The country is in agreement -

The country is in agreement

The majority of Canadians, including Harper and Ignatieff, feel the same way about Quebec’s niqab bill


According to an Angus Reid poll, 95 per cent of Quebecers and three out of four Canadians in the rest of the country support Quebec’s proposed law to force women who wear a niqab or burka to remove it for government services, as well as when receiving care in a hospital or instruction in a school. It is unusual for 80 per cent of Canadians—including both Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff and Prime Minister Stephen Harper—to agree on something, let alone an issue as controversial as this one. Support for the bill is higher with men than women, and Alberta and Ontario showed more support than Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

Montreal Gazette


The Star Phoenix

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The country is in agreement

  1. clearly it aint controversial

    • Anything remotely 'negative' about any ethnic group is labelled controversial by the media.

      Glad to see common sense still reigns in the majority of Canada.

    • It was never controversial outside of the media. But then, the values Canadians actually have and the ones the media likes to portray us as having don't line up all that well.

  2. The nqab is NOT a religious requirement (unlike the turban is for Sikhs) but a choice. I think the Quebec decision is correct. And furthermore government personnel should be able to see the faces of people who want services.

    • Wow. We agree again! I find it a bit insulting, as a Canadian woman, actually. I think (rightly or wrongly, I can't help it) that wearing the nqab is a militant middle finger at our concept of inclusiveness, tolerance and equality. You know, the concepts go both ways

      • So women should be free to choose what they wear, so long as it is socially acceptable to "progressive" women. Even if you have some sort of mission to liberate "oppressed" Muslim-Canadians, don't you think denying them access to government services reduces their ability to learn about their freedoms, and increases their reliance on their husbands?

        • You could be right, htoh. It would be enlightening, I'm sure, to speak to a woman who feels the need to wear the full nqab. Perhaps unfortunately, the only nqab-wearing woman I have seen was in a restaurant. Full gloves and complete face covering and unrelieving black.

          Guess what you can't do while wearing such a thing? That's right, eat. Understandably, then, she removed the face veil thing, took off the gloves, and had her meal. Then when she was finished, back went the face veil and the gloves.

          So, really, it isn't that she feels religiously forbidden to show her face in public. It isn't that her man (in this case, I believe she was with her adult son) doesn't allow her to be seen. I didn't ask her to explain herself, but my impression certainly was that when inconvenient for her, these vital rules can be abandoned altogether. When inconvenient for service providers, it is an assault on her religious freedom.

          As I say, I don't have much experience even seeing women in nqab's. Perhaps if I had a conversation with a few such women I'd have a different understanding.

          • Or perhaps it's none of anyone else's business and we should just stay out of her clothing decisions.

            To coin a phrase, the government does not belong in the wardrobes of the nation.

          • Yes, but inappropriate clothing is not some new thing we're suddenly grappling with. You've seen the signs, "no shirt, no shoes – no service" and while I may have missed your outrage over them, somehow I doubt it.

          • Service in a restaurant is entirely voluntary, and in any case I think it's reasonable to expect people to be minimally clothed for hygiene.

            Service in a hospital or a school is considerably higher priority and preventing niqabs has nothing to do with some common good; it's just the majority enforcing their caprice on a minority.

          • Private businesses offering service to the public are not entitled to discriminate against members of said public. "Appropriate attire" has usually meant shirt-shoes, or business-casual, or semi-formal, or formal, or whatever, but the expectation is that such dress codes would be applied uniformly.

            Which brings us to the niqab. I fear that the current legislation will prompt pharmacies, grocery stores and Canadian Tire to feel free to refuse to serve anyone clad thusly, citing how hospitals and schools will soon legally treat her.

            And yet, banks and other locations (INCLUDING pharmacies, grocery stores and Canadian Tire) might get a little jumpy about masked individuals entering their premises, since one cannot easily predict criminal intent.

            So chalk me up to "torn" on this one. But it's all a messy piece of junk given the spectacularly few people the law will affect.

          • If private business are not permitted to discriminate against anyone on their premises, then their businesses and premises are not private.

