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Muslim women wearing hijab and niqab. Photo: CIJnews

Trudeau accuses the Conservatives of “headscarf bans”

In an interview with Bloomberg News in Toronto on April 20, 2017, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that the rise of populism and nationalism is a response to “fears” which have been treated by implementing an economic policy that allays those fears.

The following is an excerpt from the interview:

“Some of the narratives are coming out of the leadership campaigns of the other two major parties and you can see that there is a strong drive towards populism even in, or at least to use of the populist tools, even in our election in 2015, we made, I made a conscious choice to try to draw people together, to work on a laying fears rather than highlighting them and exacerbating them, but I was up against a government that ran on, you know, snitch lines against Muslims and headscarf bans and a fearful narrative that Canadians chose to reject for the large part, because there was a positive inclusive solutions based on alternative on offer and I think that which worked in Canada can and should work elsewhere. I mean Sadiq Khan, mayor of London, had a very similar platform six months after we won, I mean, there’s an openness out there for citizens to have people pull out the best of them rather than try to protect us from the worst within us, and I think that’s a message that people are beginning to get around the world.”

The previous Conservative government did not run on a “headscarf ban”. In fact, former Prime Minister Harper disagreed with a Quebec judge who refused to hear a woman’s case because she was wearing a hijab.

Even the National Council of Canadian Muslims posted on its website a February 27, 2015 CBC article which quoted Harper’s spokesman, who in a statement, said: “If someone is not covering their face, we believe they should be allowed to testify”.

While the Conservatives never called for a ban on the hijabs, they supported a ban on women wearing the niqab – a full face and body veil which former Prime Minister Stephen Harper said is a product of a culture that is “anti-women” – from taking an oath of citizenship in court.

The ban on the niqab during the swearing-in ceremony was introduced by the Conservatives in 2011 and was supported by the vast majority of Canadians. According to a Global News/Ipsos Reid poll conducted in March, 2015, fully 88 per cent of all Canadians “strongly” or “somewhat” supported the requirement that people show their faces during Canadian citizenship ceremonies. The ban was dismissed by the Federal Court of Appeal on September 15, 2015.

The “snitch line against Muslims” Trudeau referred to had no explicit or implicit references to Muslims, but was rather a commitment by the Conservatives to end “barbaric cultural practices” by introducing a tip line designed to prevent child and forced marriages, polygamy and “honour” killings in Canada by enabling victims of those practices to report those incidences to the RCMP. The practices were clearly defined in the Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act, a legislation introduced by the Conservative Government in the summer of 2015. The Act provided improved protection and support for vulnerable individuals—primarily immigrant women and girls – and included raising the legal age for marriage to 16, criminalizing child and forced marriage and limiting the defence of provocation so that it would not apply in spousal homicides. The Act also deemed permanent residents who practice polygamy inadmissible to Canada.

The Conservative Government has championed the cause of vulnerable women and children by committing over $60 million dollars for programs designed to prevent child and forced marriages in Africa, the Middle East and South-east Asia.

In 2013, the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario published a report listing 219 cases of forced marriage between the years 2010-2013. As well, there have been several high profile cases of “honour” killings in Canada, most notably the Shafia family murders in 2009, where polygamist Mohammad Shafia murdered his daughters Zainab, 19, Sahar, 17, and Geeti, 13, as well as one of his two wives in Kingston, Ontario. Mohammad, his second wife and son were found guilty of four counts of murder in 2012.

See also: “Preliminary Examination of so-called “Honour Killings” in Canada” – click HERE

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About Ilana Shneider

Ilana Shneider
Ilana Shneider is the co-editor of CIJnews and the founding executive director of Canada-Israel Friendship Association, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the mutually beneficial, long-standing diplomatic, economic and cultural ties between Canada and Israel. She can be reached at [email protected]

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