslim women from wearing an article of clothing that is a part of their religion in order to liberate them is very confusing to me. The point of being a democracy and having a Charter that protects us from government interference of this kind is to give us choice over the way we live our lives, regardless of the Prime Minister’s opinion on the connotation of the clothing.

    Additionally, this issue brings to light the important of the separation of church and state. Like everybody else, the Prime Minister has a deep understanding only of the culture he was brought up in. Separation of church and state allows a more democratic government because it protects the people from any biases that the leadership may have for or against a particular culture rooted in their understanding of that culture. In this example, these claims that Harper makes on Muslim culture aren’t really legitimate when taking into account that he was brought up in a Christian household, regardless of the “vast majority of Muslims that [he has] spoken with” (The Toronto Star).

    Finally, I don’t believe that this particular piece of legislation is driven by fear, but rather as a distraction to pit Canadians against one another as a desperate attempt by Harper to win yet another election. Unfortunately, he has succeeded in the past and seeing the reactions of other Canadians, I have no doubt he will do so again despite of the efforts of opposition leaders.

    Such violations of liberty are all too common in Canada’s past as well. The most famous example being internment camps during both world wars. Canada’s past with discrimination simply makes it more important to kill this proposal while we still can. In the name of freedom and security Canada has oppressed other people, and this strategy hasn’t seemed to work or to be necessary in the first place. Imprisoning Japanese people during WWII did not make Canada any safer in any way; it did not have any positive influence on the war effort at all. It simply alienated and negated a section of our population that didn’t deserve this kind of treatment and loudly gave them the message that they are not Canadian. The Muslim population in Canada is significant, and therefore should not be negated in the way that we have done in the past. It would be a shame to forcibly take away their Canadian identity with them because of something as important as their religion. Especially because this is something our Charter is supposed to protect us from.

    When taking into account the safeguards that as a society we have placed in government in order to prevent bias of this sort, it is evident that what Mr. Harper is proposing is not at all democratic or upholding the values and freedoms we are entitled to. Taking away rights to freedom and religion is not liberating anyone, and to claim so is frankly ignorant.


  31. After reading Maclean’s article, I find it ridiculous that people are trying to get the niqab banned from Canadian citizenship ceremonies. The niqab is a cultural and religious piece of clothing so women who are Muslim should be able to wear them. It’s written right in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that people of Canada should have the freedom of religion and the freedom of expression so, if they ban the niqab from Canadian citizenship ceremonies Canada’s going against it’s own rules. Yes, Harper’s argument is that allowing the niqab for Canadian citizenship is promoting an “anti-women culture” however, these Muslim women have worn the niqab for their whole lives so I feel like, not that I can speak for them, that wearing the niqab for the Canadian citizenship ceremonies allows Muslim women to express their culture and religion which is probably very important for them to do. Canada would allow a Christian to wear a cross for their Canadian citizenship ceremony right? So, why not let Muslim women wear a niqab for their Canadian citizenship ceremony so they can share their culture too?

  32. After reading the articles and other people’s arguments I feel like it’s really hard to judge this problem. So I try to find out the basis of this issue.
    What’s the responsibility of a government?

    I believe a government should exist in a neutral position. Under a neutral perspective and harmless condition, government should give the citizen equal rights and treatments. I think the problem of the Niqab isn’t the duty of a government that promised the freedom of the religions. That’s a problem that should be considered by the leader of the Muslim. “For the purposes of public policy, a religious belief is not what a mullah or a rabbi or a priest or a Harper or a Kenney dictates. It is what a believer sincerely believes it to be, according to the Supreme Court of Canada.”

    The ceremony of attending Canada is a representative that the person who’s doing this ceremony is becoming the citizen of the Canada. Then, everything belong to Canadians should also belong to this person. That includes the respect of the traditions, cultures and religions. A Muslim women choose to wear Niqab is her choice. If this action will threat any people in Canada then the government absolutely should prohibit this action but no one can say the Niqab is threatening to the safety of the country and the people.

    To the War Measures Act, I believe is a similar issue. Did the Canadian government see the Japanese Canadians as a Canadian, but not still Japanese? That will lead to the acceptance and identity of these people.

