Can you hear me now?


So that one’s swearing of the oath can be confirmed, Jason Kenney has ordered that head coverings must be removed during the swearing of citizenship ceremonies.

Kenney said the move follows complaints from citizenship judges, MPs and others who’ve participated in citizenship ceremonies who have argued it’s hard to tell whether veiled individuals are actually reciting the oath. “Requiring that all candidates show their faces while reciting the oath allows judges, and everyone present to share in the ceremony, to ensure that all citizenship candidates are, in fact, taking the oath as required by law,” he said in Montreal.

The full directive is here.


Can you hear me now?

  1. Jason, please, I *know* you’re familiar with the concept of lying.  What difference does it make whether they say the words or not?

    • Good one! Actually Kenny is more than familiar with the concept, he is more of a grand master. I think he might have a blockbuster book deal in the works – no wait it might just be me pulling a wee little kenny. ;-)

  2. I thought everyone had to sign the oath – a person who is mute, for example, wouldn’t be heard reciting the oath yet is not barred from Canadian citizenship – and an adult parent has to sign for a small child. I don’t see this obligation to sign in the link at CBC, but it is mentioned in wiki that you must sign the oath.  If you can sign the oath, I just don’t see why someone would have to see your face while you’re saying it.  I have a different point of view when one is called to testify against an accused – I would give priority to an accused to see his accuser.

    I find this no-veil requirement ridiculous.  I am sure I am in a very small minority. 

    • I sounds like the no veil voting requirement nonsense a while back, where there is no requirement for photo id.  I’m putting this  in the Jason setting himself up for leadership file.

      • Actually I believe there is a photo id requirement – new citizens must present themselves with a signed photo id so that they can match their signature.  But again, this could be done in a polite, respectful way, as is done for voting.

        • I was referring to the Elections Canada voter i.d. rule.  So if there is that requirement for being sworn in, Mr.Kenney is just concerned about witnessing lips moving? I assume he will be hiring staff to monitor this…

          • Voter i.d. rules are there to prove that you are the person living at a specified address.  The first thing they will ask at the poll is your address, then your name. If you showed up with your driver’s licence showing a perfect photographic likeness of yourself but with an invalid address, you would be refused to vote, until you showed up paperwork that has your name and your correct address.  Otherwise people could show up with a valid photo ID and vote in ten ridings!  What matters in voting is that they match your name with your address.  They don’t need to see your face, as in the special ballot.

            As I said, Canada is not refusing citizenship to children who can’t read the oath or to mutes who cannot say the oath.  But no matter what, the oath has to be signed –  in the case of children, by an adult/parent. 

          • Yes, but the government previously made a big fuss about this – claiming Elections Canada wasn’t doing their job by not requiring photo i.d. This is very similar, that’s all I’m saying. 

  3. If you go by the comments being posted on all the major media sites – this new ruling is very popular.  Looks like Kenney scores again.

    • Bigotry is always popular.

      Legal is another matter.

    • So was slavery and child labour. Your point?

      • The point is that these are frightening times.  It isn’t just “conbots” that are in favor of getting rid of the niqab.  Some men and women see it as a way to “free” oppressed Muslim women from wearing these garments that to them represent women as a lesser “species” in their home countries.  They do not understand that perhaps these women who wear the niqab feel comfortable doing so and make this choice freely and that by stripping them of it, “we” become the oppressors.

        • Unfortunately, every time in history is “frightening times” so in a sense, that feeling is relative. I personally don’t like them because of what they represent but we do live in a relatively free society. We all come from the same place —  sometimes it might be helpful to take a deep breath and just reflect on that.

    • You only need to go to the comments section of the National Post, the Sun chain, or CTV for about 2 seconds on any given story to get the impression that Canada is largely a population of reactionary racists.  My internal hope is that the reactionary racist population is actually isolated and contained on those sites (and blogs like SDA).

      • Nice try.   Check out CBC, Star, G&M…..most very much in support.

        • Yup, the Conbots are out in force.

          However, it still isn’t legal, so Kenney is just blathering.

          • The Supreme Court is right now deciding whether women are allowed to wear the niqab on the stand.  If they rule against them wearing the garment, likely women who wear the niqab will not longer come forth to file sexual assault charges.
            Hey, what happened with that Quebec law that women cannot wear the niqab in government buildings?  Remember that women could not wear it to school and left school?

          • Testimony in a court is different than becoming a citizen…and like you say it will work against us

        • I speak in generalities.  Those sites are magnets for racists.

