Prince George, B.C. – Got your knickers in a knot over the niqab?
Then there’s something you should read. No, not the drivel I dribble out from time to time (OK, most of the time), but rather something from Martyn Brown, former chief of staff for Premier Gordon Campbell.Brown’s article in the Georgia Strait “How Stephen Harper’s niqab divide demeans us all,” should be required reading for all Canadians who want to beak off on this issue.
He points out few things that are lost in the heated rhetoric surrounding the issue and which the mainstream media in this country (willingly?) ignore.
Firstly, Zunera Ishaq, the woman at the centre of the issue, has actually been a Canadian citizen since 2013. She revealed her face when she took her citizenship test. She revealed her face when she got her driver’s licence.
The entire issue is whether she can wear a niqab during the citizenship ceremony, which is, well, ceremonial.
If anyone has ever been to one, they’re pretty simple affairs … although very emotional for those taking the oath. There is usually lots of family present. And there are tears, particularly from those who have escaped from a nasty place.
The new citizens, who have already passed their citizenship test, gather in a room and someone in authority, usually a judge, says a few words, gets the new citizens to stand up, raise their right hand and take the oath. The oath is short and sweet, just a couple of sentences.
There can be as many as 50 people or more taking the oath all at once.
I’ve covered a few over the years and the reality is (as Brown points out), no one actually checks, or listens, to ensure all the new citizens actually say the oath.
A new citizen could hold their citizenship scroll, which they also get, in front of their face while uttering the oath and no one would say “boo.” They could mumble, like most of us do when we’re singing the national anthem, they could just keep their mouth shut, or, they could avoid the ceremony altogether, and still become a citizen.
So now the entire country is all bent out of shape over something that is, in the scheme of things, irrelevant.
I wonder how many of those who think Canadian society is on the brink of collapse because of this, have actually attended a citizenship ceremony or actually know the words to the oath.
We have allowed ourselves to get worked up into a tizzy over this issue, and we shouldn’t.
Bill Phillips is a freelance columnist living in Prince George. He was the winner of the 2009 Best Editorial award at the British Columbia/Yukon Community Newspaper Association’s Ma Murray awards, in 2007 he won the association’s Best Columnist award. In 2004, he placed third in the Canadian Community Newspaper best columnist category and, in 2003, placed second. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org