Canada: Tory bill would ban voting while wearing veil

A bill requiring visual identification when voting in federal elections has come to Parliament, largely due to controversy in Quebec over veiled women voting. The controversy over veiled voters arose when a ruling from Elections Canada allowed veiled women to cast ballots in three recent Quebec by-elections.

The Conservatives decided legislation was necessary after Marc Mayrand, Canada’s chief electoral officer, rebuffed efforts by Prime Minister Stephen Harper to get him to adjust voting rules to force women to bare their faces at polls. “I think it is necessary to maintaining public confidence in … the electoral process,” Conservative House Leader Peter Van Loan told the Toronto Star yesterday.

Mayrand noted the revised federal electoral law that Parliament passed in June did not compel women with veils to remove them as part of voter identification, explaining that if MPs want that to be a rule, they should pass a new law.

The Conservative government’s obsession with women having to lift their veils is seen by some as much ado about nothing. “This so-called veil problem is not even a problem that’s been raised with the Muslim community,” NDP Leader Jack Layton said.

Toronto Star, 27 October 2007