    Government is a representative of the social perspective. The decisions made by government influence the social tendency and people’s thoughts. Government’s attitude is the citizen’s also the country’s attitude. Some rights are not given by the government; the government could and should not try to change it. A man should be a man first, before he/she becomes anybody. “individual liberty and collective identity. We have created a society where both thrive and mutually reinforce one another.”

  33. This debate is dumb, as well as blown way out of proportions. Mr. Henderson informs me that my beliefs are utilitarian, and in this case, as a utilitarian, I will consider it in a utilitarian fashion. The blog post compares the Niqab debate to world war 2 legislation which detained Japanese citizens. Though that bill is fairly controversial, and left many Japanese citizens displaced post war, I do not see its relevance to this debate. Japanese citizens lost their property, their communities, some even their way of life. Forcing people to remove a Niqab is not doing this. The ceremonies are two hours tops. Removing a piece of cloth from your face for that small amount of time is NOTHING compared to the benefits of being a Canadian citizen. In my humble opinion it is an act of disrespect to Canadians. It is as if they are saying “Sure I’m moving to one of the top ten liveable countries in the world (, sure millions of people from other parts of the world will never have this opportunity at any point in their lifetime, but I think having my personal beliefs violated for two hours is too high a price to pay. It is completely disrespectful. Canada is a place of privilege (for the most part) and in coming here you must first leave something behind.

    Not being able to wear a Niqab is a small price to pay for the security an safety enjoyed by Canadians.

  34. We cannot restrict civil liberties.

    If we deny this “right” (it is a choice to wear it), then, although, it is only for a small period of time, we are implying something very devastating, that thing being that we don’t trust people who wear a cloth on their head. People are going to judge them because of the fact that prejudice and racism is not so easily changed. Just because they are coming to Canada doesn’t mean that they must follow all the Canadian “traditions” as have multiple people already stated, it is based on personal beliefs, not true religion.

    However, under section 2 of the charter, it says that “Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:

    (a) freedom of conscience and religion…”

    Notice that it says “conscience.” A conscience is something that is like a voice inside your head that tells you right from wrong based on your personal beliefs, thereby indicating that we are protecting your personal beliefs meaning that people don’t always have to follow the “traditions” or
    follow religion word-by-word. This eliminates the factors that we are making too many acceptions as the government already protects it.

    Now, on the other side of the debate, we can all say that, “Why can’t they just take off the cloth for 2 hours?!” But let’s apply what we now know about the rights we have. In the Quran, it states that women should not flaunt their body in public and to be modest about their body, not that they must wear a Niqab. Nonetheless, if they were to be so inclined as to follow the religion adjacent to its statements, then this can be qualified under the freedom of conscience, therefore, we have no right to take away that belief.

    At the moment, a comment made by my dear friend Andy states that this personal belief system can be taken to a whole new level. That people will fight for their own religions that are very miniscule and not recognized. But let’s see the ethicality of this statement.

    I am not a very religious person, however, I know many people who are, and they all tell me that the reason they follow the religion is based on three factors.
    1. How you’ve been raised
    2. What your personal beliefs are
    3. You feel in debt to the Lord you praise.

    I am not putting any words in their mouth as well as I have heard this from many people following many different religions.

    What does this now say? Well, if we create a new religion which makes wearing a hockey mask imperative then the first two points may apply, however, the main precedent of religion is lost. The reason why is because that whole meaning of religion, which is to repay the being that has done so much for you, is now lost and I would feel that many people would actually find this offensive.

    If this religion were to have been passed down from generation to generation consistently and it were to have followed all three major points made from primary sources, then we can truly qualify this as a religion, though many are just not. It seems like people are just making religions for the heck of it without true meanings and that is not okay.

    I know that this could be very controversial, but this is what I feel is right.

    That is why we cannot prohibit Muslim women from wearing the Niqab at citizenship ceremonies.

  35. When is it acceptable for the government to suspend civil liberties? ; When individuals with those liberties pose an immediate threat to society. When you look at cases when the government has actually taken away civil liberties, most instances were when groups of individuals were abusing their freedoms by harming others. Take for example the War Measures Act that was implemented during the October Crisis of 1970. The War Measures Act gave the federal government power to arrest and detain without immediate trial in an attempt to stop the FLQ’s violent actions in Canada. As Pierre Elliot Trudeau justifies: “To bow to the pressures of [the FLQ] would not only be an abdication of responsibility, it would lead to an increase of terrorist activities in Quebec” and act as “an invitation to terrorism and kidnapping all across the country”. At the time, when there was an actual threat to National Security, suspending civil liberties was acceptable. But when you look at the specific case of preventing Muslim women to wear the Niqab, there is insufficient reason and proof to justify this idea.