          • Correct, sort of. Because they are offering service to the public, Laws and regulations govern the relationship between vendor and client.

            See, say, certain lunch counters in the Southern USA many decades ago…

          • Such laws should be considered outrageous to anyone concerned with private property, ie. rights.

          • Like I have said before, it is neat that I have discovered somebody to my right.

          • Libertarianism isn't to your right or your left; its just pro-freedom and anti-government interference in the lives of individuals.

          • I do see your point (and frankly I can't believe we are each arguing the side we are–I think it would normally be the other way around) but I defy you to receive care in a hospital wearing a niqab. How could it possibly be done? How can you examine, I mean to say–unless it is okay to go under, as in like a tent. Not sure how to do that if the problem is a sore jaw, for example, or an ear infection. The school, I admit, is a tougher nut (although the cheating on tests is a valid point).

            Anyway, if it is okay for that person to cover themselves head to toe like that, why not wear the mascot costume in woodworking class? Or to the neighbourhood 7-11. <sarcasm>That'll make it easy for the clerk to tell the police officer exactly what the robber looked like, how tall the person was, etc.</sarcasm>

          • Private institutions should be able to prohibit anyone they wish.

          • "I do see your point (and frankly I can't believe we are each arguing the side we are–I think it would normally be the other way around)"…

            I don't see what's unusual – I always argue for maximum individual freedom up to the point where someone else gets hurt.

            "…but I defy you to receive care in a hospital wearing a niqab. How could it possibly be done?"
            I think, based on my limited understanding of the concerns of niqab-wearers, that all it would take is a female doctor and no males in the room when the patient removes the niqab. I don't think that poses a problem at all.

            As to the other examples, private business should be able to bar anyone they want from their premises. That's the definition of private property.

          • You are making a requirement of all public sector employees to keep a woman on staff just in case some sexist walks in and demands a woman identify her. I know when I go to my doctor and submit my health card for identification, there is not a male secretary and a female secretary, and no male AND female doctors on staff. You think there's no problem with a woman requesting only another woman service her, but you ignore the service part of the problem. Once again, no one is saying a Muslim cannot wear whatever disguise she wants to, just that she must reveal her face for identifcation. It's not unreasonable. It is unreasonable to demand that someone with a different set of genitalia regard your silly face.

            This is not like airport security patting you down — it's a face.

          • My understanding is that it already is a requirement for public sector employees to keep a woman on staff – they call it "affirmative action". If we can finally reap some benefit from idiotic affirmative action policies I'm all for it.

          • I agree Jenn. We need to talk to more of these women to hear their views. We don't know enough about, and therefore should not be so quick to judge.

          • Why aren't they speaking up? Perhaps they are not allowed to or perhaps they do not think that they have to explain themselves to infidels.

    • So it's a choice. How does that make it any less worthy of freedom from government interference?

      (note: I agree that when someone has to show their face for ID purposes, that is a different matter)

  3. That's disturbing.

    Unless there's a pressing need for someone to show their face (e.g. identification) their decision to cover it is no one else's business.

    We're really going to deny medical care or education to a girl who refuses to uncover her face in front of men on principle? Really?

    My advice to Muslims is to stand your ground on this if you really view it as a moral principle. I think (and hope) that the rest of Canada will back down once the stakes are raised.

    • As someone who grew up as an anglophone in Québec, and took french classes to improve my french, seeing your mouth is essential to learning a language. My french teachers would regularly tell me that, when my pronunciation was wrong, how to move my mouth and tongue to say the word properly, sans accent. And I would feel offended if a women told me (as this Egyptian girl did) to tell me to move away from her and sit on the other side of the class simply because I was a male. Everybody must be treated equally under the law, and the law is to uncover your face.

      And the burka or niqab is NOT ISLAM. Nowhere written does it say that Muslim women must cover their face in the Koran. So this isn't a religious question, it's a cultural one. It's gender equality, not inequality. That's what Canada stands for, and for everything that is given to immigrants (government subsidized day-care, medical care, education, language instruction, freedom of the press, democracy, etc.) it is not to much to ask that they conform to our social norms, not the other way around.

