There are already reports that France's "burqa ban" is inciting more harassment of Muslim women, and now it's giving other countries horrible ideas. Yesterday, the Canadian government announced that from now on Muslim women must take off or lift their veil when taking the oath of citizenship. We expected so much better from our supposedly-sensible neighbors to the north.
Like all good discriminatory government policies, the new rule is based on unfounded fears and anecdotal evidence. According to the Toronto Star, it seems the trouble started when Conservative MP Wladyslaw Lizon called Immigration Minister Jason Kenney to complain about a citizenship ceremony he attended. According to Kenney, Lizon reported:
"Four women had taken the oath wearing full burkas and veils. He raised this with the citizenship judge beforehand to say, ‘Is this illicit?' And the citizenship judge said, ‘My hands are tied. The rule is that we have to permit them to take the oath."
As if the sight of women becoming full-fledged Canadian citizens while simultaneously honoring their religious beliefs wasn't enough, the MP noticed another ominous detail: "(Lizon) later noted as he was leaving the ceremony that these four people and a man who was accompanying them got into a car with New York state licence plates to drive away." Why would Canadians who live about an hour and 45 minutes from Buffalo by car have a vehicle with U.S. plates? Sounds pretty fishy!
Kenney justified his decision, saying, "The citizenship oath is a quintessentially public act. It is a public declaration that you are joining the Canadian family and it must be taken freely and openly." Supposedly this is necessary because officials are unable to identify Muslim candidates when they're wearing the veil. We don't know all that much about the process of obtaining Canadian citizenship, but presumably there's more to it than showing up five minutes before the ceremony with a possibly-fake ID.
While Lizon says he's heard that these unidentifiable women show up to citizenship ceremonies every single week, it seems unlikely that Canada is being infiltrated by hoards of duplicitous Muslims with a passion for American cars. Canada's immigration department presented no data on how many women this will affect (and none of the background information that usually accompanies policy changes), but according to Salam Elmenyawi, head of the Muslim Council of Montreal, there are only a few hundred women who wear face coverings in the entire country. Elmenyawi adds that by forcing Muslim women to choose between their religious beliefs and their desire to be Canadian citizens, the government is, "sending a message that we're watching you and we're going to tell you which parts of your religion are acceptable and which are not."
Muslim Women Must Show Face To Become Canadian Citizens [Toronto Star]
Ottawa Bans Face Veils At Citizenship Ceremonies [Montreal Gazette]
Image via vnlit/Shutterstock.