There must be an election brewing. Once again the “progressive” Bloc Québécois is pandering to the hérouxvillistes by finding a minority to scapegoat: and the pure laine types will lap it up like crème fraiche. Ban the kirpan from the House of Commons! Security!
Readers will remember when Elections Canada head Marc Mayrand was pilloried back in 2007 for stating the plain truth: the law does not compel women in niqab to show their faces in order to vote. Three by-elections had been announced in la belle province, and the four federal parties, none covering themselves with glory, had called the man on the rug for refusing to enforce a law that didn’t exist.
Quebec is still at it, currently trying to pass legislation (Bill 94) that would deny social services to women in niqab—all 100 or so of them, in a population of nearly 4 million women. Why, a special law, just for them—how nice. Opposition leader Michael Ignatieff, who unexpectedly grew a spine on the kirpan issue (one of his own caucus members, Navdeep Bains, wears one, which might help to explain his sudden flash of character), supports the Quebec bill, calling it “a good Canadian balance” after typically flip-flopping on the matter.
Nope. To paraphrase Voltaire, neither good, nor Canadian, nor a balance.
Almost needless to say, conservatives, their Islamophobia barely veiled, applaud Bill 94. Even hijab gets the hairy eyeball, as did turbans back in the day when Sikhs couldn’t get into the RCMP and their veterans were banned from Canadian Legion halls. (Yarmulkes, then and now, haven’t attracted similar controversy, but you never know, particularly in the land of Lionel Groulx.)
So how do kirpans get into this? Here’s Barbara Kay:
The [Supreme Court of Canada] made their ruling on the basis of the kirpan’s potential physical risk to other students. In fact, the “danger” grounding is a red herring. Nobody is really worried that Sikh students will attack anyone with their childish, blunted “weapons.”
(“Childish?” Stay classy, Babs.) So what’s the problem, then?
The real worry is - or should be - that if you allow a harmless symbol that looks like a weapon to be worn, there will be no grounds to refuse other so-called religious symbols that are more ideological statements than talismans of faith.
Aha! Another slippery slope! Stonings and amputations!
France banned hijabs in school in 2003, ruling anything that “ostentatiously manifests” religious belonging has no place in the public school system. They understood very well that the hijab had become, just as it was intended to be by the Iranian mullahs who imposed it on women after the 1979 revolution, a political “messaging” tool for Islamism, and that in critical masses, it acted as a socially aggressive threat to the comfort of other students. The niqab poses the same social threat in our institutions, only more so, which is why France and Belgium have banned them outright.
Good grief. Where does one start? Are 100 or so women in the whole of Quebec a “critical mass?” Is hijab to be next on the banned list? Are yarmulke-wearers the thin edge of the exterminationist wedge? Must I abandon my Borsalino lest Silvio Berlusconi establish a beachhead in this fair land?
In any case, we see now that the poor Sikhs are merely collateral damage in the Clash of Civilizations.
The kirpan kerfuffle is far from over. The World Sikh Organization of Canada has “reached out” to the BQ, trying to stave off a Parliamentary ban on the kirpan. My first thought was that they were making far too much of this—one throwaway comment by a Bloc spokesperson is a far cry from such a ban actually being formally proposed and implemented—but the silence of the ruling Conservatives is worrying. The CPC and the Bloc would enjoy a comfortable majority in the House were this matter to come to a head.
And so it might well. Strange things happen in the run-up to a federal election. Will bigotry rule the House of Commons as the Cons and the Bloc scramble for la vote péquenaude?