      It is also an insult to Muslims who move away from their home country to get away from theocratic rhetoric (that you support). The Muslim Congress of Canada believes the ban should be nation-wide. This Egyptian women, who told the men to move away from her and sit on the other side of the room, who would perform orals in the rear of the class facing the wall, and refused to remove her niqab so that the teacher could see her mouth is the one who is intolerant of our culture. Québec did everything it could to accommodate her, and she kept asking not to be treated equally but exceptionally. Her fault, not ours.

      • I see the rationale for removing the student if they're disrupting the class, but not for them choosing to incure a handicap. If a student wants to cover her mouth and this makes it harder to correct her pronunciation then so be it – she chooses to have worse pronunciation. That's her choice.

        And anyway, according to the article Canadians favour a ban on niqabs for "instruction in school". It does not specify "language instruction" or "pronunciation training".

        Finally, I don't care whether the burqa or niqab are Islamic or personal whim. Its their choice unless it impacts someone else. The Muslim Congress of Canada has no right to force women to wear niqabs, and likewise the Quebec government has no right to force women to remove their niqabs (except in cases where facial recognition is necessary, as mentioned above).

    • We deny medical or dental care to people who do not have identification on their person. Someone whose face is completely masked apart from their eyes is unidentifiable. This is why criminals wear balaclavas when committing crimes. It escapes me what is so unreasonable about having to show your face. The fact that this is addressing Muslims specifically is because there is no other identifiable group, ethnic, religious, or social, that covers their face for political reasons. None. There is already a law under the Criminal Code that prohibits wearing a disguise with the intention of committing a crime, so any bill being proposed to address disguises would be moot. People need to confirm identity to avoid identity fraud, which is now rampant in this country thanks to groups like the Tamil Tigers, and that it completely reasonable.

      • If you reread my post above you'll notice that I made an exception for identification purposes.

        Beyond legitimate need to identify someone though, I don't see any justification for government interfering in someone's choice to cover their face.

        • So what does your post have to do with the issue at hand then? The bill addresses identification purposes only.

          I know the law I talked about addresses criminal intent — I stated that explicitly. I also stated the necessity for this bill is because the current law about disguise with intent addresses criminality only. I don't know why you felt the need to reiterate my OWN statements back to me.

    • Its annoying when people give ratings based on their opinion rather than the quality of the commentary.

      You raise a valid point here. I wonder if any of the legislators sees the irony of a bunch of men telling women how they can dress because another group of men are telling them how to dress in a way that the first group disagrees with? Where are the bra burning feminists when you need them?

    • Covering one's face isn't someone else's business…as long as they are within their own home or out on the street. However, once one is literally in someone else's "business" (whether it be a private establishment, store or public institution), than they have no right to cover their face. Institutions have the right to establish rules and guidelines for their use, including dress codes. Schools often have a "no-hat" policy, restaurants sometimes have a mandatory dress code and there's no reason why government agencies cannot have a policy around the covering of ones face.

      The niqab raises a myriad of security and identification issues. At the end of the day though, that's irrelevant; institutions have the right to draft terms of use and guidelines – people have the right to not use these institutions and services if they so wish. That's how it has always been.

  4. Need I point out that the Headline writer has once again got it wrong? "Three out of four" means a 75/25 split, which is not the same as "The country's in agreement". In fact it's the opposite.

    • That's close enough to agreement. Considering an issue like abortion, which is nowhere near a 75/25 split, is considered a settled issue with the public, I think it's safe to say this is as well.

  5. we are not a free country,we are a democracy,show yourselves or immigrate to a country which allows such barbarism

    • No, we are a liberal democracy. The basic idea of a liberal democracy is that some things are decided collectively, while others are constitutionally enshrined (even though Canada didn't have a written constitution before 1982 we had a series of documents, conventions and precedents – most critically the BNA act – that collectively comprised a constitution) and inviolate. After all, there are probably some issues where you would find yourself in the minority and wouldn't want the majority rule. Generally the things we set aside are negative liberties – freedoms which don't infringe on others. My right to free speech doesn't impact you because you can ignore me if you want. The ability to wear what you want is almost certainly a negative liberty.