          • If the websites of the CBC, the Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail are “magnets for racists” is there a single website on the internet that ISN’T a magnet for racists???

          • I mistyped, I think.  I’m still talking about the Pest, the Sun, and CTV.

  4. I don’t actually have much of a problem with this myself.  At least it accomplishes the stated goal (making sure that the oath is said) unlike the veiled VOTING controversy, in which the issue was supposedly the proper identification of voters, and the Tories introduced a “remedy” that did NOTHING to actually ensure the proper identification of voters.

    I DO find it hard to believe though that women are showing up to citizenship ceremonies wearing veils “every week” in “every region in the country”.  Really?

    My only issue, personally, is would it really have been so hard to add some wording in to the directive explicitly allowing for female citizenship candidates to take the oath before a female official?

    • The oath doesn’t need to be said.  It needs to be signed however.  We don’t deny citizenship to people who are mute or to children who can’t read the oath in which case a parent will sign on behalf of the child.

      As for tradition in this country, I don’t remember that the Canadian tradition is to tell women what to wear or what not to wear – heck, you can legally go topless, as far as I know.

      • Where did you get the idea that the oath doesn’t need to be said?  It’s true that people with speech disabilities and children are exempted from saying the oath, but everybody else has to say it I believe.  As for, “We don’t deny citizenship to people who are mute or to children who can’t read“, denying citizenship to someone who refuses to show their face is a bit different, isn’t it?
        I just don’t have much of a problem with a directive that attempts to establish that the person taking the citizenship oath at the citizenship ceremony is actually the person being granted citizenship, though it’s true that this directive doesn’t technically go far enough to do that.

        • The directive quoted is incomplete.  A person must also sign the oath. 
          And to attest to the signature one is required to provide a photo id with signature. What the quoted directive implies, and Mr. Wherry in his title correctly identifies, is that the government not only wants to make sure that the person reciting the oath is who they claim to be, which the photo id with signature does, and not only wants to hear that they are saying the oath, the government now wants to tell the person how to dress.  
          What next?  Will they have women kneel down and measure the length of their skirt?  The government has no place in telling women how to dress.
          What additional safety as to the identify of a person does seeing their face when they say the oath provide once their identify has been established with a valid photo id with signature? The verification of the photo id with signature can be done in a respectful manner, as is now done for voter id.

          • What additional safety as to the identify of a person does seeing their face when they say the oath provide once their identify has been established with a valid photo id with signature?

            Is it not perhaps valid that asking a citizenship official to make a call as to whether the person standing in front of them is the person in the photo in their hand is appropriate, but that asking said official to perform handwriting analysis to confirm that the signature on the oath matches the signature on the ID is not?

          • Yes, it is valid that an official makes sure that the person is who they claim to be by seeing their face.  That is precisely what the official who witnesses the signing of the oath has the opportunity to do as the citizen must provide a photo ID when signing the oath.  This can done in a respectful manner, like is done at voting time.
            What additional scientific proof of identifying a person does seeing the movements of one’s lips provide when the official can establish with photo ID and signature that the applicant is who they claim to be?
            Patrick Lagassé in Cyberpresse  today quotes the G&M comparing Quebec to a Taliban regime last year in their editorial. IMO, and to take on what the G&M, … it may be practiced in some Arab and west Asian countries, such as the former Taliban regime in Afghanistan but empowering state agents to enforce dress codes and bar the citizenship of women is hitherto unknown in Canada…

          • Replacing a oath verbally declared in a public setting with putting one’s signature on a piece of paper essentially guts the reason for the oath in the first place – an “oath” is, first and foremost, a public declaration, that, by virtue of BEING a public declaration is generally regarded as being more binding on one’s conscience.  If it is therefore not made in “public” and not “declared” verbally, it invariably loses some of that power.

            This is not to say that written declarations are not taken seriously by the declarant.  It is just undeniable that, for most people, standing in a room full of people and verbally declaring something is a more solemn act than writing one’s signature.  That’s why a party that has live witnesses testifying in front of a judge usually wins over a party who tenders affidavits.  That’s why brides and grooms declare their oaths in front of their guests, rather than just write them out and sign them.

            In that context, the debate isn’t about religious freedom and burkas and accommodation and the evil Harper and cursed Kenny, it’s about whether, in this day and age, we don’t care enough about Canadian citizenship as to want people seeking it to have to go through a hoop or two to get it, especially if three people in the country find the hoop somehow offensive.

