Niqab rule being considered for visitors to Parliament Hill

Dene Moore
National Affairs Contributor
Canada Politics
'I'm happy today and very much pleased by getting this Canadian citizenship certificate. You cannot imagine, I had to work hard for it, but finally I got it'

The Conservative electioneering around the niqab is getting more and more ridiculous, says the head of a Muslim-Canadian women’s organization after news this week that a ban is being considered for federal public servants and visitors to Parliament Hill.

But Alia Hogben, executive director of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women, says her organization is getting huge amounts of support in the face of “racist, anti-Muslim prejudice.”

“If it wasn’t so serious it would be silly,” Hogben tells Yahoo Canada News. “I’m dumbfounded.”

The Ottawa Citizen reports that a joint House of Commons and Senate committee reviewing security following a gunman’s attack on Parliament a year ago is considering whether Muslim women wearing the face covering will have to unveil for a security check.

“If after review, policies/protocols are amended to require identification verification of all visitors, that would also mean removal of face coverings for comparison against the ID being presented,” Jacqui Delaney, a spokeswoman for Sen. Leo Housakos, told the newspaper.

The Conservative government brought in a ban on wearing the niqab during the citizenship oath ceremony in 2011. Two courts have struck down the ban as a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Though the ban is only for the oath ceremony – women do unveil to confirm their identity prior to the ceremony - the federal government is appealing to the Supreme Court.

Earlier this week, Stephen Harper said a Conservative government would consider banning the niqab for federal public servants.

The Conservatives have also promised a tipline for members of the public to report “barbaric cultural practices.”

It’s all quite unbelievable, says Hogben, who says the niqab is not very common.

“We would much rather our politicians behaved in a statesmanlike manner and discussed issues that are of concern to all Canadians, rather than this going on and on about what a woman wears or doesn’t wear,” she says.

But her organization has received letters and calls of support from across the country, Hogben says, including from the Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action and the Canadian Association of Jews and Muslims.

“I’ve gotten one very nasty, vicious call and the rest have all been highly supportive,” Hogben says.

“It’s all fear-mongering and hate-mongering and trying to deflect the conversation in the election. Instead of the economy, of lack of jobs… none of those serious issues are being discussed.”

Hogben says the face covering is not common in Canada and questions whether there is a single woman in the civil service who wears the niqab.

Citizenship and Immigration officials have confirmed that since the ban went in place in 2011, two women have chosen not to go through with the ceremony affirming their citizenship.