      True, an institution may legitimately set standards of dress. However if we are talking about a public institution, to which all Canadians are guaranteed access, you really can't set codes of conduct like this.

  6. Awesome move Quebec. And if this goes where I think it's going I say vive le notwithstanding clause. Time's like these I wish I were Quebecer and not from Ontario. Thanks Quebec for doing the right thing when no other provide has the stones to do it.

  7. As someone who has to lip read often in public to make people out, any form of facial coverings make verbal communication difficult. Aside from asking the speaker to face me, my options are limited to that or written form.
    Then again as a male these women would refuse to speak with me anyways. I wonder how she plans to be a pharmacist? Or will she deny service to male customers?
    It creates more gray areas than it solves to allow certain types of demands as hers in a public atmosphere. Why should she be able to demand the rights of others be constricted for personal preference?

  8. There are large parts of the US where even second or third generation immigrants can barely speak English.

    ??? where specifically do third generation americans not speak english? i have a hard time believing that

    • The American southwest. 12% of second-generation Latino immigrants, and 6% of third-generation say that they cannot speak English fluently (which is an improvement over the rate of 77% for their parents). However some communities are less likely to speak English fluently, particularly Mexicans living in the American southwest (where the degree of Mexican-Anglo ghettoization is most pronounced).

    • Alternately this study provides indirect evidence. The proportion of Latinos speaking Spanish at home has actually increased since 1980. Speaking English at home is a good proxy for assimilation and for the economic and social environment that most Latinos live in.

      Moreover, Latinos are a fairly relevant comparator because we are talking about denial of government services (something that is a problem for those Latinos in America illegally).

      • Well, you are a smart cookie. I think cities such as Miami are certainly spanish speaking overall. I don't know how far this counts for second or third generation Mexicans/Cubans, but it is a fact that the language spoken there is overwhelmingly spanish. When being there, it feels like being in a part of the country where english is the second language, if spoken at all.

    • The American southwest. 12% of second-generation Latino immigrants, and 6% of third-generation say that they cannot speak English fluently (which is an improvement over the rate of 77% for their parents). However some communities are less likely to speak English fluently, particularly Mexicans living in the American southwest (where the degree of Mexican-Anglo ghettoization is most pronounced).

  9. I've seen a LOT of niqabs here in Calgary (I think even Casey Affleck thought the city looked like 'Baghdad North'). The University and Brentwood area, along with the Northeast (Temple, &c.), particularilly Boardwalk-owned properties, are heavy concentrations of hardcore Muslims. During the last Students' Union election at the U of C, THREE women running for student government had hijabs. This is spreading. I can also think of one other reason to ban ALL bag-on-heads, including the Hijab. Right before an exam, my cousin saw a Muslim classmate slip a Bluetooth headset under her Hijab–obviously, for cheat cues.

    • Adam
      "bag-on-heads" – stay classy.

      FYI the Hijab is a scarf – good luck banning those. I believe you would see many non-religious Canadian women standing in solidarity with their Muslim sisters as has happened already where bans have been attempted.

      On the other hand, an expectation of being accommodated to the extent that men may not look at your face is unrealistic. As well, the niqab and the burqa are extreme – they pretty much ensure the wearer will never be integrated into mainstream Canadian culture. In fact, they seem to indicate a desire to avoid doing so which is probably one reason they evoke an instinctive negative response. As well there is the uncomfortable similarity to a balaclava which (worn indoors) unfortunately suggests robbery or other sinister purpose.

      Even in tolerant people which describes the majority of Canadians

  10. Claiming the Quebecers as allies in anti racism is a bit like claiming Nazis as human rights buddies.

    The Quebecois are the most exclusionary society in North America.