          • Well put GreatWallsofFire.

            I would only add the additional irony that of all of the people who seem to object to this minor “hoop”, I’m not certain that a single objection has actually ever come from a Muslim woman who keeps her face covered. There’s certainly more than three people in the country who find the directive for veils to be removed offensive, I disagree there, but I don’t believe that any of those people people who object are veil-wearing Muslim women.

    • take the oath before a female official

      What good is served by pandering to a prejudice like that, especially during the citizenship process?

      I work at a firm that does a fair amount of immigration law. A couple months ago, in the course of prepping for a Quebec investor application from the Middle East, I was chatting with someone with experience in Quebec immigration practice. 

      He told me an interesting anecdote about Immigration Quebec and its interview policies: apparently, when dealing with applications from – ahem – certain areas of the world, they will intentionally (but unofficially) choose what they assume will be most offensive and offputting interviewer for that applicant, on the grounds that if you can’t handle that, you can’t handle Quebec. For Middle Eastern men, they get the most aggressively secular, Western-looking young female officer, say. I didn’t ask, but I assume that the opposite may be similarly true for women applicants…

      • What good is served by pandering to a prejudice like that, especially during the citizenship process?

        If someone sincerely believes that showing their face to a member of the opposite sex is an offence against the God that they pray to, what great harm is there in accommodating that belief?  The whole point of the freedom of belief, imho, is to protect beliefs that many people disagree with.

        Now, if we want to get in to a discussion of banning the wearing of veils in Canada, then that’s a different argument, with different parameters.  If the argument’s really “women who wear the niqab and won’t change their mind shouldn’t be allowed to become Canadian citizens” then that’s a different discussion.  However, imho, as long as it’s legal to wear a niqab in Canada (and I believe it should continue to be legal to do so) letting a few women say their citizenship oath before a female official instead of a male official really isn’t such a great affront.

  5. Can’t fool me …. I heard that dog whistle.

    • Yup, very definitely a dog whistle, and all the Cons sat up to bark.

    • Well, they had to find something, since they can’t rag on Sikhs any more.

      • That was the Quebec legislature.

  6. Wait a minute, aren’t we all supposed to be focussing on the fragile economic recovery?

    • Hey – last week he was fighting for shark fin soup.  Sometimes principles come before the economy, even if it is fragile.

  7. I presume he has a record of these complaints…

    • Probably recycling the thousands of LFC complaints that Bernier & Clement received.

  8. If it’s an issue they can listen harder rather than trampling religious freedoms.

    • It’s a custom not a religious freedom.

      If it were a religious freedom, the new rule would have to meet a Charter challenge.

      • It would almost certainly meet the test set out in the Anselem case.

      • Oh please, when are they ever guided by the Charter? 

      • It’s about Canadian customs, and that means no one tells me how to dress or else I am denied citizenship.   

  9. This wouldn’t stand up in court of course,  but with Czar Harper in place Kenney is making an effort to at least sound like a czardine. 

    • Not a religious freedom challenge:

      “When Muslim women do the hajj to Mecca as part of their Koranic obligation of pilgrimage to the holy sites, they are required not to wear a veil. They are required to show their face,” Kenney claimed.

      • Jason is now an expert on the Muslim faith? 

      • All Canadians are equal wilson….if we require Muslim women to remove part of their clothing, what clothing do we ask others to remove?

          • Oh, are you going to strip Hutterites of their religious clothing too?

            Bible says nothing about habits, cassocks or 1700’s clothing…it’s just a custom.

          • It isn’t about clothing, it’s about covering the face,which is not allowed on a Canadian Passport photo either.Hutterites lost charter challenge, and appeal,  in Supreme Court because:- high risk of identity theft without a photo- “unrealistic exacting precision.” law was a minimal impairment (to religious freedoms)- Hutterites had other options, having a drivers license was a choice

          • It’s not about photos wilson, in spite of your best efforts to change the topic.

          • Supreme Court rules on Charter challenge based on religious belief.
            Hutterites lost.
            A drivers license is a ‘choice’ not a right.

            Canadian Citizenship is a ‘choice’ not a right.

          • No, a photo is a requirement for everyone

            Having to remove a piece of clothing is only required for Muslim women

          • @OriginalEmily1:disqus 

            Having to remove a piece of clothing is only required for Muslim women.

            Actually, I think the directive is pretty clear.  ANYONE wearing a partial or full face covering must remove it when saying the oath.

