Kenney slams opposition over niqab debate

Kenney slams opposition over niqab debate

Cormac Mac Sweeney and Toronto Staff Mar 14, 2015 04:44:26 PM

Last month Prime Minister Stephen Harper vowed to appeal a court ruling that struck down a ban on face coverings worn during citizenship ceremonies. He called it “offensive” for someone to hide their face at the moment of joining the Canadian family.

Earlier this week Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau delivered a major speech in which he accused Harper of deliberately stoking prejudice against Muslims as part of a broader anti-terrorism agenda which seems to have boosted Conservative electoral fortunes. NDP Leader Tom Mulcair has accused the Harper government generally of fuelling “Islamaphobia.”

Speaking to Rogers radio weekly talk show Maclean’s on the Hill, Jason Kenney dismissed the critics.

“It seems to me that there’s a point at which some politically correct Liberals suspend their ability to think critically about these things and to actually see some nuance and make some distinctions. I think that’s really what’s at stake here.”

Kenney targeted Trudeau for comparing the government’s position on the niqab to immigration policies against Jewish refugees before World War II.

“It’s outrageous and beyond the pale to compare anti-Semitism immigration restrictions during the Holocaust to a request that people take the public citizenship oath publicly,” he said. “(It) demonstrates a grotesque lack of judgement on his part.”

Kenney added that there is a lot of support for the Conservative stance on the issue.

“I think that Canadians are extraordinarily tolerant and pluralistic people,” he said. “Well over 80 per cent of Canadians believe that the citizenship oath should be taken publicly and not in hiding. Some people say why can’t you have a woman wearing face coverings go and do this in a separate room? The answer is I don’t believe in segregation.”

Meanwhile, a new Forum Research poll conducted exclusively for CityNews this week showed that most Torontonians oppose allowing women to wear the niqab during citizenship ceremonies (57 per cent) and close to half (46 per cent) find the niqab oppressive to women.

With files from The Canadian Press

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