    Firstly, if a woman is wearing a Niqab during a Citizenship Ceremony, we cannot draw conclusions that that woman is a threat to others; therefore we cannot say her civil liberties can be suspended. If you can come to accept the principle originally stated, then you can definitely agree that the restrictions on the Niqab make no sense. Moreover, as Aaron Wherry writes in the Maclean’s article: “We could then say that allowing the niqab at the moment of the oath demonstrates tolerance and freedom—a willingness to accept that in this country you are basically free to dress and express yourself as you see fit so long as it does not threaten the general good or inherent rights of others”. And yes, amidst the whole ISIS crisis and Canada’s opposition to it, measures like these seem reasonable, right? However, by generalizing the actions of a few on an entire minority group in Canada like the Muslim population, measures like these are simply unrealistic. If the goal of the Canadian government is to stop possible ISIS related terrorists attacks in Canada, preventing Muslim women from wearing the Niqab during Citizenship Ceremonies isn’t going to help. In addition, by implementing an idea that actually won’t solve a problem, effectively, you can get multiple unintended side effects. For example, by restricting Muslims from wearing their Niqab during Citizenship Ceremonies, you inevitable create divides between minority groups and society and spark conflict. This inherently weakens the unity of a nation and as Matt Henderson asks in his article for the CBC: “This is what is dividing Canadians? This issue is driving a wedge between us?” Moreover, through creating policies that won’t actually fix the problem, “the government of Canada has not released a budget, thousands of Canadians are dealing with boil water advisories, thousands are living in abject poverty and we face the greatest threat our country has ever had to deal with: the destruction of the biosphere” (Henderson). Policies like restrictions of Niqabs detract the government from focusing on actually pressing issues that will inevitably affect every single Canadian in the future. Should the government really be finding ways to suspend civil liberties unnecessarily while other more important issues need to be resolved?

    As John Ralston Saul states: “We are a Métis Nation”. How can we possible be a Métis Nation when we can’t respect the rights of diverse ethnic groups when they pose no threat to the society?

    Work Cited:
    Henderson, Matt. “The Politics of Fear: A Canadian Tradition.” CBC 19 Mar. 2015. CBC. Web. 20 Mar. 2015. .
    Wherry, Aaron. “The Weak and Uninspiring Case against the Niqab.” Maclean’s 12 Mar. 2015. Web.

  36. I agree with Reyce’s opinion that it is outrageous for women to be denied the right to wear a niqab to a Canadian Citizenship Ceremony. I feel that women should be welcome and accepted in Canada to wear the niqab anywhere they go, including to a Citizenship Ceremony. As stated in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, under the Fundamental Freedoms, it states: “(a) freedom of conscience and religion”. The freedom of religion is a fundamental freedom that should not be taken away from Islamic women. The niqab is a form by which Islamic women can express themselves and banning them at Citizenship Ceremonies essentially prevents them from being true to themselves. I also found it rather astonishing that Larry Miller, a Conservative Member of Parliament had the audacity to say “Stay the hell where you came from” in a discussion regarding Islamic women wearing niqabs. Following that statement he comments, “I think most Canadians feel the same”. This shows a great deal of assumption. Does he have evidence to support this bold statement? In my opinion, he has no right to speak for most Canadians, how does he know what most Canadians feel? Has he scientifically polled most Canadians?

  37. In recent international news, the niqab and other cultural headscarves have undergone debate. Countries such as France have made an effort to ban the burka and now, my home country of Canada is trying to ban the niqab during the citizenship ceremonies. Many are opposed to this plan. A very heated and opinionated debate has been going on, surrounding these headscarves all over the world. Some politicians, such as MP Larry Miller who stated that these women “should stay the hell where [they] came from” are completely in favor, while many, including women who wear the niqab, strongly oppose it. It is interesting that this event has caused so much uproar. The National Post suggested that debate over the niqab “is a proxy” for Muslim anxiety in Canada and when Harper labeled all of Muslim culture as “anti-women”, tensions intensified.

