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Tories' war on choice

January 3, 2012

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has banned Muslim women from the right to choose what they wear during citizenship ceremonies, declaring face coverings like the niqab “frankly bizarre” and that claiming that “we want women to be full and equal members of Canadian society.” But the Tories are scapegoating Muslim women to distract from their own anti-choice policies.

As a spokesperson for the Canadian Council of American Islamic Relations said in response to the niqab ban, “I can’t think of anything more damaging to women’s equality and women’s rights than removing their freedom of choice. So I think it was an easy political point to score and at the expense of a vulnerable group of women.”

Kenney said he brought the ban on the advice of Wladyslaw Lizon, the Tory MP for Mississauga. If he was so concerned about women’s equality, he would stand up for his constituent, Inas Kadri, who was assaulted in Mississauga and had her niqab ripped off her face. Meanwhile another woman, “N.S.”, has been forced to go to the Supreme Court to defend her right to wear her niqab while testifying against men who sexually assaulted her.

The Tories are stoking Islamophobia, and resulting hate crimes against Muslim women, in order to distract from their own anti-choice policies. Kenney has a long history in the anti-choice movement, and the Tories repeatedly attack the right to choose, both legally—from the 2008 Bill C-484 (“Unborn Victims of Crime Act”) to the 2010 Bill C-510 (against “coerced abortion”)—and financially. During the G8 summit in 2010 Harper specifically cut abortion funding from his global maternal health plan—and Tory senator Nancy Ruth told women’s groups to “shut the fuck up on this issue.” The austerity agenda is encouraging anti-choice groups to also demand the defunding of abortion, like a rally did last October at Queen’s Park in Toronto. Then last month two Tory MPs demanded a parliamentary discussion on giving human rights to the unborn.

While attacking the rights of Muslim women and eroding abortion rights, Harper continues to insist he “won’t re-open the debate” on abortion, because he’s not confident to openly challenge the women’s movement or the majority of people who support choice. But the debate is already open, and the pro-choice majority needs to stand up in support of abortion rights, and against Islamophobia.

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