[cobbled together from various comments/forum posts, edited substantially for coherency]
Ok, so we’ve heard from the NDP (sort of). And if the NDP kills the bill, great.
But upon reflection (thanks, skdadl) I think my last post was itself too mealy-mouthed in reaction to what amounts to awkward damage control by the Dippers. The NDP dropped the ball and still hasn’t picked it up–period. Some may be comforted by Dewar’s non-response, but, rather than clarifying the Dipper position on C-6, I find it further muddies the water.
Dewar’s letter, and the response from some hardcore NDP partisans, rubs me the wrong way. “Muslims see this as a non-issue” was initially the preferred talking point of some Dipper apologists (we’ll leave aside the crass notion of Muslims in Canada holding monolithic views). But this is a misrepresentation of what has been said by some (some) leaders in the Islamic community who have spoken out in regards to the (non) issue. Here’s an example courtesy the Halifax Daily News:
The veiled voting controversy is a tempest in search of a teapot, says Saleem Ahmad, president of the Islamic Association of Nova Scotia. Framed in the context of “reasonable accommodation,” a national firestorm has been raging over the issue of whether Muslim women can vote while covering their faces with veils.
“It’s just the hypocrisy of the government,” Ahmad says.
“There was no controversy. The Muslim community never complained. The women would gladly take off their veil for a woman official.”
He points out that no one is required to show photo ID to vote, and postal voting does not require photo ID. Further, he estimates that 300 women in all of Canada wear the veil.
Hamzah Mangera, the imam at the Dartmouth mosque, agrees it is a non-issue. His wife, who wears a veil, happily removes it in private for female officials when using her passport to cross borders.
Mangera says the row points to a deeper issue of fears over cultural integration, as illustrated by the “code of conduct” produced by Herouxvile, Que., which informed newcomers that stoning women was prohibited and that women should show their faces in public, apart from Halloween.
Ahmad blames an outburst of xenophobia against Muslims, led by “that idiot down south” (U.S. President George W. Bush) and a lack of nerve among Canadian politicians to say it is not an issue, “rather than courting an easy vote.”
What has stirred up the tempest is Bill C-6, not the outcry against it. Face saving or not, the fact that some members of a purported social democratic party feel there’s even room for discussion is highly disturbing. The last thing we need is New Labour North.
Sinister Greg asked some pertinent questions yesterday that still deserve an answer:
Was Godin freelancing or did he have reason to think the party was behind him? Why did they sit on this for over 24 hours? Where is Jack Layton? Usually he can’t run to the microphones fast enough, why is he silent now? Why does Dewar say the party has not taken a final position on Bill C-6? Why not? Do they think they can somehow spin shit into gold? I think it is a bit rich too, for Dewar to say this bill was introduced for political reasons, when the NDP, the Liberals and the Bloc egged the government on with their craven attacks on Mr. Maynard. Trying to slam the barn door now is just a laughable attempt at damage control.
pogge has some questions of his own:
There was no ambiguity at all in the Globe and Mail‘s headline: NDP supports show-your-face bill. And the story supported the headline. And there is, as of this writing, no correction attached to that story.
So what gives? Did Yvon Godin miscommunicate? Did someone else? Did the Globe reporter screw up?
Bill C-6 doesn’t exist in a vacuum. On its own, it may be a ‘non-issue’, but it takes on an entirely different meaning when taken in context with today’s increasingly xenophobic political culture where Muslims have been singled out for attention (especially in Quebec). As any person of colour can tell you (*waves*), it’s easy to shrug off blatant attempts at othering when one is privileged to be a member of the majority culture.
Now, to be fair, though ideologically I’m a social democrat and have only ever voted NDP (both federally and provincially), I hold no love for Jack Layton. I do try to restrain myself from reflexively ‘piling on’ out of spite when it appears he’s giving the Stephen Harper Party a pass (even though admittedly the temptation is ever present). But this issue in particular should transcend partisan loyalty (or lack thereof).
Over the past several years our neighbours next door have provided an all-too-visceral example of what happens when unapologetic nativism is allowed to be mainstreamed. I for one refuse to remain silent as this country continues its incremental-but-increasingly-apparent shift to the capital ‘R’ Right; the potential consequences threaten everything that makes (post ’67) Canada Canada. And when the party that best represents my ideals helps contribute to fascism’s creep (whether deliberately or unintentionally) I feel obligated to speak out, goddamn the optics–especially when those purportedly on ‘my side’ have reflexively defended the indefensible with privileged apologia like .
To quote the ever-quotable skdadl:
The issue here isn’t ID by face. The issue is a neocon assault on voters’ rights, spun for the neocon base on sexist, racist, and paranoid-political grounds, and if Canadian leftists haven’t wised up enough yet to recognize this kind of Rovian shit and call it for what it is, then we are in trouble … srsly.”
Bottom line: why won’t the NDP take a definite position against legislation that is both (admittedly) unnecessary and (IMO) deliberately inflammatory?