The Family (Or most of them)

The Family (Or most of them)
The Family

September 8, 2007

Veils and Vileness



Which of the following partly or fully masked characters/individuals will be allowed to vote in Canadian elections without removing their face coverings so they can be properly identified?








The answers, according to Elections Canada and a decision it handed down this past week, are Nos. 5, 6 and 7: Muslim women who wear burkas or other veils can vote with those coverings on.

And it's a curious thing that's both funny and ridiculous at the same time, and which has caused quite a stir here in the Great White North, especially in a province that should know better: Quebec.

Canada purports to be a nation that accepts all people, a melting pot that, some would say unlike the U.S., does not insist on total integration and instead encourages its people to openly practise their religions and live their native cultures.

In fact, because of its huge expanse and dwindling Baby Boomer population, Canada seeks out immigrants from other countries such as those in the Muslim world and in nations like India, Pakistan, China, Africa and other places.

Those people come here because we have one of the best standards of living in the world and they know they can meld into our society without giving up their religions and their cultures...or at least that's the ideal.

And because of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, all are guaranteed those privileges. And in many ways, it's a beautiful thing.

For the most part, they DO prosper here, and with their burkas, turbans, kirpans and other religious garb.

But some argue Canada has become politically correct to the extreme.

In an era where the Muslim world is seen in North America as the heart of the war on terrorism thanks to Dubya Bush's scaremongering, people are up in arms.

There's a sense we're losing our OWN culture -- what little we have, being such a young country -- to the immigrants.

Sikhs who have joined our Royal Canadian Mounted Police are allowed to wear their turbans rather than the traditional stetson hats, for example.
Muslims wearing their traditional garb are a common sight, everywhere.

There's a belief held by many "original Canucks" that the immigrants haven't integrated into Canadian society.
That they've just moved here and are living their Indian or Muslim or whatever cultures and religions north of the 49th.

And that they haven't become one of us, really. And this Elections Canada ruling is just fanning the flames about that.

The basics of the ruling are that if a Muslim woman wearing a veil has proper ID, she doesn't have to show her face at a polling station before she votes.

All of the political parties in Canada have poo-pooed the ruling and asked for it to be overturned, particularly those in Quebec, which has a large Muslim population.

Quebec, of course, is Canada's largely French-speaking province.

A powerful political element there has continuously tried to separate from Canada and consistently maintains how unique it is culturally and linguistically, and it is.

Canada has bent over backwards to recognize Quebec's uniqueness and its French heritage.

It has adopted French as one of Canada's two official languages at an incredible financial cost, even though comparatively few people west of Quebec actually speak French.
Many non-French Canadians consider this absurd.

Some observers have pointed out that separatist Quebec politicians don't like this ruling because immigrants, including Muslims, don't want to vote for a separatist government.
They moved to Canada, after all, not to Quebec. I think that concern rings true.

Muslim women themselves who have been quoted in the debate don't see what all the fuss is about. They don't believe it's a huge issue and say they'd remove their veils to reveal their identity if asked.

Some commenters on blogs and other websites have suggested having a female electoral official on hand to look at the face of a veiled Muslim woman in privacy on voting day if there's any doubt about a Muslim woman's identity.

This seems reasonable to me.
Others have wondered what would happen if they showed up at voting stations wearing Darth Vader masks, and whether that would be equally OK as long as they showed proper identification.

Personally, I think it's a tempest in a teapot. If we're going to invite these people into our country, we can't dictate to them what religion or culture they practise, whether we agree with it or not.

If we grant them Canadian citizenship without condition, without telling them they can't hide their faces in public, then we need to do that completely and to honour their culture, whether we understand it or not.

I don't get why Muslim women need or want to wear burkas or why they would subjugate themselves to men in their culture, or why men would want to subjugate their women.
But it's their culture and I have to think they believe in it.

If their culture/religion dictates they cover their faces in public, and if voting happens in public and they have been granted the right to vote, then they should be able to do so, and that needs to be protected.

If we don't like that, then we shouldn't allow them in.
Or at least not without telling them, in advance, that we're not quite the politically correct and completely religiously- and culturally-permissive place we say we are.


