A new poll from EKOS shows that Stephen Harper seems to have increased his party’s support in Quebec with 22% of the popular vote. It suggests that the Tories may win nearly 20 seats in Quebec in the next election—even more than the Bloc! If support remains stable, the Conservatives could have the best showing in the province since Brian Mulroney’s Progressive Conservatives swept the province in 1988.
Recently, the Federal Court has struck down the ban on Muslim women wearing a niqab (a facial covering) during citizenship ceremonies. Prime Minister has since announced that he will appeal the decision, saying, “I believe, and I think most Canadians believe, that it is offensive that someone would hide their identity at the very moment where they are committing to join the Canadian family.” He added, “this is a society that is transparent, open and where people are equal.”
Our Prime Minister is unable to fathom that someone might have an identity beyond that of heterosexual WASP shared by himself and many Tory MPs. Remember, this is the party with prominent supporters who demand an end to multiculturalism. For someone to consider a religious symbol part of their identity “does not compute” in Tory eyes.
Zunera Ishaq brought the case to court. Although she readily took her citizenship test (sans niqab) alone before a female judge, she objected to the 2011 law, which required her to remove it to take the oath. She said it requires her to give up her Sunni Muslim identity temporarily. The Conservatives seem fine with this because the oath is embracing their Canadian identity, which doesn’t have room for a Muslim identity along with it.
For those who are unaware, the Koran doesn’t explicitly require women to hide their faces and bodies; it does ask women to dress modestly in public or before strangers. Some countries have forced women to wear facial and body coverings, earning the ire of human rights groups. However, recent legislation in the West calling for Muslim women to remove their coverings in order to take pictures and oaths has also drawn criticism.
This stance against visible tenets of Islam, the anti-terror bill, and the war in Iraq seem to be what has caused recent Tory support in Quebec, at the expense of NDP support. As a province with a long history of terrorist acts, it comes as no surprise that Quebec embraces security issues, even if they reek of Duplessis. The province’s support of limiting visible representations of multiculturalism sounds familiar. In fact, they supported a politician with similar values not too long ago.
Last year, Pauline Marois tried to introduce a Charter of Quebec Values, which would ban religious headgear. Although it had substantial support within the province (45% in favor), it was wildly denounced elsewhere in Canada. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney proclaimed that the proposed Charter “approached Monty Python-esque absurdity!”
“I think Quebecers, like all Canadians, want to see a society that is welcoming and open and involves the participation of people from all different backgrounds,” said Stephen Harper of the Charter at the time. He promised Canadians (and potential Canadians) that, if Quebec tried to enact the Charter, Parliament would do what it could to strike it down.
Last spring, Marois fought an election on the divisive Charter of Values issue. Her party lost the election and she even lost her own seat. Mr. Harper should have taken notes, but some people never learn.