Harper on defensive over ‘old stock’ comment, niqab case

Conservatives promise to seek a stay of decision to allow a Muslim woman to wear a niqab at a citizenship ceremony.

(Adrian Wyld/CP)

(Adrian Wyld/CP)

OTTAWA — Stephen Harper found himself on the defensive Friday, dogged by a controversial phrase from the leaders’ debate and his government’s efforts to prevent a Muslim woman from taking the citizenship oath while wearing a niqab.

The Conservative leader said during Thursday’s economic debate that “new and existing and old-stock Canadians” agree with his policy on refugee health care.

The Liberal and NDP leaders slammed the use of the term “old stock” as divisive Friday and Harper was asked to clarify what he meant.

His position on refugee health care is “supported by Canadians, who themselves are immigrants and also supported by the rest of us, by Canadians who have been the descendants of immigrants for one or more generations,” Harper said.

The government sought to scrap a program that covered health-care costs for people awaiting decisions on refugee claims, sharply curtailing coverage and allocating it based on where the claimants were from. Some items — such as medications — were no longer covered at all.

The Federal Court ruled the changes put people’s lives at risk and declared the system unconstitutional, ordering the government to implement a new, charter-compliant system.

The revised program expanded health coverage available to refugee claimants, most notably extending it specifically to children and pregnant women. But it still classifies how much coverage people will receive based on what kind of refugee claim they are making and where the claim is in the process.

“We were talking specifically about immigrant health care and I was making the point because it had been alleged that the government had removed health-care services for immigrants,” Harper said Friday about his debate comment.

“That is simply not true. What the government has done is we have removed special health-care programs for those refugee claimants who have failed and are clearly bogus.”

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said the old-stock comment shows Harper uses “the politics of division.”

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair said “we’re all Canadians” and he doesn’t like dividing people into categories.

The Conservatives undertook another battle on Friday, promising to seek a stay of a Federal Court of Appeal decision to allow a Muslim woman to wear a niqab at a citizenship ceremony.

Zunera Ishaq successfully challenged a rule banning the wearing of face veils at citizenship ceremonies, but if the stay is granted, she is unlikely to have the opportunity to become a citizen before the Oct. 19 vote.

“Look, when someone joins the Canadian family there are times in our open, tolerant, pluralistic society that as part of our interactions with each other we reveal our identity through revealing our face,” Harper said.

“When you join the Canadian family in a public citizenship ceremony it is essential that that is a time when you reveal yourselves to Canadians and that is something widely supported by Canadians.”

Both the NDP and Liberals said they would drop the appeal if elected.

The issue of rules barring another group from voting _ long-term Canadian expatriates _ arose on the campaign trail Friday, when it was noted that Harper was to appear that evening at an event with Wayne Gretzky, who has lived for years in the United States.

Harper was unapologetic about the law, which has sparked anger among the some 1.4 million Canadians who have lived abroad for more than five years, and said he has never heard Gretzky challenge it.

Both of Harper’s public events Friday featured former NHLers. He appeared with Sheldon Kennedy, now a victims’ rights advocate, to announce $20 million in new money for child advocacy centres.

In Regina, Mulcair promised $2.6 billion over four years to support universal prescription drug coverage, though the party is not classifying the pledge as a national pharmacare plan.

The NDP said it will also target a 30-per-cent average reduction in the cost of prescription drugs through bulk purchasing programs, hoping to generate $3 billion in savings.



Harper on defensive over ‘old stock’ comment, niqab case

  1. Sorry. I don’t want to be a member of the Conservative definition of ‘Canadian family’.

    We pay 10’s of thousands of dollars in taxes for the ‘privilege’ of being a Canadian citizen. For what? Black advertising? Office of political/religious freedom? Legal fees for Charter challenges? Harper’s hairdresser?

    Rich people don’t pay any Canadian tax and yet they shape public policy. Wonder why that is? The money they save on income tax can go towards political contributions??

    Message to the Cons….Quit including me in your definition of a Canadian.

  2. Harper thinks he’s ‘pur laine’

    A euphemism for ‘white supremacist’

    The only ‘old stock’ in Canada are First Nations.

    • First Nations are nations, Mohawks, for example, with their own language and culture, including the word kaná:ta’, which means town. I have known plenty of people, Mohawk, Ojibwe, Atikamek, who would give you the mean eye for referring to them as Canadian, of whatever stock.

      I have a map above my desk, an original reproduction dating back to 1703. It is French (Delisle) and titled Carte du Canada ou de la Nouvelle-France et des Découvertes qui y ont été faites. It’s a strange feeling to know that my ancestors were here by then, to see how they saw their world, what we know exists today and what was wrongly believed to be.

      The first persons to be called Canadiens, like it or not, were the French who lived in Canada, one of the colonies of New France. After 1760, well things changed, and in 1867, the provinces of Canada joined those of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick and became Canada, a federation, while the province of Canada was divided into Ontario and Quebec.

      But things change with time, and I think everyone who lives in Canada is Canadian. I believe Harper is the first Canadian-born prime minister, the first born after the adoption of the Canadian citizenship act.

      I always refer to myself as a Canadienne, even when I speak English. It’s not Stepher Harper or Michael Ignatieff who are going to change the identity that has been mine all my life, and my ancestors’ for hundreds of years. I don’t have to say pure-laine or old stock, just Canadienne and everyone knows what it means, and that’s fine with me.

  3. Harper thinks he’s ‘pur laine

    A euphemism for ‘white supremacist’

    The only ‘old stock’ in Canada are First Nations

    • Since I’m sure you didn’t want to offend, this from Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK):
      For greater clarity:
      Aboriginal is an all-encompassing term that includes Inuit, First Nations (Indians), and Métis.
      “First Peoples” is also an all-encompassing term that includes Inuit, First Nations (Indians) and Métis.
      Aboriginal and First Nations are NOT interchangeable terms.
      “Aboriginal” and “First Peoples” ARE interchangeable terms.
      Inuit is the contemporary term for “Eskimo”.
      First Nation is the contemporary term for “Indian”.
      Inuit are “Aboriginal” or “First Peoples”, but are not “First Nations”, because “First Nations” are Indians. Inuit are not Indians.

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