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.