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DebraW
11-09-2007, 06:17 PM
Muslim women won't face veil ban in coming election: city

Tue, September 11, 2007
By FRANK LANDRY, CITY HALL BUREAU

Muslim women in Edmonton won’t be asked to lift their veils prior to casting a ballot in the upcoming municipal election, says a city official.

Steve Thompson, the city’s director of elections, said all voters will be required for the first time to produce identification.

But it doesn’t have to be photo ID.

“It’s not as if we’ve going to have to compare the picture to the face,” Thompson told Sun Media today.

“It’s a matter of, does the ID confirm your identify and your age.”

Voters in the municipal election will also have to sign a register that says they’re eligible to cast a ballot, Thompson said.

A controversy has been brewing at the federal level after Elections Canada announced veiled women won’t have to remove their head garments in order to vote in upcoming federal byelections in Quebec.

Voters in federal contests are required to produce photo ID.

A Muslim woman not wanting to unveil could qualify to vote by producing a second piece of non-photo identification approved by Elections Canada.

The rules will apply in all future federal elections.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he disagrees with the decision and urged Elections Canada to reconsider.

But the government agency said it was simply following guidelines set out in federal laws.

Thompson said he can’t imagine a situation in the upcoming municipal election where a Muslim woman in Edmonton would be asked to remove her veil.

“It just simply hasn’t been an issue here,” he said. “We’ve not had any comments from the culture communities that might be involved. It has not been an issue in past elections.”

Sarah Elgazzar, a spokesman for the Canadian Council on American Muslim Relation, said the whole debate “is a non-issue.”

She said when requested – for things like voting, boarding planes or crossing borders – Muslim women will always remove their veils.

“They always have and always, always will,” Elgazzar said. “For them, it’s not much of an issue.”

The preference is they unveil in front of a woman, but it can also be done in front of a man, Elgazzar said.

Acceptable ID in the upcoming municipal election includes a driver’s licence, Canadian passport, firearms licence, Alberta health care card, birth certificate, baptism certificate, and others.

For more information visit www.edmontonelection.ca

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Wrecker
12-09-2007, 08:52 AM
Why must we always be the ones to bend??????

m0nkyman
12-09-2007, 11:32 AM
Having to show your face might make mail-in ballots kind of messy....

What bending are we doing?

McCauley resident
12-09-2007, 12:24 PM
The whole idea of showing your face to match your ID & name on the voter's list is to ensure voter fraud does not occur. Sounds great in theory.

That is much better than previous federal elections when all one had to do was show up with the voter card mailed to your address - you could vote without showing proof of ID.

Since my home used to be a rooming house, I had five (seriously) voter cards in my hand when I showed up to the advance polls. When I asked the woman how they could stop me from voting five times if they did not ask me for photo ID, her response that they trust people to not break the law (guess that is why our prisons are empty)......... :roll:

What they should do is what is done in many countries - before one votes, they dip a finger into an inkwell. Not only does that stop people from bouncing around from voting station to voting station "swearing on a bible" that they actually live at an address they can not prove - it also shows to the world for a few days whether one actually took the time to vote.

I for one like it because I listened for years from a woman who bit**ed about everything every level of government did - when she let it slip one day that she never voted because it was a waste of time - I told her to never ever complain to me about government decisions.

Her immediate response was that since she paid taxes, she had the right to complain. I countered that she had that right - but I also had the right not to listen to her. End of discussion........ ;-)

DebraW
13-09-2007, 09:55 AM
Lifting the veil on a bogus issue
Voting ID issue exposes our real fears

Paula Simons, The Edmonton Journal
Published: September 13, 2007 2:05 am

Some facts to start. The newly amended Canada Elections Act does not require voters to show photo ID. Nor does it require anyone -- Muslim or non-Muslim, male or female -- to show their faces to returning officers.

The amendments, passed by Parliament this June, do require voters to produce documents to establish their name and address.

One such document is a driver's licence. But voters without photo ID can show up with two other identifying documents. A credit card receipt, a utility bill, a university transcript, an income tax assessment notice, a library card; those are just a few options. As long as you have two pieces of paper or plastic with your name and address, you can vote in a federal election.

Heck, you can vote without any ID at all -- as long as you swear a legal oath affirming your identity and find someone else at the polling station who can vouch for you. Or you can complete a mail-in ballot from the privacy of your own home, wearing a pillowcase over your head if you choose.

So why the recent national clamour over the issue of orthodox Muslim women in veils or niqabs voting in upcoming federal byelections in Quebec?

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his minister of democratic reform, Peter Van Loan, are demanding Canada's chief electoral officer ensure that veiled or burka-clad women who come to vote expose their faces to returning officers -- even though the law, which Harper's government passed less than three months ago, has no such requirement.

