Right: a woman wearing a niqab stands by a light crossing with a boy. Left: a woman wearing sunglasses walks past a store. Photo/Flickr via Fabio Venni [http://bit.ly/1H3Euy1]

Picking the wrong battle

  • March 19, 2015

A country that deems it progressive to kill your grandmother but conservative for the state to dictate your choice of hat might be going, in a technical sense, nuts.

Minds steeped far more deeply in politico-psychology than mine will have to provide the definite diagnosis. Yet it does seem plausible — to me anyway — that the current federal furor over wearing of the Muslim niqab in a country waiting for doctors to deliver death through the public health care system takes us to the bad side of barmy.

The alarms over the niqab erupted last week when Liberal leader Justin Trudeau took the Stephen Harper government to task for continuing a legal fight against a woman who insists on her right to wear the veiled garment at a citizenship ceremony. In the House of Commons, I watched the Prime Minister feign his finest umbrage to retort that his government was bravely standing up for women’s rights against the dark and creeping forces of Islamic patriarchy. The niqab, he insisted, has no place in Canadian culture.

There’s no question that, as an offence against even Canada’s lax laws of haberdashery, publicly wearing the niqab would merit summary conviction if we ever got a much-needed national Aesthetics Act. The niqab is just such terrible showing off. It purports to project modesty yet is the same masochistic yelp for public attention as a display of tattooed cleavage. Its aggressive assertion of invisibility rivals that of men over age 43 who wear blue jeans and white tennis sneakers to the office.

But a threat to our national culture? Trudeau got it right. That is just the Harper government (sadly including Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney, who knows much better) cherry-picking an issue on the heads of a miniscule minority of women living in major urban areas. It might even be — this would be truly unseemly if it were true — the Conservative government pandering to the vile political-class prejudices in Quebec that most of us thought had been put to rest when the odious Charter of Values was rejected in the 2014 provincial election.

Whatever its motives, the government’s argument is incoherent precisely because it comes from, well, this particular government. It is supposed to be the small government government. It claims to be a government intent on getting the state as far as is prudent out of the lives of citizens. Yet there it is rushing to the barricades to defend Canada’s venerable traditions from . . . women who choose to wear a few centimetres of cloth over their faces? What happened to the core conservative principle of leaving Canadians alone to choose their own hats for their own heads?
It is not just the Tories abandoning their own beliefs that is so troubling. What makes me wonder for their sanity — and ours — is their utter abdication of their role in protecting authentic Canadian virtues. While they are all a-flutter over a bit of Islamic facial tissue, for example, they resolutely refuse to even allow debate on measures to prevent the flesh of unborn children being torn to shreds in their mothers’ wombs. In line with that, they appear to be standing with their arms folded while Supreme Court ordered physician-assisted suicide becomes the order of the day in hospitals across the land.

People I know who know such things assure me the government has no intention of touching the assisted-suicide issue before the October federal election. It is content to, as the saying goes, “kick the can down the road” for as long as it can. Indeed, as one person told me bluntly: “People have already forgotten about it.” People, that is, who really should be working diligently on crafting a law with the strictest language possible to guarantee that the absolute minimum number of physician-assisted suicides can ever occur in this country

When it comes to fostering this comfortable numbness as we pitch off the moral cliff, however, Trudeau is also complicit. Having already forbidden pro-life candidates from even running for the Liberal party, he has more recently waxed eloquently about the “progressive value” of having a doctor put a needle in grandmother’s arm to finish her off.

How it is progress to treat the elderly as veterinarians treat unwanted cats and dogs goes undebated and unanswered.
Crazy, wouldn’t you say?

(Stockland is publisher of Convivium magazine and a senior fellow at Cardus.)

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