Kenney stands firm:
Zunera Ishaq, a Pakistani woman now living in Mississauga, is suing the Conservatives, arguing the ban violates her Charter rights by failing to accommodate her religious beliefs. Niqabs are worn by some Muslim women in public areas and in front of adult males who are not relatives.
In a Federal Court hearing Thursday in Toronto, one of her lawyers accused Kenney of imposing his own ideology on citizenship ceremonies when he imposed the ban unilaterally in late 2011 in an operational manual.
I suppose Minister Kenney was imposing his ideology. That's sort of his job. That's why we have politicians and Parliament and the whole bag of tricks. It's for people to espouse ideas and policies then vote on the whole thing. A strange concept in much of the world. We here in Canada are terribly fond of it. It isn't just the sartorial tastes that get the ideological once over, the oath itself is ideological too:
I swear (or affirm) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada and fulfil my duties as a Canadian citizen.
There is the swearing / affirming bit. You are making a promise to follow a set of rules, that's the true allegiance bit. Nor is this allegiance to any old person wandering down the street, it's to Her Majesty, Her Heirs and Successors. Which brings up the question of the monarchy. Our monarchy. A constitutional monarchy with a whole raft of traditions and customs dating back many centuries. Finally there's the bit about the laws of Canada and the duties of a citizen. More ideas and values that you are swearing to uphold.
The whole thing is ideological. It's all based on ideas developed and refined over a great long while. The nature of politics and the nature of Cabinet government is inherently driven by ideology. But, of course, that's not what she meant. Most educated people today use the term ideology as a pejorative. It's a secular version of an older term: Dogma. When a Catholic says dogma he means a set of theological principles ruled upon by the Church. When English speaking Protestants have historically used the term dogma they meant a series of arbitrary edicts. It is in that latest sense that the word ideology is understood today.
Naturally one man's principles is another woman's ideology. The hypocrisy is in claiming that Minister Kenney's ideology is inherently false or untrue simply because it fails to match up to that of the plaintiff. On the contrary Minister Kenney's ideology can, in certain circumstances, trump anyone else's ideology. Canadian citizenship is not a right. We don't hand it out, not yet anyway, to all comers. To get the passport and nice laminated card there are certain rules. If you don't follow the rules then you don't get the prize. Whether the rules are foolish or wise does not matter. Jason Kenney was entitled to make the rules, he made them and now you must follow them.
This begs the legal question of why a non-citizen has standing to challenge a citizenship oath. Is this accorded to anyone who bothers asking? Could the President of France launch such a suit? If only for the sake of personal amusement? Or are we old fashioned enough to insist that the individual in question be at least a permanent resident? I ask merely for information.
Now both Minister Kenney and the plaintiff have ideologies. Two sets of competing ideas. I don't think it too much of a reveal if I admit a preference for Minister Kenney's ideology. There is an old fashioned tradition, which many of us adhere to, that when making a public oath or statement you identify yourself. This principle was once so strongly believed in that even voting was a public act. You walked into a polling station, stated your name and address and who you were voting for this election.
I'm not calling for the abolition of the secret ballot. I'm not that much of a reactionary. But Minister Kenney was more in the right on this occasion than usual. Please keep in mind that this regulation applies only to those taking an oath during the ceremony. It does not impinge on people going about their daily business. What we are expecting of new Canadians is that they identify themselves and publicly declare their allegiance. Not some anonymous creature in a tent. An individual making a personal pledge.
The rights of the individual are the flip side of the responsibilities of the individual. If a prospective Canadian cannot make that simple compromise then they should ask themselves why they are here. There is no shortage of countries in the world where the niqab is widely and completely accepted. Canadians have a problem with customs that deny our individuality. That basic concern for the individual is a building block of our society. Minister Kenney was not being petty or bigoted, he was being ideological in the best sense of the word. He was insisting that ideas have consequences. The consequence of allowing niqabs during citizenship ceremonies would attack a fundamental part of what makes us Canadian.
Should the burden of removing a small item of clothing prove too onerous, I'm quite sure there are many in other lands perfectly willing to take the place of this particular applicant. I have a few cousins, each with practical skills and decent English, who will wear, or not wear, whatever is necessary in other to become Canadian.