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Unpacking the politics: the political power of the niqab

Three party strategists join Tom Clark on The West Block to discuss this wedge issue and how the niqab is affecting the election campaign.

The niqab and all that it represents has taken an enormous role in this election.

The Conservatives want it banned for citizenship ceremonies, as does the Bloc Quebecois. The NDP and the Liberals are on the opposite side.

The Liberals and the NDP charge the topic is taking away from time spent discussing other, more important issues.

“I think it was purposely put out as a distracting issue that obviously is going to put few parties in some very difficult positions,” said Lindsay Doyle, a fundraiser for the Liberals.

“There was no issue here,” said Robin Sears, a consultant who was a long-time strategist for the NDP. “They created it in the House of Commons. They re-awoke it during this campaign and it is race politics of the most despicable kind in my view.”

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But the Tories argue that Canadians are already talking about the issue.

“Canadians at large are interested in it,” Rick Anderson, a political strategist who worked with the Reform and Canadian Alliance parties, said. “They think it’s important that we send a message that yes, you can come to Canada … But also, we don’t want people to bring in ideas that oppression of women in our country is acceptable as it was in the country you came from.”

“This is fearmongering 100 per cent,” Doyle responded.

The panel also discussed why women are allowed to wear the niqab when voting, and Anderson argued that the citizenship ceremony is an important symbol.

“It is about, at one point or another, opening yourself to Canada and saying I’m here to declare my allegiance to this country and look people in the eye and do so.”