The Liberals, the New Democrats and the Bloc Quebecois have all joined in the shameful chorus -- even though they supported the new law.

So if the law doesn't require devout Muslim women to produce photo ID, or to lift their face-coverings to confirm their identities, why are our federal politicians pretending it does?

Sarah Elgazzar, who speaks for the Council on American-Islamic Relations Canada, says most Muslim women are more than happy to lift their veils for official purposes, such as voting. So what's generating this furor?

It's hard to escape the uncomfortable feeling that all this artificial outrage has less to do with ensuring the integrity of our voting system than in courting votes in Quebec by whipping up a xenophobic fear of Canadian Muslims.

Muslim women have been voting in Canada for years. Why is this suddenly an issue now? Are we really afraid that the some veiled woman is going to sneak in to vote a dozen times? Or is it really the fundamentalist Islam symbolized by the niqabs and burkas we fear?

The fact that the debate has been timed to coincide with the anniversary of 9/11 and the beginning of Ramadan makes it all the more distasteful and disquieting.

As a secular feminist, I find the practice of Canadian women covering themselves in niqabs or burkas medieval and misogynist, a coercive strategy to deny women equality and social recognition. But those are my beliefs. I'm entitled to hold them and state them. I'm not entitled to impose them on other Canadians.

The vast majority of Muslim-Canadian women don't even wear veils. But there are some who freely chose to don the traditional attire, as a mark of faith and cultural solidarity. Indeed, some of them see the veil as a kind of neo-feminist statement of cultural pride, a rejection of skimpy "western" fashions that sexualize and objectify women.

'm sure lots of young Muslim women chafe at the restrictive dress. I'm sure many would dearly love to trade their burkas for mini-skirts. But that's for them to sort out with their families and communities, not for us to dictate. We don't have a national dress code. Over the decades, we've made all kinds of social accommodations for Sikh turbans and kirpans, Hutterite hats and headscarves, Jewish yarmulkes and sheitels. Muslim women who veil their faces out of deep religious faith or cultural tradition deserve no less respect.

Want to talk about misogyny? How else would you describe the singling out Muslim women by male politicians and pundits as figures of fear, as mysterious veiled threats to the integrity of our electoral process?

Here's the uncomfortable truth. We're afraid of Muslim extremism in this country. We worry about Islamist radicals poisoning our liberal multicultural social contract -- or blowing up our buildings. And our fears aren't entirely baseless, as this week's bleak anniversary reminds us.

But the worst strategy we can adopt to combat radical Islamists is to drive a deeper wedge of mutual distrust between Canadian Muslims and the rest us. We should want all Canadian Muslims to vote, to view themselves as citizens with a vested interest in our political system. And we should want Muslim-Canadian women, in particular, to exercise their franchise, a right they don't often have in the Muslim world. By empowering all Canadian Muslim women as democratic citizens, we give them a real chance to exert their own identities, in the voting booth. Intimidating them, frightening them away from the voting booth, would be a tragic error. If our parliamentarians want to amend the Elections Act to require every voter to provide photo ID, they can recall Parliament and do so. (The most devout Muslim women might even be accommodated, as one of our letter writers suggested Tuesday, by raising their veils in private, in the presence of female-only returning officers.)

But remember, there are other religious sects who refuse to have their photos taken.

And there are plenty of people, particularly the poor and the homeless, who lack driver's licences or other photo ID. Of course, we need to guard against election fraud. But we must be careful to avoid modern Jim Crow laws that disenfranchise religious and social minorities.

Finally, let me take a moment to praise Canada's chief electoral officer, Marc Mayrand, for his principled refusal to cave in to the disgraceful bullying of Canada's craven federal leaders. By standing up for democracy and the rule of law, Mayrand has set an inspiring new standard for independent integrity in the public service. Let's hope he doesn't pay a high price for his courage.

GLOSSARY OF TERMS

- Hijab: The term comes from the Arabic word for modesty. In a general sense, hijab refers to the rules of modest dress that govern Muslim men and women. In modern western use, hijab generally refers to the head scarf worn by many observant Muslim women. It covers the head, but leaves the face exposed.

- Khimar: A variation on the hijab, the khimar is a cape-like veil with a hole for the face. It covers the hair, forehead and shoulders, but leaves the face exposed.

- Niqab: A veil that covers a woman's face. Some niqabs leave the eyes exposed; others cover the eyes with sheer fabric.

- Burqa or burka: An enveloping cloak or outer dress that covers a woman from head to toe. Different countries and regions have their own versions, which differ in style, colour, and degree to which the face and eyes are covered. In Iran, women wear the chador, in Afghanistan, the chadri, in the Arab world, the abaya.

