by Janice Dickson in Ottawa
Conservative leadership candidate Kellie Leitch’s campaign says she did not know Ron Banjaree, an anti-Muslim advocate, or the organization Rise Canada would be at the event she attended Monday evening in Brampton.
“Kellie did not know this person or this organization would be there. Had she known she would not have attended,” Leitch’s campaign spokesman Michael Diamond told iPolitics in an email.
Diamond said Leitch attended a meeting organized by an organization called “Keep Religion Out of Public Schools” in support of secular and pluralistic public schools.
“Kellie does not believe that this long standing Canadian practice should be changed to accommodate one group. Other individuals and groups attended this meeting, there was no guest list sent to Kellie prior to the event. This meeting was about the place of religion in public schools,” wrote Diamond.
Leitch did address the anti-Muslim group, though, and the money raised at the event was to go toward fighting the construction of a mosque in Brampton.
Banjaree, director of Canadian Hindu Advocacy and an advisor to Rise Canada, spoke to the audience awaiting Leitch’s arrival on Monday. In a video of his address posted to YouTube — posted below — Banjaree says Rise Canada is connected to different groups, including the Jewish Defence League of Canada, the United Christian Federation and other groups he describes as “fighting the Sharia creep.”
He tells the audience that, five years ago, the group didn’t exist, but with the help of mostly Christian groups it was able to do a series of “large scale demonstrations regarding prayers, Islamic prayers, in Toronto District School Board public schools, specifically it was Valley Park School.”
“At the time they had taken over the cafeteria for school prayers. They’re still doing it, by the way,” he tells the group. He goes on to claim that those organizing the prayers have made female students sit behind the boys and in some cases have excluded them from prayers altogether.
A Caucasian man in the audience pipes up at this point: “Sometimes they do panty checks. It’s disgusting.”
Diamond wrote that the meeting was attended by “a number of people from a number of different groups, including people from Rise Canada. That is clear.
“It is also clear that Kellie was not at the event while a representative from Rise Canada was speaking.”
Banjaree recently attended a Toronto school board meeting on religious accommodation where someone ripped up a copy of the Qur’an. At that board meeting, someone else was distributing flyers from Rise Canada which called for the elimination all policies of ‘religious accommodation’ in schools.
On the recording, Banjaree welcomes Leitch as she slowly makes her way to the podium, stopping along the way to shake hands with Banjaree’s supporters.
Leitch takes questions from the audience, but it appears only one — from Banjaree — was captured on video.
Banjaree claims that India has the best human rights record in the world and should be considered a “safe country” for migration, like Canada, the United States and many countries in Europe. He says that there have been problems with people from India claiming refugee status in Canada and people involved in the 1985 Air India bombing were able to claim refugee status in Canada.
Banjaree asks Leitch to look into why India is not considered a “safe country”; she says she will.
Diamond said that while Leitch responded a question from the floor, “she did not know this person or this organization would be there. Had she known she would not have attended.
“She wants to be very clear that this guy and his opinions are repugnant and do not reflect her own views.”
Diamond said Leitch is supportive of secular and pluralistic public schools. She is committed to building a country that promotes the shared values of hard work, generosity, freedom, tolerance, equality of opportunity and equality of individuals. “That includes the freedom to practice your religion and the responsibility to be tolerant of other people’s religion.”
A blog called Anti-Racist Canada posted an exhaustive list of links to reports of controversial activity by Banjaree, including the video from the event Leitch attended with him on Monday.
At the end of the video, an attendee says that former Mississauga mayoral candidate Kevin Johnston collected $244 from supporters at the event that will go toward fighting the construction of a mosque that was recently approved by Mississauga City Council.
In early March, city council gave the Meadowvale Islamic Centre Inc. and the City of Mississauga a green light to move forward with the development of the mosque.
Johnston reportedly expressed his concerns about the mosque on his website, “Stop the Mosque”. According to Mississauga.com, Johnston wrote on his website that the mosque would drive up crime and vandalism, set back women’s rights and affect housing prices.
Some Tory leadership contenders came under fire for giving interviews to Johnston on his YouTube channel, FreedomReport.ca.
In one of his video rants, he warns Liberal MP Iqra Khalid, author of motion 103 condemning Islamophobia, that he’ll be there “with a big, fat smile” to film the moment when she’s shot by a “gun nut.”
Published in partnership with iPolitics.ca.
Posters ‘in no way reflect the inclusive, diverse and caring culture of this university,’ says President Cannon EARLY Tuesday morning, about 40 anti-Muslim posters were found and removed by Campus Security on the University of Calgary’s main campus.
“The University of Calgary is committed to creating a safe and respectful campus for all […]
by Susan Delacourt in Ottawa
It might be an awkward time to remind Conservatives of this, but the current government has two different standards for when one can wear a niqab — one for citizenship ceremonies, one for voting.
