Naheed Nenshi fires back at Jason Kenney for comments on niqab ban
Naheed Nenshi fires back at Jason Kenney for comments on niqab ban

Naheed Nenshi fires back at Jason Kenney for comments on niqab ban

Social media is abuzz with activity after Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi called out Cabinet Minister Jason Kenney on the issue of women wearing niqabs during citizenship ceremonies.

On Wednesday, Mayor Naheed Nenshi blasted the Tories for the federal government’s legal fight against a handful of Islamic women wearing the niqab face covering during citizenship ceremonies.

Canada’s first Muslim mayor of a big city argued it’s an “unbelievably dangerous,” politically-motived game that is wasting taxpayers’ money.

But Jason Kenney, who introduced the niqab ban as citizenship and immigration minister, denied the Conservatives are using the issue to win votes. He said it’s “unfortunate that some politically correct liberals have rushed to the defence” of the niqab.

“If anything’s dangerous, it would be legitimizing a medieval tribal custom that treats women as property rather than people,” Kenney, running for re-election in Calgary Midnapore, said in an interview Thursday.

“It seems to me that it’s the mayor and people like him who are politicizing it. I don’t think this should be an issue of contention.”

Nenshi declined to speak to the Herald Thursday, but fired back at Kenney on Twitter.

“’People like me,’ eh?’ “Let’s just assume (Jason Kenney) means ’thoughtful people,’ shall we?” Nenshi tweeted, prompting the trending hashtag #PeopleLikeNenshi.

The Conservatives say the public is on their side and they have jumped in the polls since the niqab issue became prominent during the campaign, which will see voters cast their ballots Oct. 19.

Kenney, Canada’s multiculturalism minister, said Nenshi’s comments would have no impact on the election — and no effect on his working relationship with Calgary’s mayor.

“We’re all used to Naheed’s running social commentary on everything. That’s nothing new,” said Kenney, who is also the federal defence minister.

In September, the Federal Court of Appeal sided with a previous lower court ruling that struck down a government policy banning face coverings during citizenship ceremonies.

It has since cropped up during the campaign with the Conservatives promising to take the matter to the Supreme Court and, if elected, introduce legislation to turn the policy into law.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said Thursday she is concerned the niqab issue is creating division, but doesn’t want to “fire this up a whole lot more.”

“I am disappointed and troubled to see minority rights issues becoming political footballs in the election and I don’t think that’s helpful,” she said.

On Wednesday, Nenshi told radio host Evan Solomon there are so few woman actually affected by the niqab ban that it is an “issue that is absolutely relevant to zero of us.”

Yet, Nenshi said, the Conservatives are spending millions of dollars of “yours and my money” on an “un-winnable appeal.”

“This is unbelievably dangerous stuff. It’s not fun anymore. I spoke with a group of mayors and councillors from all over Alberta last week … I stood up and said this is disgusting and it is time for us to say stop it — it’s time for us to say this is enough,” he said.

Nenshi noted the citizenship oath is ceremonial and that women unveil themselves and provide identification separately.

Earlier in the campaign, Nenshi criticized Stephen Harper’s Conservatives over what he said was an inadequate response to the Syrian refugee crisis. He told Solomon the issue had been “disgustingly politicized” and said the Conservative’s early focus on security concerns was “dog whistle politics.”


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