Niqab or Red Herring?

All my life I have been happy and proud to be a Canadian. The Canada of my generation has been liberal in its policies and with peaceful purpose for its role in the world. Canada is a country of religious tolerance and freedom; it is written into our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I am, however, dismayed by what I see happening here as a federal election campaign is in full swing.
There are three main political parties in Canada: the Conservatives led my Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the New Democratic Party (NDP), the official opposition party, led by Thomas Mulcair and the Liberals led by Justin Trudeau, son of Pierre Trudeau.
We have some larger issues to deal with, at the moment. Canada has an economy that is in rather poor shape, a huge increase in our deficit, out-sized for a country with our population, incurred during the past nine years, too many of our chips riding on the Alberta oil sands and the oil pipeline no one seems to want on their land, a bill passed that gives government agents the right to spy on groups and individuals without a strong structure of over site to which they are answerable, inadequate housing and daycare, a dismal performance regarding global warming and a questionable role, to many Canadians, in world peacekeeping.
Into the middle of all these issues our cunning Prime Minister has thrown a well-aimed red herring. In doing so he shows a clear antipathy towards Muslims. A woman, an immigrant to Canada and a religious Muslim, in the Province of Ontario wished to wear her niqab (face-covering cloth) to her citizenship oath swearing. She was very willing to bare her face to a female court clerk prior to the five-minute ceremony and to wear a microphone so that her oath could be heard beneath her niqab. Women's groups working for equality might not like it. Those who wish to separate religion and state might also not like it. After 9/11 and with ISIS and other terrorist groups at center stage people are afraid. The Conservative party has done much to encourage this fear. Many people have unfairly painted all Muslims with the same brush as they have the extremists. Some people believe that if you can't show your face you have something to hide.
Many people see Muslim women as oppressed. I do not wish to make an argument for or against all of this. For me, the bottom line is that this woman should be allowed to wear what she chooses just as the rest of us should. Our government does not have to replace the imams, husbands and brothers they believe control Muslim women and their choices. There are many symbols of religion that people choose to wear: the Sikh turban, the cross, yarmulkes, bonnets, wigs, hijabs (head covering), robes and skull caps like the Pope's. The list of religious clothing choices is quite long. What I believe is that in this country that I love we have built in the right to religious freedom and not just for those who arrived earlier or are in the majority. Our rights are firmly ensconced in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The leader of the NDP, Tom Mulcair, and the Liberal leader, Justin Trudeau have, to their credit, defended this woman's right to wear the niqab. Because of their position on this the NDP which started in this election campaign in the lead, has been slipping in the polls. These two political parties that do not play to fear mongering may lose votes over an emotional issue which has nothing to do with the major issues at which Canadians should all be looking. Our Charter of Rights and Freedoms will defend this woman's rights. When the case came to the Federal Court of Appeals the woman was granted to right to wear her niqab. Harper is seeking leave of the Supreme Court of Canada to appeal to that Court. Scapegoating is a very old part of our human history. Do we need to keep staying with fear? It is the beginning of a slippery and dangerous slope. Do we want this kind of leadership? Where are our common sense and our tolerance? Where is our heart?
My wish to understand love through the experience of others led me to create Heartbeats, True Stories of Love. In my book there are fifty uplifting and inspiring stories that people have shared with me. The stories are about romantic love, family love, love of friends, love we share with animals as well as other kinds of love. I truly believe that love is the most important thing. Heartbeats, True Stories of Love, which has been published as a paperback and e-book, can be found on
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