          • Oh really?

            And how many other people would be doing that?

          • Exactly as many as show up to their Canadian citizenship ceremony with their face covered.

          • Yes, only Muslim women.

          • @OriginalEmily1:disqus 

            No, a photo is a requirement for everyoneHaving to remove a piece of clothing is only required for Muslim women.

            That makes no logical sense Emily, especially in the context of the Hutterites.  

            A photo is required of everyone, true, but being seen saying the oath is now required for everyone as well.  EVERYONE.  It’s true that only a very small subset of Muslim women will actually object to being seen saying the oath (thought perhaps as few as none… these cases almost NEVER come up because a woman in a veil has actually complained that she can’t remove the veil… most women I’ve met who wear the niqab simply remove it right away when issues like this come up) however, it’s equally true that only the Hutterites objected to the taking of pictures.  

            The parallels are quite strong imho.  A rule that applies to everyone equally, and a tiny minority arguing that said rule should not apply to them.  In the Hutterite example the courts have ruled that requiring a photo ID for drivers is a reasonable limit on the religious freedoms of Hutterites.  Now, it’s ENTIRELY possible that a court might rule that being required to show one’s face while saying the citizenship oath is NOT a reasonable limit on one’s freedom of religion, but they could just as easily rule “Tough.  Hutterites have to get their picture taken if they want a driver’s license, and Muslim women wearing veils have to take of their veils off for the purposes of saying the oath of citizenship, and these are both reasonable limits to the freedom of the individuals effected”.

      • How does what they’re required to wear or not wear during a religious ceremony imply anything at all about what the religion requires outside of that ceremony? 

        That’s like arguing that to maintain the freedom of eating the sacrament, Catholics must eat human flesh at home.

        • It’s not completely immaterial though.  I think the point about the Hajj is that the reference to veils vis a vis tha Hajj is the only time that the covering of the faces of women is addressed in Islam, and it’s addressed in a manor which BANS veils, not REQUIRES them.  The issue is less I think “see, here’s a particular context in which Muslim women are required by Islam to show their faces” so much as that the ONLY requirement in Islam regarding women’s faces is that they be shown during the Hajj.

          It’s true that the fact that veils are banned from the Hajj does not imply anything about what Islam requires outside of the Hajj.  That implication, I think, comes from the fact that said ban is apparently the ONLY TIME that veils come up in Islam wrt a religious imperative.

          Now, this could all be moot, given that religious freedom is pretty well understood to be an INDIVIDUAL freedom, so it arguably doesn’t matter if a requirement to go veiled in public has never come up in the history of Islamic thought and scholarship so long as the individual concerned sincerely holds a religious belief that this is an important aspect of their faith.  So, legally, the opinion of Islamic scholars is arguably moot.  It’s nevertheless noteworthy imho if the only mention of the wearing of veils by women in a religious context that can be found in the religious texts of Islam is a clause saying “Don’t wear a veil when on the Hajj”.

          • And the only time eating human flesh comes up in the Catholic religion is during the sacrament. So tell me, what implication does *that* have? Going by what appears to be yours and Kenney’s logic, it means that the religion has no problem with it at any other time, either.

          • First off, is the sacrament really the only time that cannibalism has been addressed in the entire history of Catholicism???  I find that hard to believe.

            Also, I’m not so sure that my logic is all that flawed.  If one is going to argue “I must do X because my religion dictates it”, and an examination of said religion finds precisely ONE reference to X, and that reference is actually “in context Y you must NOT do X” then presumably that weakens one’s argument that one is bound by one’s religious obligations to do X.  Not only does one’s religion never say “You must do X”, but it ALSO explicitly lays out contexts in which you must NOT do X.

            That may well be moot regardless, as I’ve mentioned, since freedom of religion is an individual right, not a collective right, so it doesn’t necessarily matter if there’s not an Imam on the planet who would call the niqab or the burka a religious obligation if the WEARER sincerely views it as a religious obligation.  Even with that being the case though, it would still be worthy of note, would it not, that not a single Imam on the planet deems a veil as a religious obligation for women, and that the only time veils come up in Islam directly is in the context of when you should NOT wear a veil?

            To my mind, the analogy to the Catholic sacrament and the body of Christ actually would be to a Catholic who is insisting on the freedom to eat human flesh at home because they’re required to take the sacrament in Church (i.e. I must do this EVERYWHERE, in all contexts, even though the Church only says I need to do it on Sundays).  Except, that analogy doesn’t really work either, since the sacrament is a thing that Catholics actually DO have to do, and the wearing of a veil is NOT something that Muslim women have to do. 

