New bill will ban Muslims from wearing veils at polls in Canada

Saturday, October 27, 2007

In some countries women cover their faces almost completely, as illustrated here.

A new bill will propose a law to amend the Canada Elections Act to ban Muslims from wearing veils (or niqab's) while at polls.

"During the recent by-elections in Quebec, the government made it clear that we disagreed with the decision by Elections Canada to allow people to vote while concealing their face. That is why, in the Speech from the Throne, we committed to introducing legislation to confirm the visual identification of voters," said Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Peter Van Loan. "Today, with the introduction of this Bill, we have fulfilled that commitment."

"While there was no apparent case of fraud in the recent Quebec by-elections, it was widely reported that numerous individuals voted while purposefully concealing their face," said Member of Parliament Lawrence Cannon. "This caused people to question the credibility and integrity of the voting process. In a democratic system, it is crucial that confidence in our democracy be maintained. This Bill will maintain that confidence."

Muslims will need to uncover when voting at all federal elections, by-elections, and advance polls. Citizens who are vouching for a voter who doesn't have an ID will have to uncover their face as well. People who are medically required to have their faces covered are given an exception but will need to show photo ID and two pieces of other ID, or they will have to be vouched for by someone, who is not wearing a face covering, or removes their face covering. Alternatively they can make an oath saying it would be against the rules of their doctor or be harmful to their health to remove their face covering.

Elections Canada volunteers would need to, somehow, suit the voter to their religious needs, if necessary.

According to the press release it will allow "someone to be recognized, who is attempting to commit an offense at the polls (e.g. someone trying to vote twice)," and it will "restore public confidence in the electoral process."

Bill C-31 allowed voters to wear veils as long as they showed two pieces of ID, with one displaying their address. If they only brought one piece, photo ID or not, they would be required to remove their veils. If the person had a voting card, the problem would not exist. However, the new proposed bill would require Muslims to remove their veil regardless of if they have a voting card.

The Chief Electoral Officer for Elections Quebec refused to come to agreement with the Federal Government's opposition of his position of letting voters only remove their veils when they only brought one photo and no other ID, so they could compare their identity to the photo. He could have supported the Federal Government's opposition and change the requirements, but since he didn't the Canada Elections Act has been proposed to be amended.

"If anybody had actually bothered to ask the women that are actually concerned, and we are talking about a very small minority of women, they would have told them that they always take it off to identify their faces. And they do it at the bank, they do it at border crossings, they do it at the airport," said Sarah Elgazzar, a spokeswoman for the Canada Council on American-Islamic Relations in September.