Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has come out swinging against comments made by Conservative leader Stephen Harper on the controversial issue of the niqab.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday Kathleen Wynne said Harper is using the niqab debate as a wedge issue to try and “divide people.”
“I think that this is an issue that the prime minister thinks can be a distraction from other issues we are dealing with as a country. I think that we are an inclusive society,” the premier said.
“We have a responsibility to find ways to live together in harmony that is who we are as Canadians. And I think that this prime minister is using this issue as a wedge to try to divide people. I think it is shocking actually when there are so many huge concerns that we have as a country.”
Earlier Tuesday, Harper said in an interview with CBC’s Power & Politics that a Conservative government would look at banning public servants from wearing the niqab.
“That’s a matter we’re going to examine,” Harper said. “Quebec, as you know, has legislation on this. We’re looking at that legislation.”
“It’s not by any means the biggest issue for the campaign. The biggest issue is the economy, but I think our position here is widely understood and supported.”
The federal government is taking the niqab issue to the Supreme Court after losing a federal court of appeal ruling Monday that could pave the way for Zunera Ishaq to wear a niqab during her citizenship ceremony.
Ishaq was thrust into the federal election after she refused to take part in a ceremony because she would have to show her face while reciting the oath of citizenship.
Wynne said other issues like creating jobs in small municipalities should be the focus for all party leaders during the election.
“Surely that is something that should be on the front burner with the prime minister, with any of the leaders in this federal election,” Wynne said.
“Stephen Harper has chosen to focus on an issue that first of all affects a very, very small number of people. And Secondly is divisive, he knows it’s divisive and I believe that’s why he has chosen to focus on it.”
In an interview with Global News Tuesday, Zunera Ishaq reiterated that the niqab debate has become a distraction for voters.
“There are so many other issues in the campaign right now, they should be focusing on them,” she said from her home in Mississauga. “I think the government should stop the issue right now and let me go forward.”
*With files from Angie Seth