  1. The burka is more of a cultural than a religious thing. There are Muslim sects who don't require it and the Koran (as far as I know) does not issue such decrees. That said, I think what's happening in Canada does work. Yes, there are problems, but compare the way we function as a multicultural nation to how other multicultural nations (like the USA) function and though definitely not perfect, it's the best thing going for all ethnicities concerned.

    Immigrants in their new country may remain completely tied to their cultural/language community but the next generation faces a whole host of integration issues not dealt with by their parents. When I taught ESL I encouraged all my students to also become literate in their parents' language as identity with their original culture is as important to their sense of well-being as integration into their host culture. I see the kids of these families as the success stories and a shining beacon of multiculturalism. Certainly there are ghettoization (is that a word?) problems in areas where there is a lot of hostility between cultures (like in parts of east-side Vancouver), and gang behaviour escalates, and I agree that the cause of that is communities who cut themselves off from the dominant culture, but I think that that is the exception here rather than the rule.

    Note * the USA follows the Melting Pot model. What we have here in Canada (and you described it well) is actually the Cultural Mosaic. More here and here

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Hmmm ... very thought provoking.

    When I was home in Britian earlier this year, I was shocked to learn that the Union Jack is no longer 'politcally correct'.

    And I was upset to learn that in a country which has always been politcally vocal and relished freedom of speech and lifestyle choices (far above the US) many women are now segragated and treated like dogs.

    According to CNN's Cristianne Amanpor "The God Warriors" only 50% of the hundreds of mosques in the UK allow women to enter. (I realize that's their traditional religious belief, but these women now claim British citizenship and we've long held equal rights and they WANT to go into mosques.)

    I appreciate different cultures and the lifestyles and viewpoints offered. The differences are what make life interesting! But I do not believe the radical muslim factions should be goverened under separate muslim laws (as they're currently demanding) removed from British government.

    And I am SAD to see my cultural hertiage disappearing because it's no longer PC!

    Understanding is a two-way street and we ALL have rights to be proud of our cultural heritage. We all have a right to live where we choose. But we also need to relax a little and when in Rome ...

    Sorry for the novel ;-)

  4. ... could i have made any more typos! i do know how to spell bu fingers working w/o brain today!

  5. Andrea:

    There are other names they used for the veils too, I just can't remember the names.

    I agree that compared to most other countries that I'm aware of, Canada's model does work well.

    I know many people (hello Homo Escapeons!) don't entirely agree, but I think it's generally true.

    There are definitely problems, though. The general population has fears -- somewhat legitimate, I think -- that we're a splintered enough nation already.

    By allowing people from all over the world to come here and to essentially live their former lives on our soil, we're even more splintered and different.

    I think there's some truth in that statement, and you hit on it with your reference to Asian gangs, etc.

    I think the fear is that you get your little Indias, your little Pakistans, your little Phillipines, your little Koreas.

    They stick to themselves and make themselves a bigger, more visible group.

    And that brings out more fears among an otherwise integrated populace because these immigrants look different, they act different in many ways and in some cases, their infighting brings more crime to the streets.

    We know that fear creates anxiety which creates aggressiveness or negativity and, eventually, hate.

    I think a lot of Canadians want to be culturally open and accepting but they have to see some sense of integration and community-wide value added by these people.

    Instead, I think they feel a complete lack of integration and a distrust of who these people are, especially in the 9-11 era.

    I agree with you completely on the kids of these families being success stories, however.

    My kids have friends of all races and cultures who HAVE assimilated and no longer wear a lot of their families' garb, for example, although they haven't lost their cultures completely.

  6. Bibi:

    Yeah, it's a tough one, ain't it? There's a fine line between cultural and religious freedom in a democracy and favouritism and political correctness that harms the existing, dominant culture.

    I didn't watch every minute of it, but Amanpour's CNN thing was amazing, among the best TV journalism I've seen in a long while.

    I don't support or understand how the Muslim culture/religion treats its women, not at all.

    But that's their culture and religion and it has and will evolve into what it is, I don't think it's ours to judge.