    But does Harper have a point?

    This is an interesting topic, as it all depends where we draw the line. Canada is identified as a multicultural country. In fact, I would say that the Canadian identity is compromised of many religions and cultures. For Muslim women, the niqab is part of their religion: “[God] specifically addresses women when He asks them not to show off their adornment, expect that which is apparent, and draw their veils over their bodies” (Quran 24:30-31). So if a Christian man can wear a cross to his citizenship ceremony, why shouldn’t a woman be able to wear her niqab or her burka?

    I believe that she shouldn’t for the reason that the citizenship ceremony is a legal government ceremony that requires the individual to make an oath in front of witnesses that will sign their names, verifying that they saw the person make the oath. How can these witnesses sign that they saw a person make an oath if their mouth and majority of the face are not visible? In airports or in courts, women are asked to reveal their faces so that they may make their identities clear. Our faces are the way that we identify ourselves to the world and a way that we may be held accountable to our actions. In a citizenship ceremony, where the woman makes an oath to Canada, the face should be exposed, as it would be in an airport or in court when verification of identity is important. We would not allow an non-Muslim woman or any man to cover their face with a scarf or wear a balaclava during this ceremony, in the airport or in court, so why should we allow select members of society to do so?

    That being said, I do not think that banning the niqab or burka is proper or effective.

    If these women use the niqab to identify their culture or religion, then they are as entitled to wear it as a Christian is to wear their cross. If a sheik who joints the RCMP is able to wear a turban, a woman should be able to wear a niqab in her workplace. If a woman from a Mennonite community can cover their hair in a bonnet, why can’t a Muslim woman cover hers? While I think that the face should be exposed in these legal settings, banning the burka or the niqab can’t be an isolated event. If we ban these headscarves, as France has tried to do, then we must ban all religious symbols in the work place/ schools to maintain consistency, as Quebec has done.

  38. This is a serious Human Right’s issue. The fact that this is even a topic of debate seems completely absurd to me. Not allowing woman to wear a Niqab, which is a symbol of their religion, is an unjust demand. Last time I checked our Canadian Charter of Rights and freedoms, under our fundamental freedoms, Freedom of conscience and religion is still very much applicable.

    As I read many of the comments above, I realized just how absurd this scenario is. Ben L. brought up a very sensible point of the idea that the Niqab does not harm others and is not a threat to people’s safety, so why make such a big deal out of it? Stephen Harper should be ashamed of himself, and many other Politicians as well. I was watching the news the other night and one politician had said something a long the lines of, “it is disrespectful for these Muslim women to not show their faces as it doesn’t show any respect to Canada”; there was a public out cry. How about you show some respect for Muslim woman’s Fundamental Freedoms. Do these people hear themselves? Kylie brings up an excellent point in concluding her piece, as she brings up the concept of equality rights. If someone is permitted to wear a cross during their citizenship ceremony to share and represent their culture, a Niqab should be just as equally accepted.

    I stand to conclude that Muslim Woman, without question, should be allowed to wear a Niqab during their citizenship ceremonies and should feel comfortable while doing so.

  39. By implementing this, I agree with other people that the Prime Minister might be motivated by fear. I think this could be related to the recent situation with ISIS. We have seen the government make mistakes like this in the past like the War Measures Act and interment camps. But how can the government ban Muslim women to wear the Niqab ? I do not think it is right for them to do that. By doing so they are clearly taking away one of the rights of becoming a Canadian citizen which is freedom of religion. Freedom of religion is a right given to every Canadian equally, but why not muslim women? In the Muslim culture the Niqab has been worn for centuries, and taking that away from any women that wants to become Canadian is outrageous.
    The comments made by MP Larry Miller are horrible he says that if Muslim women don’t show their faces in the ceremony then they should just “stay the hell where you came from”. What is wrong with someone wearing something that is a part of their religious and ethnic identity which has nothing to do with being against Canada. These comments are rude, Canada to the rest of the world is shown to be accepting of all races, by doing this they will just bring negativity to Canada. So I agree with Muslim women wearing the Niqab during the citizenship ceremony.

  40. I agree with several points that were brought up in a class discussion.

    These women are coming to our country to live. They should be able to take off the niqab for a citizenship ceremony if they truly wish to be a part of our society and country. We wouldn’t necessarily be banning them in all public spaces or banning all religious symbols, its a matter of seeing their face and being respectful.

