I first heard Immigration Minister Jason Kenney on the radio on Monday night, talking about his decision that women wearing a niqab must show their faces during the citizenship ceremony in order. I couldn’t believe my ears when he used the fact that women are required to be unveiled when they participate in the Hajj. ‘Really Jason?’ I thought. ‘You’re comparing a religious pilgrimage to a citizenship ceremony?!’
I had to shake my head.
Surely there is some way to have women wearing a niqab verify their identity in private with a female before entering the room for the ceremony. Seems like a perfectly reasonable compromise to me. In fact, when I checked with a friend who is an Ontario Human Rights Commissioner, that is exactly what happens at airports. So…?
When I read the article in the Toronto Star, I was stunned when I came across the following: “This is not simply a practical measure. It is a matter of deep principle that goes to the heart of our identity and our values of openness and equality,” Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said Monday as he announced the changes in Montreal.
I don’t know about you, but to me, “values of openness and equality” mean that we recognize difference, acknowledge people’s needs, and find ways to make it work. That’s what diversity and inclusion is all about. This decision is the antithesis of openness and equality.
Copyright 2011 Annemarie Shrouder
author, speaker and facilitator on issues of diversity and inclusion