    • Comparing the Québecois record on racism issues to the Nazi record on human rights is inappropriate. Québec takes some strong steps to be culturally and linguistically defensive of the identity of a community of 6 million individuals surrounded by 250+ million English speakers on this continent. Their actions to protect that culture, though sometimes aggressive, have a rationale (thought admittedly arguable) basis, and are understood and supported much of the time even by a minority of English Canadians, including myself (again, much of the time, not ALL of the time). The Nazis, on the other hand, took steps to eliminate the existence of entire races of individuals and to wipe nations off the face of the Earth. With all due respect, any analogies of this type are a deep insult both to our fellow Canadians from Québec, and to the families of those Jewish individuals who died at the hands of the Third Reich. Let's please save Nazi analogies for genuinely comparable types of events, like the Rwandan massacre of a few years ago.

    • Godwin! Godwin!

  11. count me in as a subscriber to not wearing headgear for gov't services etc…totally not warranted…. we in the west which in all ethics is reasonably different from hot climate anger producing dry heat… we understand the customs relative to their religious garb but although it is unique it can prove a disaster….. not showing the face in a time of terrorism and unsafe times world wide…consider it a safety measure politically speaking! sure they would desire it also if the circumstances were in their hands…good for quebec…rather then muslims trying to impose will on another country they should expend energy in beinmg respectful and grateful for the allowance of immigrant laws relative to their beliefs…

    • Why not require people to show their face in the small number of cases where identification is an issue (eg. voting), while providing appropriate accommodations? Of course I'd warrant most of the people cheering on Quebec's legislation couldn't tell two muslim women apart with or without their niqabs.

  12. Way to go Quebec….we can't abide to everyone's request where would it stop…

  13. Legislating away freedom of choice for a tiny, tiny group of people when they could be accommodated relatively easily is nonsense. A strong majority of Canadians supporting this is just depressing.

    • It's only depressing if you feel they are "entitled" to receive special treatment.

      • It seems to me that the special treatment they're getting is this legislation.

  14. Is it really illegal to be out in public wearing a ski mask?

    • No, it is not illegal to wear a ski mask out in public. I do wear a ski mask in public throughout the winter due to a skin condition I have. However, Quebec is not banning the niqab in public, only in government institutions. There's a huge difference. You can walk down the street and wear whatever you like over your face, but enterting establishments and institutions is a different matter. For the record, I always remove my mask when enterting a store/government building of any sort.

  15. To coin a phrase, the government does not belong in the wardrobes of the nation.

    • The government has no right to allow one gender to wear a costume that states that the other gender is a bunch of rapid dogs.

      • Wow. You get that out of a niqab?

        Will you be legislating the slogans allowed on T-shirts next?

  16. I don't quite understand why any policy adopted within Quebec or Canada needs to reflect any of the policies having been implemented anywhere else (such as in France or elsewhere, for instance).

    Wearing the niqab for women is extremely insulting to themselves and to others, even if they voluntary choose to do so: after all, wearing the niqab voluntary says a lot about the person in question.

    To be completely separated from the real world, from within as well as from without, creates not only a distance between two worlds (the real and the surreal), it creates the illusion that the difference between such two worlds exists. But it is not possible. And that is the difference we are talking about: that , on the one hand, some people believe such division of worlds is possible, and on the other hand people believing that it cannot be.

    The entire issue then does not really churn around the wearing of niqabs but ultimately turns around deciding upon reality.

    • I don't know what to do now. Not only do I understand what you just said, I agree with it.

      Did the world fall out of orbit all of a sudden?

    • The entire issue then does not really churn around the wearing of niqabs but ultimately turns around deciding upon reality.

      I was on board with the first part, but then I got lost with the second phrase. Can you clarify?

    • "Wearing the niqab for women is extremely insulting to themselves and to others, even if they voluntary choose to do so: after all, wearing the niqab voluntary says a lot about the person in question. "

      There are plenty of people out there that feel the same way about miniskirts. I assume you'd be okay with that initiative were it to be up for legislation?

    • Sorry Dude. I disagree. What is and is not insulting to someone is something they get to decide for themselves. You argue about the disrespect for the women wearing the niqab but isn't determining something this personal for someone else the highest form of disrespect?

  17. Welcome to Canada. It is legal for women to go topless in a downtown park, but you cannot expect to be treated with respect if you wear a niqab in a hospital.

  18. All this because, as stories are now unfolding, one woman in a niqab was being a total disruptive clown regarding her participation in class.