    The niqab is part of their religion, and we must respect that, but a citizenship ceremony is a very important thing. We wouldn’t tell them to take them off any other time and I think it would be fine to take them off just for the ceremony.

    If anyone else was covering their face for various reasons, it would fair to tell them to remove whatever they are using to block their faces as well. This doesn’t have to be a fight about religion, it can merely be about whether or not we can see these women’s faces. And if the answer is no, we can change it. These women are coming to a new country, and if they do not wish to comply with our customs and regulations, they do not have to become a citizen.

  41. Many around the world see Canada for the most part as being a country in which citizens have the right for the most part be able to do what they want. We have the freedom to say what we believe, we have the right to protest, and we have the right to wear what we want to wear. People around the world immediately think of Canadians as being well-mannered people, who are respectful, smart and all around good people. Canada thrives off of these positive stereotypes from others to promote how spectacular of a country we really are.

    This however is not necessarily the 100% honest truth. Although, yes, our country does give us many rights and freedoms that are available to us under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, there are a few things that I believe our country (specifically our Federal Government in Ottawa) does not understand.

    Let’s look at this certain case with regards to the Niqab. ANYONE WHO WOULD LIKE TO WEAR THE NIQAB NO MATTER WHAT REASON IT MAY BE FOR, ABSOLUTELY 100% HAS THE RIGHT TO WEAR IT. IT DOES NOT MATTER WHETHER IT IS IF THEY ARE WALKING DOWN THE STREET, AT HOME, OR AT A CEREMONY. Back to what I said earlier with the fact that Harper and our government think of ourselves as being a country with everything and every right for its citizens, I would like to bring up a point stated earlier by classmate Elizabeth, and strengthen it.

    Elizabeth seems to have the same views as me in a few ways. I strongly would like to stress her point about the fact that we prompt ourselves as being a multicultural country, when really we look at incidents like these, and I believe that we aren’t. I think that although we do have many different religions and ethnic groups here in Canada, that many of them in some way are being discriminated against in some way. I am convinced that there is a racist side to the Harper Government, and when we see questions like are people able to wear the Niqab in ceremonies, these issues start to present themselves. I think that our government thinks way too highly of themselves, and like Hannah Gibb said this is just one of the many mistakes that Harper has made.

    • In the last paragraph, I did not mean to say that we aren’t a multicultural country! We are, but many different groups are in fact being treated unfairly based on their beliefs, religious backgrounds, or perhaps skin colour.

  42. I simply believe that it must be restricted for women to wear the Niqab in a citizenship ceremony, but should be encouraged to be worn in other public places. As we know, the citizenship ceremony is the final step to becoming a Canadian citizen. You have to take an oath, and there are several requirements in order to attend this ceremony.

    In my opinion, it is a privilege to be able to attend one of these ceremonies, in order to become a citizen. Conservative MP, Costas Menegakis states “I think for the citizenship ceremony, someone needs to identify themselves. We need to know who they are.” Stephen Harper continues to state “that it’s offensive to cover one’s face while taking the oath of Canadian citizenship”. Is it clear that the Niqab embargo and banning is clearly to set standards and regulations on identification principles.

    It is essential that face-covered garments are prohibited during these ceremonies, in order to ensure that the citizen properly recites the oath. “It is also essential that the would-be citizen can reflect the Canadian values of openness, transparency and gender equality at the moment they join the Canadian family” as Jason Kennedy states.

  43. Like any country, Canada is flawed and has made unfortunate decisions in the past, which have not always accurately reflected our beliefs and values such as the Japanese interment camps or the War Measure act.

    Bill C-51 is controversial because it seems it is at odds with how Canada deals with religious beliefs allowing everybody to express themselves and if not careful, it is possible we will slip back into making more uncalled-for actions.

    Although the government has tried to compensate those mistakes, for some reason, we continue to make mistakes that should not be made. Decisions are still being made today that do not represent what we truly stand for. Canada is known to be a country for anyone and everyone no matter what your ethnicity, background, or beliefs are, and now our government is contradicting those principles.