    There may be human rights issues come to the fore as more Muslims move to Canada or the UK if, for example, a Muslim woman launched a legal challenge against a mosque or organization for not allowing her into her mosque of choice.

    Maybe, in Canada, a Muslim woman who no longer wanted to wear her veil launched a Human Rights complaint against her husband for forcing her to wear one.

    It could be so bizarre. But maybe it will happen, and that could be another chapter in the issue of Canada's cultural mosaic and immigration.

    I most certainly agree that Canada or the UK should never have laws for one group and then another. There has to be one law for all.

    It's just a matter of working out how the law can best be written and applied to protect the rights of everyone, but most particularly, it seems to me, the original dominant culture.

    Otherwise, as I said in the post, I don't think countries should invite in immigrants that refuse to integrate.

    Yes, definitely...there has to be a sense of When in Rome, do as the Romans do...

  7. Bibi:

    Typos are OK...maybe you're going through yet another cultural transformation.

    I do appreciate your comments, being a transplanted Brit in another, so much more similar, culture. :-)

  8. Australia and Canada do seem to have many paralels. We also lure people here with the promise of "multi-culturalism", but once they've arrived our Prime Minister insists they embrace "Australian values" (which, mind you, have never been adequately defined to me, I sure don't know what they are and I AM Australian).

    Funny thing: the man who is very probably going to be our next Prime Minister later this year (Kevin Rudd), he met with Dubya the other day. As far as anybody can tell, it was just polite chit-chat with no serious discussion and no mention of what you might call "issues". In other words, Rudd is doing his utmost to avoid any real association with Dubya, he doesn't want to be the lapdog like our current PM. Very wise man. I have yet to see him make a political mistake. Even when it was revealed that he'd been to a strip club 4 years ago, he was just like, "Yes, I've already told my wife, and who else should care?" hehe

  9. SO far, valid points have been made by the Three Wise Women (no, I'm not being flippant...I read all 3 regularly)and I am riding the same wagon.
    We, as Western society, still have a very long road to travel before we can truly call our countries "cultural mosaics." But it's a pleasing phrase, at least to my ear and mind.
    Like Andrea, I have some experience of ESL and I agree that the family language should be kept alive, alongside the "new" (in our case,English) tongue.
    From lack of practice the only language in which I'm fluent toady is English, but when I lived in Europe I picked up a pretty useful vocabulary of other languages.
    The sharpest thorn in the current issue seems to be religion.
    Hardly surprising when we have politicians, rather than theologians, dictating terms.
    The optimist in me wants to believe that moderate will win over extreme.Eventually!
    (Stace hit it square on: the "values" of this country have never been set out for all.)

  10. Anonymous5:54 p.m.

    Hi WW,
    A flying visit. I thought that was very well writen, a good read. I liked your apex joke. What did you think about the Aussies masqurading as Canadians?

  11. Stace:

    I definitely DO think Downunda and the Great White North have a lot of things in common, for sure.

    We both are lands of beautiful people (ha!)and we both came from essentially the same areas. We're "colonists."

    We have no culture of our own, or at least very young cultures, comparatively.

    Australia has its history and we have ours. From what I hear, Canada's more encouraging a place for other peoples, but I don't know that first-hand.

    I think your potential future PM is playing it very smart. Dubya has 14 months to go, so why be associated or allied with him?


    I guess that would make you the fourth Wise Woman, then.

    I agree that the sharpest thorn in this cultural mosaic thing -- and everything else, for that matter -- is religion.

    It unites, but more than that it separates and divides because religion is all about what its supporters believe and the others who don't fall in line, well, they're in for damnation.

    It's the most exclusive thing on the planet and the most harmful. We need to abandon it asap.

    Ha! Fat chance of that happening!


    I think Aussies do a pretty good job of masquerading as Canadians!

  12. ty WW love ya HUGGGGGGGGGGGZ!

    there's a treat for all of u in my current check it out :)

    **Sikhs who have joined our Royal Canadian Mounted Police are allowed to wear their turbans rather than the traditional stetson hats, for example.

    really? thats slack. :)


  13. The 800 pound gorilla in the room is that all religions can only be tolerated, marginally at best, within a secular society if they are self contained in private sanctuaries.

