BY BRUCE CHEADLE, THE CANADIAN PRESS
OTTAWA — Campaigning Conservatives continued to press the hot buttons Friday, focusing on what they call “barbaric cultural practices” and Muslim facial coverings amid evidence the tight, three-way election race may be starting to break loose.
Chris Alexander, the Conservative immigration minister who’s facing a tough Liberal challenge in his Toronto-area riding, held a news conference Friday to remind the electorate of last November’s “Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act,” and to promise even more government resources if re-elected, including a proposed RCMP tip line where people could report “information about incidents of barbaric cultural practices in Canada.”
Alexander directly linked the message to a proposed Conservative ban on women wearing facial coverings at citizenship ceremonies, the so-called niqab debate that targets a tiny subset of Muslims and has roiled Internet comment boards with hate-filled, racist rants.
“We need to stand up for our values,” said Alexander. “We need to do that in citizenship ceremonies. We need to do that to protect women and girls from forced marriage and other barbaric practices.”
In Halifax, Conservative Jason Kenney stoutly defended his party’s policy — since rejected by the courts — of banning the wearing of niqabs at citizenship ceremonies.
“Let’s be clear,” said the former Conservative immigration minister who nows holds the defence portfolio. “This practice of face covering reflects a misogynistic view of women which is grounded in medieval tribal culture.”
Kenney also defended the government’s move to strip convicted terrorists of their citizenship — while saying the punishment will not be extended to other criminal acts.
“We will not be pursuing any other legal or statutory grounds for citizenship revocation, let me be absolutely clear about that,” he stressed.
The heated campaign debate over “values” and religious accommodation appears to have spurred more than just anti-Islamic rhetoric in Quebec.
A pair of teens tore the headscarf from a pregnant woman in Montreal this week, causing her to fall on the ground. The incident prompted the Quebec national assembly to pass a unanimous motion Thursday condemning hate speech and violence against all Quebecers.
NDP Leader Tom Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau hold the view that women should be able to choose how they dress, which is likely to again draw fire from Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe, as it did in the first French-language debate a week ago.