Harper’s proposed ban on niqab in civil service ricochets through campaign

OTTAWA — Stephen Harper’s proposed ban on federal civil servants wearing niqabs ricocheted down the campaign trail Wednesday, drawing condemnation from opponents and Muslim groups.

He says Conservatives are examining Quebec’s Bill 94, which requires Muslim women or others who wear face coverings to remove them if they want to work in the public sector — or do business with government officials.

Harper told CBC’s Power and Politics on Tuesday that — if re-elected — the Conservatives would look at their own federal ban. He made similar comments last week in the French-language debate hosted by network TVA.

Both Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and NDP Leader Tom Mulcair condemned the proposal as an attempt to distract voters from serious questions about Conservative management of the economy.

Trudeau said Wednesday Harper’s divide-and-conquer approach “is unworthy of the office he holds and he needs to stop because no election win (is) worth pitting Canadians against Canadians.”

Harper’s proposed ban on niqabs in the civil service would affect an infinitesimally small number of bureaucrats. Statistics from 2011 show only 1.8 per cent of 257,000 federal employees are Muslim women, and only a small subset of them is likely to wear face coverings.

The National Council of Canadian Muslims says it’s upset Harper passed on a chance in the CBC interview to specifically condemn recent assaults against Muslim women, who appear to have been attacked simply because they wore head scarves.

The Canadian Press

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