  10. Mr Wherry got it wrong:
     Jason Kenney has ordered that HEAD coverings must be removed during the swearing of citizenship ceremonies

    ”….At time of check-in, all candidates wearing full or partial FACE coverings must be reminded that they will be required to remove their face coverings for the oath taking portion of the ceremony…”

  11. Surely this is one of the most unCanadian things this government has done.  I would like to see all political parties work together to foster freedom of religion in a non-partisan manner, doing their best to explain the principles involved to the more apprehensive elements of our soicety.  Instead we get this pandering to the ugliest instincts of a few.

    For shame, Jason Kenney and Stephen Harper, for shame. 

    • Nothing  like humiliating a group that has little chance of fighting back – bunch of cowards.

      • CPC = Coward’s Party of Canada.

      • I understand the governments most legislatively active to suppress Muslim female garb are proggie – like Quebec & France – how does that work into your “evil conservative” narrative?

        • Zenophobia is alive and well in France and Quebec and fuelled in the rest of Canada by the likes of Jason Kenney. 

  12. Not a religious freedom challenge
    The Supreme Court has been pretty clear that for a religious act to be protected, the individual doesn’t need to demonstrate that someone ELSE believes that the act is important to their religion, only that the BELIEVER believes it.  In other words, every Imam in the country could loudly proclaim that Allah does not require a woman to go covered, and a woman could still argue “that’s between me an Allah, and you can’t violate my freedom to believe as I will just because other people believe differently… that’s the WHOLE POINT of the freedom of religion”.  Freedom of religion is an INDIVIDUAL freedom of conscience, not just a collective freedom of worship.  The BELIEVER is protected, even if their “belief” is not technically a dictate of their organized church or mosque.

    In other words, it’s not up to you, or I, to determine what someone ELSE believes.  Unless you’re going to call God to the stand to say “I don’t need her to do that”, having an Imam say “Allah doesn’t need her to do that” is essentially hearsay if the woman in question sincerely believes differently.

    • I’m pretty sure that line of reasoning didn’t work for Rastas or any of the other cannabis sacrament religions.

      • I’m not sure any Rastafarians have ever legally challenged cannabis laws, and certainly the most recent legal challenge on religious ground which failed did not come from Rastafarians (and there have been arguments made that if it had been a Rastafarian challenge, it might have gone differently).

        Also though, the problem there was not that the practice was ruled to not be part of the religion because some people in the religion say it isn’t, but because the applicant couldn’t show any connection between smoking and his religious beliefs in any but the most vague terms.  Now, it’s true, a veil-wearing woman would have to argue that she sincerely believes that her wearing of the veil is a religious practice, but she only has to convince the judge that SHE believes that, not that other people concur.  

        So, it’s not that smoking was found to not be a protected act because it’s not sanctified explicitly by the man’s church, but because the act was found to be completely divorced from the man’s religious beliefs.  To my mind, making a ruling on veils with a similar rationale would be to rule not that veils aren’t a protected practice because most Islamic religious leaders say they’re not required, but to rule that veils are not a protected practice because Islam isn’t really a religion, and I don’t think that’s going to happen.

        • Thanks!

  13. double post

  14. Is there any indication, from anywhere, that any of the women involved would actually refuse this request if asked???

    I recall that back when we were talking about veiled voting, no one could produce a single example of a woman asking to vote while veiled, nor of someone refusing to uncover her face when incorrectly asked to do so.

    It seems to me at least possible that we’re getting all worked up about a hypothetical woman who hypothetically has a problem with going unveiled for a short period, in a specific legal context, for a specific purpose, with fairly little concern for whether or not such a hypothetical woman actually exists in the real world.  Most women I’ve known who wear the niqab have responded to every request they’ve ever received to remove their veil by… removing their veil.

    • Are you suggesting Minister Kenney of manufacturing a problem where none exists? 

      • Agreed, although solving problems that don’t exist is far more a hallmark of the left than the right.

      • Perhaps.

        Though, arguably, Kenney simply made up some directives that probably didn’t need to be made in the first place, to address a “problem” that isn’t really a “problem”, and it’s EVERYONE ELSE who’s turning it in to a problem by freaking out about it. Of course, that’s not to say that Kenney didn’t realize that some people would freak out, but I’m not sure that he can be faulted for the predictability of his opponents.

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