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NDP to encourage calm discussion on citizenship dilemma

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair chats with Mayor Denis Coderre, left, during a campaign stop in Montreal on Wednesday, Sept. 23. Photo: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

iPolitics (CUP)—NDP Leader Tom Mulcair is urging tolerance and a calmer discussion about religious needs to wear face coverings when applying for Canadian citizenship.

In a speech on Sept. 23, he said he backs a requirement that women show their faces at some point in the citizenship process—but not at the citizenship ceremony, as the Conservatives would hope.

“I understand that many view the niqab as a symbol of the oppression of women. And on that, let me be clear: no one has the right to tell a woman what she must—or must not—wear,” Mulcair said.

“I am in agreement with the existing rule under which anyone seeking citizenship must uncover their face to identify themselves before swearing the oath, in accordance with their religious beliefs.”

The Conservatives want women to be required to show their faces not only at a point during the process of applying for citizenship, but also during the citizenship ceremony itself.

Mulcair’s speech comes a day before a leaders’ French-language debate in Montreal, and was organized at the last minute in a bid to clarify the NDP position on the veil. The issue is particularly controversial in Quebec, the NDP’s main support base.

The federal government is fighting a court ruling that threw out the requirement for uncovered faces at citizenship ceremonies. The government is seeking to take that Federal Court of Appeal decision to the Supreme Court of Canada, and wants the decision stayed while it appeals.

Earlier on Sept. 23, Mulcair was also asked whether he would support a Conservative minority government.

“There isn’t a snowball’s chance in hell,” he said.

“There’s no likelihood that the NDP would ever, under any circumstances, be able to support Mr. Harper, his divisive politics, his backward economics that have left 400,000 manufacturing jobs disappear over the last few years.”

That echoed a pledge from Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, who said Tuesday there are “no circumstances” in which he would support Harper staying on as prime minister with a minority.