26 March 2015

Chris Selley: Thomas Mulcair On wars, niqabs and ballot questions | National Post

Chris Selley: On wars, niqabs and ballot questions | National Post

In a similar vein, it has been a pleasant surprise to see how little trouble Thomas Mulcair and his New Democrats are having over niqabs. Received political wisdom would say he’s in an awful pickle: Mr. Mulcair desperately needs to hang on to as many votes in Quebec, the majority of which he purloined from the super-duper-anti-niqab Bloc Québécois, as he can, without disillusioning his lefty friends in the Rest of Canada. He is on the record in favour of the Bouchard-Taylor Commission recommendations, which include a ban on religious symbols for police officers, prison guards, Crown prosecutors and judges, and has supported the idea that government services ought to be delivered with an uncovered face. He risks being accused of hypocrisy and flip-flopping, especially in Quebec.And yet he has been just as forceful against the Conservatives leveraging anti-niqab sentiment as he was against the Parti Québécois’ wretched “values charter.” “I will always defend the right of people to practice their religion. That’s part of who we are in Canada,” he said earlier this month. It was somewhat awkward when one of his highest-profile MPs, Alexandre Boulerice, told Quebec media he was uncomfortable with the niqab and suggested Canada needs a Bouchard-Taylor-style commission of its own — but neither is an unreasonable position. Of the many hurdles Mr. Mulcair needs to clear between now and election day, niqab policy sure doesn’t seem to be one.

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