    While some may actually believe that women are legally only worth 1/2 of what a man is, it does not erase the simple fact that this is not only stupid, completely insulting to over half of all humans, it is utter archaic, misogynist, BULLSHIT!

    As a species we are still held captive by ancient mythologies that severely limit our ability to make meaningful progress. Each sect has an agenda and an identity to defend. Whatever separates us as a species is a very dangerous weapon in the wrong hands.

    This new Millenium began with an amazing example of what religious fanatics are capable of. Human life is inconsequential because everything is about the imaginary afterlife.

    What really happens is that isolated, socially retarded twats delude themselves into believing that they are messengers of creator of the univers that somehow only connects with some people.

    Canada should be a secular country and all of the turban, burkha, whatever, business will only fan the flames of intolerance. It is an open door to calamity. In an all or nothing 'zero sum' world we have to choose nothing or the whole thing implodes. Every group cannot have these little symbols of exclusivity.

    The fact that Canadians like to be hyphenated proves to me that while we are politically correct and so NICE it will be the end of this social experiment.

    We should strive to be regarded as Earthlings and nothing more.
    I believe that we should dissolve the very notion of countries and any other manufactured inventions that we have dragged along the way.

    That being said, I can almost guarantee that humans will continue to withdraw into smaller, clannish, homogenous, countries (USSR, Yugoslavia, Iraq, Czechoslovakia, Canada? USA?)instead of forming a global village.

    On average we still seem to be too f*cking stupid, ignorant of scientific evidence of our origins, and insecure to accomplish anything near those parameters.

    If we really need to have a country ((f*ck!)) then we should all consider ourselves Ethiopian like Lucy our hominid ancestor.

    I agree with Harper and that makes me feel weird but he is absolutely right. Whoever dreamed up this shit at Elections Canada should be duct taped to the friggin' Canada Arm the next time the Space Shuttle goes into outter space. WHAT AN IDIOT!


  14. Keshi:

    Glad to see your most recent post, and then your spirits were lifted at the beach...

    And yeah, the Sikh turban thing probably had most people here rolling their eyes...

    Homo Escapeons:

    Geez, are you sure YOU'RE not the 800-pound gorilla in the room?

    FYI, Elections Canada said today that if the politicians don't like the law THEY PASSED just last year about revealing ID at the voting booth, they should change the law!

    So it was Harper's government, not Elections Canada, which says there's nothing in the new law that forces Muslim women to reveal their faces, if they can otherwise produce valid ID.

    Besides that, Muslim womens' groups have said they never asked for this law and they have no problem showing their faces if necessary.

    I think it's fair to say that most non-Muslims would agree the situation with women in their culture is archaic and backwards.

    But all cultures through history have had and still have their share of archaic values and laws that are little better than the womens' veils issue.

    And America's Far Right and its fundamentalist religions are no better, if we're making judgments, than Islam and fanatacism and 9-11 and the afterlife and the other points you made about them.

    How many fundamentalist Christians in the U.S. believe God is coming soon to save them and only them and that all other people will be damned and go to hell?

    It's the same thing, essentially. I'm not defending either, but trying to point out that religious stupidity and arrogance isn't the sole belief system of the most extreme sects of Islam.

    And besides that, the great majority of Muslims aren't fanaticals.

    I agree with a great bunch of what you said, and of course you're entitled to believe whatever and say what you want.

    I just think it's pretty harsh.

    In an ideal world, of course we should abolish religion or at the very least all have the same religion.

    There should be total equality of the sexes.

    We should all live in a neat little global village and never argue and not be different.

    But we all ARE different.

    And if we're going to let people who are different into our country, we have to accept that they ARE different.

  15. Point, counterpoint. Debate. Agreement, disagreement. Opinion. Isn't that what this is about?

  16. Nope.

    The opposite of Talking is not Listening..
    it is Waiting!

  17. Uhhh...OK. Never mind then.

  18. Listening is rare. Most people use the time when another is speaking as time to think of what they're going to say next.