    What a waste of effort.

  19. The country's in agreement…

    Is that some new blogging contraction that no one has taught me yet?

  20. Your bus pass example seems like a pretty clear example where the niqab wearing woman should accommodate the needs of the public transit system, and the driver handled the situation appropriately.

    But it doesn't convince me that niqabs and burkas need to be banned in general.

    We don't think that people who walk around in ski masks are going to cause a crime, but it is illegal anyway. I would have guessed that wearing ski masks in public was made illegal at some point in the past exactly because we believe that they are likely to be used to commit a crime, and that making it illegal was a reasonable balance between being tough on crime and infringing on personal freedom.

    • There are no exceptions to the law. Wearing ski masks or covering your face in a bank or convenience store is illegal. It's not the fact that it's "culturally" Islamic that the burka should be banned; but rather that private business owners, public officials and bank tellers should be able to identify the customer. Muslims should (and are) more than free to practice their religion, but as stated earlier; the burka/niqab is not written as a religious mandate in the Koran. It is an issue of equality. Don't cover your face is not an extreme position to take. If certain people are not allowed to cover their face, and certain people are, then we don't live in a society where everybody is treated equally under the law. Again, Muslim men in Europe have robbed stores dressed in a Burka. That seems to me a likelihood that "at some point in the past exactly because we believe that they are likely to be used to commit a crime, and that making it illegal was a reasonable balance between being tough on crime and infringing on personal freedom."

      • You keep saying that it's illegal.. I think you're wrong. Could you cite please?

  21. What this article shows more than anything is the bias of our liberal media. The headline is that the country is in agreement, huge majorities everywhere agree with the law. Yet the journalist just can't help describe the law as "controversial". To whom? A bunch of leftists in the parliamentary press gallery.


      "Controversy is a state of prolonged public dispute or debate, usually concerning a matter of opinion."

      As the niqab issue has been debated for a number of years now, I'd describe it as controversial. Your bias is showing.


      "Controversy is a state of prolonged public dispute or debate, usually concerning a matter of opinion."

      As the niqab issue has been debated for a number of years now, I'd describe it as controversial. Your bias is showing.

  22. Glad to hear this – we live in Canada, a Christian country, get over it.

    • Thank you for pointing out why I was uncomfortable deciding on this issue.

      I am now fully able to decide that this is a situation where the government should keep it's nose out of the affairs of individuals. Unless necessary for identification purposes, what a person wears is no business of the government.

    • Not sure we're considered a Christian country … a secular country, perhaps, given that we have separation of church and state.

  23. I think we have accomodated these people enough. Take it off!!

    • Agreed

  24. What is wrong with you people? This person obviously spent a significant amount of time to type out a well reasoned, well supported comment. Just because you don't like the idea, doesn't mean you should be giving the thumbs down.

    That completely defeats the rating system. Ratings should be based on content; that's how we get know to ignore the trolls.

  25. What does this say about the media that purposely printed headlines suggesting that English Canada disagreed with Quebeckers?

    Seriously, what's up with that? I understand headlines are created to grab attention, but headlines that are just plain wrong factually are indicative of something well, wrong, with the media itself.

    Not that I'm surprised, the media nowadays seems to be behind. I guess that should be expected though in our instant news society. I guess old media used to be able to dictate our opinions, or at least make us believe that a certain opinion was held by a majority; no longer is this the case.

  26. What cowardice for Quebec to pick on Muslim women. The excuse about security rings false given our refusal to stop immigration and travel from countries with islamic terrorist groups, until this war is over. Or the pressure to bring the troops home from Afghanistan whether the war and its threat to us has ended or not.

    Quebec is also in no position to lecture anyone on compliance with its ways given its refusal to obey the same laws as the rest of the country by claiming nationhood, having its own Civil Code and its own Language Charter in violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

    The Muslims could not be blamed if they defy Quebec's new legislation and no-one is in any position to lecture them. However, I don't expect the Muslims will since they understand respect better than we do and I think we should learn something from them. I do hope they will oppose it by every legal and political means available. I am adding my voice.