- While the Koran mandates that Muslim women (and men) dress with modesty, there is wide debate among Islamic religious authorities over whether women are required to veil or cover their faces. The practice is as much cultural as religious, and varies by geographic region and religious sect.

UNDER COVER

Jacqueline Roblin, manager of elections for the City of Edmonton, says Muslim women who wear veils will be able to vote in the upcoming municipal and school board elections without revealing their faces.

"This was never an issue in the past, because we never required ID in the past," she says. "Even though ID is now required by legislation, we don't require photo ID, so face coverings are not an issue."

Roblin says all municipal voters will be required to produce identification to establish name and age, and to sign an official legal document, the voter's registry.

© The Edmonton Journal 2007

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DebraW
16-09-2007, 02:04 AM
Voter identification the issue, not veils
Current elections laws closed many loopholes, but there's much room to improve

Lorne Gunter, The Edmonton Journal
Published: Sept. 16, 2007 1:36 am

I don't care whether you are a burka-enrobed Muslim woman or a clean-shaven, hatless male atheist, if you want to vote in a Canadian election, you should be prepared to prove four things: you are 18 or older, a citizen of Canada, a resident of the riding in which you intend to vote, and you are who you say you are.

Those of my colleagues who have argued the controversy over veiled voting is overblown are correct, although only partly.

They're right that much of the visceral reaction against Elections Canada's new policy stems from an unwarranted fear of what will happen if officialdom makes concessions to Muslim traditionalists.

At most, this policy might apply to a couple thousand voters across the country.

Few Muslim women in Canada refuse to uncover their faces briefly for official purposes. For those few who will not, it would be easy enough to accommodate them and still maintain the integrity of the four principles outlined above.

Voting is a right, not a privilege. It is not like driving or fishing or serving liquor at a wedding. Those are privileges. As such, those wishing to drive, fish or serve drinks at their reception must make accommodation to state rules if they want permission. (Frankly, I'd do away with driving, fishing, liquor and other petty licenses if I had my way, but that is a discussion for another day.)

On the other hand, in a democracy, where the people are sovereign, the most important way in which they exercise that sovereignty is through voting. It is, therefore, up to the state to do the conceding to ensure the greatest number of citizens can vote.

Nonetheless, the veiled voting rule is a potential problem, but no more so than unidentified voting in general.

Any rule that permits voters to enter a polling booth without first establishing that they are old enough and a full-fledged Canadian who lives in the riding invites fraud.

And election fraud is a growing problem in Canadian campaigns.

If we permit veiled voters to cast ballots without uncovering their faces, we are not opening a backdoor to sharia law taking over in Canada. Nor are we encouraging Muslims to remain isolated from mainstream Canadian society.

Indeed, if we urge them to vote, to the extent that encourages more traditional Muslims to take an interest in public affairs, we will hasten their integration even as elements within their own community pressure them to remain cloistered.

It's not Muslim women voting veiled who worry me. It's partisan dirty-tricksters posing as Muslim women who are the potential problem.

Women who cannot bring themselves to uncover their faces in a public place, such as a polling station, could be accommodated behind a screen where a female deputy returning officer could check their faces against their driver's license or other photo ID.

If it were judged that that would be too time-consuming and backlog lines of voters on election day, women wearing veils could uncover at a returning office beforehand and have a fingerprint taken. Then another print could be taken at the poll and checked against the first.

Genuine veiled voters' cultural practices could be honoured.

It's the threat that the veil rule is open to abuse that troubles me.

But then I am equally troubled by stories from the last federal election of parties organizing little old ladies to go from riding to riding -- voting in each -- because no deputy returning officer could imagine grannies engaging in voter fraud. Campaign workers, too, allegedly grabbed up all the voter registration cards delivered to apartment buildings and gave them to volunteers who then voted in place of the legitimate cardholders.

In June, the Parliament closed some of the biggest loopholes to voting hoaxes. For instance, voters will now have to produce government-issued photo ID to receive a ballot at their polling station, or provide two documents establishing their identity and address.

This alternate documents rule is still open to too much abuse, but it is an improvement over the no-ID rules that pertained before.

And Parliament curtailed vouched-for voting. A person on the permanent voters list who has ID may still vouch for the identity and residency of someone not on the list. But it used to be that a vouched-for voter could vouch for others also not on the list. The current arrangement is poor, but the old rule was worse.

Election day does not spring up by surprise. Everyone knows for at least 36 days that it is coming. That's plenty of time to make advanced arrangements to get on the voters list and have acceptable ID in hand by polling day. If there are questions about a voter's identity or qualifications, he or she should have to take care to have them settled long before voting day.

I would do away with all the rules that permit unidentified voting on election day, not on cultural grounds, but in an effort to ensure the integrity of our democracy's crucial act.

[email protected]

© The Edmonton Journal 2007

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