The recent images of voters showing up at voting stations in different face masks, head coverings and costumes reveal how some Canadians fail to live up to the lessons of our history and the true democratic values enshrined in our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
It is clear that these voters are trying to make a statement about their views and feelings in response to Elections Canada’s policy, in effect for several years now, to allow some Muslim women to vote while wearing their niqab as long as they sign a formal oath regarding their eligibility.
By attempting to ridicule this policy, these voters actually help confirm a unique quality of our voting system: What one wears on one’s face for religious or spurious reasons does not automatically prevent one from voting. The system has ways to require voter identification to avoid fraud.
But by wearing such disguises, these voters do more than trivialize a woman’s faith-based choice and reinforce negative attitudes about Muslims in general and Muslim women in general. They almost make a mockery of our hard-fought right to vote and the compelling duty of each and every person, as well as that of our Parliament, to protect not only our voting rights, but also two core principles of our voting system: integrity and accessibility.
Canadian history is replete with struggles of different classes of people to obtain the right to vote, particularly women, Aboriginal peoples, racial minorities (notably, Chinese and Japanese Canadians), prisoners, people with disabilities, naturalized citizens (in the 1995 Quebec referendum), and more recently, Canadian expatriates. Through passionate social and political actions, and costly litigation, Canadians have sought to overcome all kinds of barriers, physical and legal, to the exercise of their constitutional right to vote.
Costumes at the polls, niqabs and Canadians’ voting rights | Montreal Gazette