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Sheila Copps congratulates MCC for its stand against the Burka

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  • Tarek Fatah
    October 26, 2009 Sheila Copps congratulates the MCC for its stand against the Burka I shudder when I see shrouded silhouettes of women walking the streets of
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 2, 2009
      October 26, 2009

      Sheila Copps congratulates the 
      MCC for its stand against the Burka

      "I shudder when I see shrouded silhouettes of women walking the streets of Ottawa without so much as an eyebrow exposed to the world ... Congratulations to the courageous Muslims who tackled this taboo subject [the niqab] ..."

      By Sheila Copps
      The Hill Times

      OTTAWA—October was a good month for Canadian women. Those gutsy Albertans, who took on the Canadian Senate and won, were named honorary Senators. On the 80th anniversary of their successful Persons case appeal; the Famous Five became the first Canadian persons to be so designated by the very institution that had spurned them.

      In tandem with the anniversary, the Liberal Women’s Caucus launched their third Pink Book. This 34-page coloured- down version of the Liberal Red Book is a must-read for anyone interested in women’s issues.

      This October, the Muslim Canadian Congress also commenced a nation-wide campaign to ban the wearing of niqabs and burkas in public.They called the face- shielding garments “a medieval misogynistic practice” with no basis in the Quran.

      Congratulations to the courageous Muslims who tackled this taboo subject.

      MCC Communications director Farzana Hassan dispelled the myth that face-coverings should be protected by the Canadian Charter as a religious freedom, citing “no requirement in the Quran for Muslim women to cover their faces.”

      A recent decision by Egypt’s highest Muslim authority, Sheikh Mohamed Tantawi, banned the burka and niqab at al- Azhar University. Hassan also pointed out that in the Grand Mosque in Mecca, considered the holiest Muslim destination, women are specifically prohibited from covering their faces. She called on the Canadian government to “end this medieval misogynist practice once and for all.”

      I am no expert in Islam but I consider myself a staunch defender of diversity. Nonetheless, I shudder when I see shrouded silhouettes of women walking the streets of Ottawa without so much as an eyebrow exposed to the world. If it is anti-religious for a woman to show her face, why don’t the same rules apply to her t-shirt wearing spouse?

      With the passing of time, more Canadians understand the struggle that our grandmothers faced simply to secure the right to vote and stand for public office. That struggle still confronts millions of women around the world, with gender limitations parading as religious freedom.

      As for the Pink Book, whether or not you agree with the whole document, the Grits have set the bar by which the Tories will be judged. Recent polling shows Conservatives gaining traction with women voters.The support of soccer moms is key to anyone hoping to form the government.

      While Tories have been vigorously investing in soccer fields (especially in party strongholds), they have ignored the social infrastructure necessary for true equality. The Pink Book asserts,“Because the bud- get targeted roads, bridges and other bricks and mortar projects, the jobs created by the infrastructure spending will be mainly held by 
      men.”  Social infrastructure investment in housing, childcare, health care and home-care, would have been more balanced.

      According to the Liberals, women have been hardest hit by the recession. “Because women earn less and have fewer benefits than men, they have less of a cushion during hard times.” By spreading arena money across Canada, the Conservatives say they are getting the job done. No political effort is made to invest in short-term jobs and long-term solutions to the gender gap.

      According to the Pink Book, the current government considers gender a dirty word. Under the Conservatives, the Department of Foreign Affairs has deleted the words “gender equality” from all documents. Apparently, the new politically correct term is “equality of men and women”

      That vocabulary is as wishy washy as the government’s position on most women’s issues.

      Consider the tragic status of many aboriginal women. In 2006, Statistics Canada said that 41 per cent of them had been beaten, choked, sexually assaulted or had a weapon pulled on them, compared to 27 per cent of other Canadian women. The Native Women’s Association of Canada has been heedlessly calling for a public inquiry into 520 missing or murdered aboriginal women. The Conservatives continue to resist the call to get to the bottom of this nation- al disgrace.

      By contrast, the Grits have committed to a comprehensive public investigation of the murdered and missing victims.

      The Pink Book also focuses on the widening salary gap between men and women. A national childcare program and employment insurance changes are some of the strategies recommended to lighten the unique load facing working moms. Those promoting the Pink Book and the Burka Ban will not solve all gender equality issues. They may not have all the answers but at least they are asking the right questions. With the women of Canada holding the key to majority government, political par- ties take note. The Famous Five would be pleased.

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