OTTAWA – NDP Leader Tom Mulcair says he believes he did the right thing to stand up to Stephen Harper on the issue of the niqab.
In his first post-election interview, Mulcair says maintaining a principled approach on the niqab was one of the defining moments of his political career.
The issue of face coverings became a thorny issue during the campaign, with some suggesting it seriously hurt the party in Quebec, after Harper proposed on a ban on the garments at citizenship ceremonies.
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The Federal Court of Canada found the Conservative rule unlawful in February and the Federal Court of Appeal has supported that decision.
Mulcair told The Canadian Press he continues to think he did the “right thing to stand up to Mr. Harper on those issues.”
“I would quote back to him his MPs that were being very divisive, talking about brown people or talking about Muslim women who should get the hell back to where they came from,” Mulcair said. “I wasn’t going to be part of that. I just found it undignified.”
Mulcair said he thought it was wrong to divide Canadians on issues of race and religion.
“These were defining moments for me in my political career and in the campaign,” Mulcair said. “And could a different result have been achieved? Perhaps. But I wasn’t going to do something that I had never done in my career.
“I’d always been a person who stood up for his convictions.”
The NDP leader says he has been busy since the election calling successful and defeated MPs and spending time with family.
Mulcair says his party still has a lot to offer, especially as the Liberal government prepares for an upcoming climate change conference in Paris and plans to move forward on issues such as electoral reform.
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He also says his main consolation – in an election which saw his party lose its status as official opposition and fall back to third place – is the that NDP helped take down Harper after nine years in power.
“The number one priority was to defeat and replace Stephen Harper’s government,” Mulcair said. “I am very satisfied, and it is my main consolation…that we were able to defeat Stephen Harper’s Conservatives.”
Mulcair says he attributes a lot of that success to the work the NDP did in opposition.
“We were able to take him regularly and show his ethical shortcomings and during the campaign, we were very tough on him,” he said. “I think, at least we can say for that part of it, I think that was mission accomplished … it was the key condition that I had set down and we got that job done. He’s no longer there.”