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Old 03-23-2007, 08:53 PM   #1
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Quebec To Require Muslim Women To Remove Veils To Vote

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Muslim women will have to remove face coverings to vote in Quebec election

Associated Press, Friday, March 23

MONTREAL--Muslim women will have to remove face-covering veils if they want to vote in Monday's Quebec election, a government official said Friday in a decision that further stoked concerns over how Muslims are treated in the predominantly Roman Catholic, French-speaking province. Marcel Blanchet had been criticized by Quebec's three main political leaders for allowing voters to wear the niqab, which covers the entire face except for the eyes, and cast their ballots if they signed a sworn statement and showed proper ID.

Reversing his earlier decision, Blanchet said he was exercising his authority to amend articles in the electoral law to avoid disruptions when residents go to the polls. Prior to the amendment, the law did not include any provisions barring voters from covering their faces. "Relevant articles to electoral laws were modified to add the following: any person showing up at a polling station must be uncovered to exercise the right to vote," said Blanchet, who was assigned bodyguards after having received threatening phone calls and e-mails from voters outraged over his initial decision. Some voters threatened to protest by showing up at polling stations wearing masks.

The reversal was condemned by Muslim groups, who said the decision could turn some of their members away from the polls. "I am so saddened, I doubt many of these women will show up at the polls on Monday after all this mockery," said Sarah Elgazzar of the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations. "It's insulting." Muslim groups pointed out that the Canadian Armed Forces and police departments in other Canadian cities allow women to wear the headscarf on active duty.

Friday's decision also came on the heels of a number of other high profile cases that highlighted what Muslims in the province have said is a growing bias against them. Last month, an 11-year-old Muslim girl from Ontario participating in a soccer tournament in Quebec was pulled off the field after she refused the referee's request to remove her headscarf. And in January, the small town of Herouxville in central Quebec drew international attention when it adopted a declaration of "norms" that advise immigrants how to fit in, including a ban on face coverings other than on the Halloween holiday.
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Old 03-23-2007, 09:07 PM   #2
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How does a headscarf interfere with voting? Last time I voted it was winter and I was wearing my wool inca hat. Maybe I'm missing something....
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Old 03-23-2007, 09:12 PM   #3
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Originally posted by Liesje
How does a headscarf interfere with voting? Last time I voted it was winter and I was wearing my wool inca hat. Maybe I'm missing something....
I think the item in question covers all but the eyes.

I would think that a small curtained off area could be arranged where veiled women could lift their veils so a female poll worker could verify it was the same person on the id. I wouldn't think that would be too much to ask.
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Old 03-23-2007, 09:13 PM   #4
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I love the implication that Quebec is a Roman Catholic province. How ridiculous. While most Quebeckers will associate with the Church, they are probably the most secular province around and Catholicism has not had any kind of political influence since Duplessis (in fact he did a lot to kill any warm feelings towards the Church).
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Old 03-23-2007, 09:23 PM   #5
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Yeah well, it's Associated Press... Wouldn't be the first time an article has overstated or distorted the influence of religion on political decisions though.

indra, I do think it's the case that most of the (small) number of women in Quebec who wear the niqab have in fact indicated that they're OK with showing their face to a poll worker for ID purposes. It's more the fact that the initial decision to not require them to do so drew physical threats against the Electoral Officer (Blanchet), as well as threats to disrupt polling stations, that caught my eye.
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Old 03-23-2007, 09:26 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally posted by yolland
It's more the fact that the initial decision to not require them to do so drew physical threats against the Electoral Officer (Blanchet), as well as threats to disrupt polling stations, that caught my eye.
Gotcha. Unfortunately it's the nutjobs on all sides who get the most attention and often cause the most damage for everyone else.
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Old 03-23-2007, 09:29 PM   #7
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That article sounds like it is totally confusing head scarves and face coverings. The soccer girl in question wore a hijab which is generally a hair covering as opposed to a face covering. I can understand from a point of view of voter fraud - Indra's suggestion would work, I'm sure we'd also ask the same of a white male or female in a balaclava (without making the female accomodation of course - however hair coverings should be fine.


ETA: Yolland - you're right, pretty sad that wasn't the point I picked up on as it is such a given that those kind of threats in this situation could exist.
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Old 03-23-2007, 09:32 PM   #8
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The article does say "headscarf" concerning the soccer player. I didn't read it as suggesting the two situations were the same, rather just throwing those last two cases in as political context. But I can see where a reader might not take it that way.
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Old 03-23-2007, 09:34 PM   #9
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Thanks for the clarification. I didn't think of the face part, since when we vote we don't even have to show ID! I spent all day hunting for my voter registration card and all I had to do was say my name so they could highlight me in their register book.
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Old 03-23-2007, 09:34 PM   #10
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I did read it as the same as the Muslim groups were pointing out that the Armed Forces etc. allowed the headscarf as part of the objection to the reversal.
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Old 03-25-2007, 12:25 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally posted by yolland
Yeah well, it's Associated Press... Wouldn't be the first time an article has overstated or distorted the influence of religion on political decisions though.
Just to clarify, the AP is kind of a hard thing to take a jab at because it includes AP member papers. I've had stuff picked up by the AP. (Which probably deserved jabs of its own, I'm sure. )
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Old 03-26-2007, 04:10 PM   #12
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What's voting got to do with the headscarf? I don't see why they can't wear the headscarf and vote. I think it's stupid.
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Old 03-26-2007, 07:16 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally posted by verte76
What's voting got to do with the headscarf? I don't see why they can't wear the headscarf and vote. I think it's stupid.
Because if their face is fully covered, then how can you verify identification? We have to show photo ID when we vote.
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Old 03-26-2007, 07:33 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally posted by verte76
What's voting got to do with the headscarf? I don't see why they can't wear the headscarf and vote. I think it's stupid.
Again, there's a difference between a headscarf and a veil. I don't think anyone has a problem with women wearing the hijab to vote, since it's still pretty easy to tell if it's the same person on the ID (a hijab covers only the hair, not facial features).

The issue here is with women wearing veils (ones that cover part or most of their face) to vote, since it's pretty tough to verify someone's identity if all you can see is their eyes.

It makes total sense. If Elections Canada went with indra's suggestion (where the woman with the veil could go to another room with a female poll worker and briefly lift up the veil privately to check identity), I can't see how anyone can complain.

The religious freedom to obscure one's face in public isn't completely incontrovertible, after all. It's not a Charter violation to require someone to properly identify themselves when they go to vote.

ETA: Anyone know what the rules in Muslim society regarding veils actually are? I admit ignorance, it may very well be that it is expressly forbidden to lift the veil for anyone other than one's husband, for all I know.
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Old 03-26-2007, 10:11 PM   #15
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^ There's no law to that precise effect, no, although some very conservative sects might say that only certain male and female relatives or children, as specified in the Koran, are ever allowed to see her without niqab (though the passage which lists those relatives is unclear as to what type of head covering is meant, and I think it may also be unclear as to whether other women who see her unveiled need be relatives). My impression from the handful of articles I've read is that most of the (small minority of) Muslim women, particularly in Western countries, who wear 'all but the eyes'-type veils like niqab don't see briefly unveiling for official purposes like voter ID as a problem. Again I think the issue here is less that the tiny number of Muslim women in Quebec who wear niqab objected to unveiling for a poll worker, than the way some people reacted when the government initially indicated it wasn't necessary for them to unveil--that they could just come with a third party who would vouch for their identity, as voters without photo ID are allowed to do.
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