Veiled women allowed to vote

A ruling enabling covered women in Quebec to cast their ballots is, again, causing controversy.

By Tracy Clark-Flory
Published September 11, 2007 12:55AM (UTC)
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Quebec's by-elections are a week away and you know what that means: The Canadian province's voting-while-veiled controversy has been revived. On Sunday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper railed against the decision by Elections Canada, an independent agency overseeing the electoral process, to allow Muslim women to wear veils to the polls. Harper says he "profoundly disagrees" with the ruling and that it flies in the face of Parliament's wishes.

Marc Mayrand, Canada's chief electoral officer, announced last week that veiled women will be allowed at the polls as long as they take an oath promising that they are who they say they are. Mayrand said he's following an act passed this summer that requires voters to provide identification at the polls. "The prime minister has indicated that he feels I may have misinterpreted the act ... [The wording] clearly points out there is not an absolute visual recognition of the elector required by the act," he said. Reuters reports that the law allows voters to present "two pieces of identification without pictures" and "cast a ballot if another registered voter vouched for them."

Harper warned that if the ruling isn't reversed, "Parliament will have to consider what actions it's going to take to make sure that its intentions are put into place." Today, Mayrand affirmed that he will hold his ground. But as you may recall, Mayrand has reversed such decisions in the past. In March, days before an election and following threats of electoral sabotage, Mayrand capitulated and announced that Muslim women would not be allowed to vote while veiled after all. Stay tuned!

Tracy Clark-Flory

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