It is definitely not OK — “offensive” even — for people to wear face coverings at citizenship ceremonies, Conservatives swiftly declared after an important court ruling cleared the way for that practice this week.
Voting, apparently, is a different matter. Despite all of their condemnations of veiled voting several years ago — and all the other sweeping changes in the 2014 Fair Elections Act making it tougher to vote — somehow Conservatives never did get around to banning face coverings at the ballot box.
That’s right. The same face coverings that are “offensive” in citizenship ceremonies are allowed in the voting booth, according to the Conservative government’s own laws … or lack of them.
So Zunera Ishaq, the 29-year-old woman who went to Federal Court to win the right to cover her face during a citizenship ceremony, didn’t have to go to court for the same right at the voting booth. She already had that right, as soon as she had Canadian citizenship.
Elections Canada has a procedure in place for any voters who want to cast a ballot while wearing face coverings on Oct. 19. Here’s how it described that procedure in an advisory sent out late last year after the Fair Elections Act became law:
If an elector wearing a face covering comes to vote, the deputy returning officer will ask the elector to show their face. If the elector agrees to remove their face covering, the election officer will follow regular voting procedures. Election officers have been instructed to exercise respect and sensitivity in following this administrative procedure. If the elector does not wish to remove their face covering, the deputy returning officer will advise the elector that they must provide two pieces of authorized identification, one proving their identity and the other proving their identity and address, and then take an oath attesting to their eligibility to vote. If the elector agrees to provide the identification and take the oath, the election officer will follow regular voting procedures.
It’s not like the government forgot to ban veiled voting in the Fair Elections Act. When a Commons committee was reviewing the bill in early 2014, Bloc MP André Bellavance specifically asked why the prohibition wasn’t in the bill. Two cabinet ministers, Jason Kenney and Pierre Poilievre, said they were open to amendments on that score.
The amendments never materialized.
Odder still, in Ishaq’s court case, a lawyer for the Justice Department testified that it was never the government’s intention to make it mandatory for women to remove face coverings at citizenship ceremonies.
What we have here is a textbook case of saying one thing and doing another in politics. The ‘saying’ part is for all the wrong reasons — the ‘doing’ part is for the right ones.
Sending dog-whistle signals
I suspect the Conservative government realized several years ago that it was legally impossible to ban veiled voting. Two attempts were made between 2007 and 2011. Both quietly died on the order paper.
Here’s why: It would amount to singling out certain members of the population for restricted rights. We do allow people to vote in Canada without showing their face at the ballot box — through proxies, or mail-in special ballots. How do you write a law that says some people don’t need to show their faces, but others do?
Moreover, a special law to prohibit the niqab would stomp all over Canadians’ rights to religious expression. That’s probably why the Justice Department lawyer felt he had to point out the non-mandatory aspect of the legislation in Federal Court.
Rather than explain this to Canadians, though, the Conservatives took the path of blustering about niqabs and sending dog-whistle signals to people uncomfortable or fearful about Muslims. Bad statesmanship. Easy politics, though.
We saw that earlier this year, as well, when the Conservatives sent out a fundraising e-mail asking supporters to sign up if they agreed that it was “offensive” to wear a niqab or a hijab at citizenship ceremonies. The e-mail left little doubt that the Conservatives were whipping up these sentiments for reasons of purest electoral politics.
The note was signed by Immigration Minister Chris Alexander and stirred up some controversy with his interchangeable use of ‘niqab’ and ‘hijab’; one is generally associated with full-face coverings, while the other, the hijab, is commonly used to describe a head covering.
To make things even more confusing, not all Conservatives have been using the word “offensive” when it comes to garments of religious expression. Kenney, for instance, said on Twitter in 2013: “A child is no less Canadian because she or he wears a kippa, turban, cross, or hijab to school.” Kenney sent out that missive in the midst of the Quebec debate over the wearing of religious symbols in public.
There’s still a month left in this election and it’s entirely possible that one of the eleventh-hour Conservative campaign promises will revolve around banning veiled voting — again. It would fit well with this week’s bluster on citizenship ceremonies.
This time we might ask them: Why did the last two attempts quietly die? Are they serious this time, or is this just another attempt to whip up some good old-fashioned intolerance?
What’s really being veiled here by all this talk about the niqab?
Susan Delacourt is one of Canada’s best-known political journalists. Over her long career she has worked at some of the top newsrooms in the country, from the Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail to the Ottawa Citizen and the National Post. She is a frequent political panelist on CBC Radio and CTV. Author of four books, her latest — Shopping For Votes — was a finalist for the prestigious Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Canadian non-fiction in 2014. She teaches classes in journalism and political communication at Carleton University.
Published in partnership with iPolitics.ca.
-- Canada's economic development minister Navdeep Bains at a Public Policy Forum economic summit