    It is absurd that today in the society we live in, the government finds it wrong that women are wearing Niqabs during citizenship ceremonies when the government stated in 2009, that “individuals are free to make their own decisions regarding their personal apparel and to adhere to their own customs or traditions of their faith or beliefs” (Toronto Star).

    Our country has tried desperately hard to make up for the awful actions we have committed in the past so why are we choosing to make more inexcusable decisions today? Here in Canada, everyone is considered equal and has the right to express their religion, so why should that right be taken away?

    Although Harper and his cabinet may seer the Niqab as a sign of “oppression” that does not make it a viable excuse to ban them in citizenship ceremonies. The Niqab should not be considered a sign of oppression when all it is a sign of religion and faith. We don’t get upset when we see Christian’s wearing crosses to citizen ceremonies so what makes the government think it’s okay if they get upset when they see people wearing Niqab’s? “You can dislike the Niqab. You can hold it up it is a symbol of oppression. You can try to convince your fellow citizens that it is a choice they ought not to make. This is a free country. Those are your rights. But those who would use the state’s power to restrict women’s religious freedom and freedom of expression indulge the very same repressive impulse that they profess to condemn” (Toronto Star). No one should be allowed to dictate what one can or cannot wear. These are expressions of their religions and thus protected under the charter and this should not be an issue.

  44. Canada already possesses a history of fear driven legislation. We have seen this throughout it Canada’s history with things like Japanese internment camps and the War Measures Act that was used several times during the FLQ crisis despite it being at a time of peace. Even recently we see an example of bill C-51, which was designed as a means to give CSIS more power and resulted in a restriction of freedoms, for Canadian citizens. Recent tragedies such as the shooting on Parliament Hill have been jumped on by politicians in an attempt to give CSIS more power. Politicians and fear stricken citizens alike have been making impulsive decisions and huge jumps logic by linking this event to ISIS despite there being no significant proof of this connection.

    With regards to the case of Muslim women being allowed to wear a religious article of clothing known as the niqab when taking their Canadian citizenship oath, I feel as though people are only looking at this case from an isolated perspective instead of looking at the entire picture. It seems as though the government would like people to believe that this case is an issue of whether or not it is acceptable for one to hide their faces during a citizenship ceremony, but in reality I believe that the government has a vested interest in restricting our civil rights under the label of “restricting freedoms to maintain safety”. This seems interesting that the government would be allowed to suppress a religious practice such as wearing a headscarf when according to our laws every person has the right to religion. After the tragic shooting incident at Parliament Hill people for some reason feel the need to sacrifice their freedom for safety and this is evident within the debate of Bill C-51.

    Fear can control someone and manipulate a person into doing things in attempts to prevent their fears from becoming reality. People naturally have a need to feel safe and in control of their environment, when they are convinced that there is something or could be something that could threaten that safety they will do anything they can to prevent it. By creating an ISIS connection to the Parliament shooting it develops fear within the masses and with that the government is able to easily manipulate any situation into one where citizens give up their civil liberties in an attempt to recover their feelings of safety. The government manipulates and directs blame towards those who are generalized as the “bad guys” and naturally we restrict their rights and ours subsequently in an attempt to quell the instability and danger that we feel.

    Take for example the Japanese who were used as scapegoats as a direct result of fear during the War. The government manipulated the fear of the people and directed it toward the Japanese. We see that they were punished and used to feed the flames of fear within the people. Today we see that negative media and attention are being directed towards groups such as ISIS in the Middle East and like the Japanese we see that Muslims may be finding themselves being used as the next major scapegoat in our history.

    Benjamin Franklin once said “Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both”. In reality we need to see that our fears cannot drive us to make impulsive decisions and poor judgments, but despite fear we need to overcome and continue to pursue justice and decisions through logical thinking. We cannot be dictated by our fears into giving up our rights for a feeling of security.

  45. I am strongly for allowing religious wear like the Niqab in certain public ceremonies through out Canada for many reasons. Firstly according to the charter of rights and freedoms, any Canadian citizen has the right to practice any form of religion that they would like to. My question depriving them the right to wear the Niqab somewhat hurting what they truly believe, and follow. In conclusion, for this simple I am strongly against what was proposed.

  46. I think all of the women should not be denied the right to wear niqabs in Canada. This is the right that everyone should have their own religions. Their religion also need be respected, even though they came our countries. We should give them rights to protect themselves.

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