  19. Stace:

    Very wise words, although I'm not sure I agree with them entirely.

    The thing is, if you're going to have a conversation, well you talk and then you listen, and then you talk again.

    And then you listen again.

    I think it's natural that when someone else is talking, you're listening and if you're doing that properly, and once you believe that you have heard what others are saying, you formulate your responses.

    And then you respond.


  20. this is the kind of question that can go round and round for ages!!!
    you do make a very valid point though- about allowing them to immigrate without restrictions i mean.

  21. Anonymous1:22 p.m.

    I think the solution is not to let any of them come to Canada in the first place. They openly or tacitly support terrorists and they have no problems saying how much they disapprove of some Canadian values.

    Who cares about low birth rates, at least we won't have people blowing themselves up in our streets.

    Banning Muslims is probably the best strategy as the other immigrants don't usually kill in the name of their religious beliefs.

  22. Angel:

    Thanks and I agree it can and will go round and round for ages.


    Thanks for your comment, and that's a fair statement to make given the argument -- that we shouldn't allow them in at all.

    You don't make clear whether it's just Muslims we shouldn't allow or all immigrants.

    I know of no Muslims who've blown themselves up on Canadian streets, do you?

    I'd say if anything, judging by news reports, that immigrants from other countries -- China, India, Pakistan, Viet Nam, the Phillippines, some African countries, to name a few -- are more active in causing havoc on Canadian streets than Muslims are.

    As my post stated, or at least as I indicated in one of my comments, I think it's unfair to label all Muslims as believing in terrorist acts.

    But bottom line, as far as this post goes, I say if we're going to let them in and then not let them practise their religion and cultures when they're here, then we should tell them that in advance and not let them in.

  23. Anonymous11:07 p.m.

    I was only referring to Muslims in my first comment.

    While some may find my comments offensive, I still think they are fair, given the recent history of Muslim fanaticism. Of course not all Muslims support terrorists but they are doing little to prevent it as a group.

    There is a saying that goes "while not all Muslims are terrorists, almost all terrorists are Muslims". That is true in many ways. Canada is a multicultural society yet we can go too far with what we allow new immigrants to do. I don't think we should allow radical clerics living in this country spew their hatred and support for terror like they do. They are doing that.

    I completely agree with the first post from Homo Escapeons - pretty accurate read on much of our problems in the world today. Religions and countries seem to screw up what we should be doing - it all comes down to mutual respect and Muslims have little respect for those who don't support their views - in fact they kill many people becuase of it.

    I am not a fan of American foreign policy either but until Muslims can show some civility as a people, they should not be allowed to emigrate here.

    I agree with your list of countries with the exception of Pakistan, they actively harbour Muslim terrorists so they should go on the black list of countries whose people are not welcome in Canada.

    That will never happen of course and I think one day we will pay dearly for our political correctness.

    Thanks for accepting my comments on your blog post.

  24. Anon:

    Your comments are just as valid as anyone's, whether I agree with them or not.

    I still don't accept the notion that all Muslims have the terrorist mentality or, even by their silence or non-action, support terrorists.

    I suspect a lot of Muslims who come to Canada do so to escape the same terror of which you speak.

    And I do believe that at some point if we as a country are threatened, an option is to lock up our border and throw away the key.

    But if we're going to shut our doors, then I think we need to do what is making us targets for extremists in the first place -- get out of THEIR countries.

    Get out of Afghanistan. Get out of Iraq. Stop trying to bring western-style democracy to places that don't want it or aren't ready for it. Let them be.

    We're in a lot of these places for purely monetary reasons. We want their oil or we want to build their western-style cities.

    We want them to be like us and we want to profit on their backs at the same time. We make value judgments about their cultures and religions and then we're shocked when they rebel and say no f***ing way, we don't agree.

    As much as we might detest their cultural and religious ways, they detest our money-hungry, power-driven, Entertainment Tonight lifestyles.

    They're like a colony of army ants we've disturbed by kicking in their hill with our giant feet.

    They're fighting back and we've enraged them, and they're doing what any cornered animal threatened with its existence would do.

    If we can't live together, then let's boot them out...but then let's let them be.


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