1. With the upcoming Canadian federal election scheduled for October 19, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative party are seeking to lead the country for a fourth consecutive term. With national polls showing an increasingly tight race between the ruling Conservatives and the opposition Liberal Party led by Justin Trudeau, Harper has made a major campaign issue out of his proposal to ban the niqab from citizenship ceremonies.
  2. In 2011, Harper's government made the decision to prevent niqabs from being worn at citizenship ceremonies, arguing the garment was "rooted in a culture that is anti-women." The national controversy in Canada revolves on the case of a Muslim woman named Zunera Ishaq who attempted to take her citizenship oath wearing a niqab in early 2014.
  3. Although Ishaq had offered to remove her niqab for the ceremony in a separate room with women, she was denied the opportunity to take her oath. Ishaq later sued the government and the niqab ban was struck down last February by the Federal Court of Canada. The Harper government lost an appeal to stay the decision on October 5 and is pledging to take the case up to the Canadian Supreme Court.
  4. Stephen Harper on the Niqab ban
  5. Support for the niqab ban is highest in the French-speaking Quebec province, with a recent public opinion poll finding 93 percent opposed to face veils at citizenship ceremonies. Earlier this year, the Quebec parliament introduced Bill 62, which proposed a ban on religious face coverings for state employees giving public services and anyone receiving them.
  6. The Quebec Bill was tabled in June, but Prime Minister Harper says that if re-elected his government would look at implementing similar legislation on a national level.
  7. The Conservatives have highlighted Justin Trudeau's opposition to the Niqab ban through a French political ad intended to further erode Liberal support in Quebec. The ad states that "a large majority of Quebecois want faces shown during citizenship ceremonies" and that Trudeau "says yes to the niqab" and is "totally disconnected from Quebec values".
  8. Opposition leaders say Harper using niqab to distract, divide
  9. The Conservatives have also pledged to create a "barbaric cultural practices" tip line, an initiative which some are accusing of fueling anti-Muslim sentiment. Despite a recent attack in Toronto against a female Muslim convert wearing a niqab, some Twitter comments expressed support for the Conservative effort to ban the face veil in Canada.
  10. Other comments in the Stream community were sharply critical of Prime Minister Harper's rhetoric over the niqab issue.
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