March 20, 2015 3:15 pm
Updated: March 20, 2015 6:30 pm

Most Canadians say faces shouldn’t be covered at citizenship ceremonies: poll

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WATCH: In a new Global News/Ipsos Reid poll, an overwhelming majority agree with the government’s stance on the issue. Jacques Bourbeau explains.

A new Global News/Ipsos Reid poll indicates most Canadians agree with the prime minister when it comes to face coverings while taking their oath at citizenship ceremonies.

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Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently said that wearing the niqab is “rooted in a culture that is anti-women” and that it is “offensive” for someone to keep their face shrouded during the citizenship ceremony.

The poll indicated that 88 per cent of Canadians strongly or somewhat support the “requirement that people show their faces during Canadian citizenship ceremonies.”

At the same time, 72 per cent of respondents said they strongly or somewhat agree with Harper’s comment about the niqabs and burkas being symbols of oppression.

READ MORE: Harper’s niqab comments spark #DressCodePM Twitter backlash

“What initially comes across as being politically insensitive, is actually politically expedient,” said Ipsos Reid Vice President Sean Simpson.

“One thing that I think is particularly interesting to note, is that the prime minister’s comments could be seen, on the face of it, as being politically incorrect,” he told Global News. “But when we look at the results among voters for each of the parties in Canada, we found that a majority of voters support the prime minister’s position.”

While respondents who indicated they vote for the Conservatives were overwhelmingly supportive of the prime minister’s positions — 96 per cent said they agreed with Harper — supporters of the Liberals, NDP and Bloc Quebecois were also in agreement with the requirement that faces should not be covered during the oath.

How do supporters of Canada’s major political parties feel about the requirement to show faces at while taking the citizenship oath?

  • 96 per cent of Conservative supporters
  • 85 per cent of Liberal supporters
  • 83 per cent of NDP supporters
  • 81 per cent of Bloc Quebecois supporters

How do political party supporters feel about allowing Muslim women to wear a niqab or burka while taking the citizenship oath?

  • 78 per cent of Conservative supporters disagree with allowing Muslim women beign allowed to where a niqab or burka when being sworn in as Canadians
  • 76 per cent of Bloc Quebecois supporters
  • 66 per cent of NDP supporters
  • 60 per cent of Liberal supporters

Percentage of political party supporters who feel the burka and niqab are symbols of oppression rooted in a culture that is anti-women.

  • 86 per cent of Bloc Quebecois supporters
  • 84 per cent of Conservative supporters
  • 70 per cent of NDP supporters
  • 66 percent of Liberal supporters

“There’s really no political risk for the prime minister in saying these things because he’s not going to alienate members of his own party, people who support his position already,” Simpson said. “And, in fact, a majority of supporters of other parties still agree with the prime minister.”

He added that doesn’t mean Harper’s opinion could win him more votes in the upcoming federal election, but “it does give a sense of the values that the prime minister is trying to convey.”

But one woman who chose to wear a niqab, after becoming a Canadian citizen, said it’s not fair to tell a new citizen not to be herself when she’s taking her oath.

“This is one ceremony when a woman should be comfortable in her own skin and she should be able to wear whatever they want to,” said Shomyla Hammad, a mother of two from Pakistan who moved to Canada in 2002.
She only began wearing a niqab eight years ago (she wore a hijab at her citizenship ceremony).

It was a part of a “spiritual journey,” she told Global News at her home in Mississauga. No one else in her family wears the covering and her husband was initially opposed to it, something she says is contrary to what people commonly believe about women who wear a niqab.

“I want every Canadian to know that [this] was the decision I [made] because I was in Canada. Anywhere else in the world, I wouldn’t be able to [make] this decision,” Hammad said. “Canada empowered me. Canada taught me how to be yourself and do whatever you want to do.”

EXTENDED INTERVIEW: What wearing a niqab means to Shomyla Hammad

Alia Hogben, the executive director of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women, said she was “saddened” to hear how many Canadians supported the views Harper expressed – particularly the opinion that wearing a niqab or burka in Canada is symbolic of oppression.

READ MORE: Tories should boot ‘racist’ MP, say Liberals

“It is not that these women are doing this to offend anybody, they’re wearing it because they believe it’s a part of their spiritual journey,” she told Global News in a phone interview from Ottawa.

“We make a differentiation between being in Canada and this issue being a Canadian issue, as opposed to being an issue in any other part of the world.”

She explained her organization is most certainly against women being forced to wear the full-body coverings in countries such as Iran and Saudi Arabia. In Canada, she said, it’s a choice many Muslim women make.

“So many of them chose to wear it when they came to Canada. They didn’t wear it in the countries they originated from, but chose to wear it when they came here because they felt the freedom that Canada afforded to them and allowed them to express themselves this way.”

Hammad said people should try to understand why some women choose to wear the niqab or burka, rather than “judging them or calling them oppressed.

“I’m so busy being awesome that I forgot to be oppressed,” she joked.

A look at different garments warn by some Muslim women.

The data, summaries and commentary in exclusive Global News / Ipsos Reid polling are subject to copyright. The data, summaries and commentary may only be rebroadcast or republished with full and proper attribution to both Global News and Ipsos Reid in all web articles, on social media, in radio broadcasts and with an on-screen credit for television.

For this survey, a sample of 1,004 Canadians from Ipsos’ online panel was interviewed online. Weighting was then employed to balance demographics to ensure that the sample’s composition reflects that of the adult population according to Census data and to provide results intended to approximate the sample universe. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll is accurate to within +/ – 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Canadian adults been polled.

© 2015 Shaw Media

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