The Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action wishes to express its support for Zunera Ishaq and condemn the attacks on her human rights, which are guaranteed under Canadian and international law. We expressed this support in March 2015 and we reconfirm it now.
We are dismayed by the current debate, and request all political leaders not to target niqab-wearing Muslim women in the name of women’s equality. Equality is a value of profound importance for all women in Canada and a value that FAFIA holds dear. We are shocked and repelled when it is deployed as a tool to promote suspicion and discrimination towards women who belong to a religious minority.
The Federal Court of Canada made it clear that Ms. Ishaq has the right to wear her niqab during the recitation of the oath of citizenship, and she has already taken the oath and become a citizen. In these circumstances, we ask political leaders to stop waving the niqab as a means of frightening and dividing Canadians.
We believe that a genuine commitment to women’s equality does not permit:
• cancelling the beginnings of a national child care program for Canada;
• defunding the Court Challenges Programme;
• changing the funding criteria for Status of Women Canada so that advocacy for women’s equality is suppressed;
• restricting funding for maternal health so that it cannot be used to provide safe abortions for women in developing countries;
• gutting pay equity protections for women who are federal public servants;
• introducing income‐splitting which provides the greatest benefits to wealthy men;
• shrinking tax revenues so that there is less money available to support the social programs that women need;
• refusing to establish a national inquiry into the murders and disappearances of Aboriginal women and girls; and
• refusing to design and implement a genuine national action plan to stop male violence against women.
United Nations human rights treaty bodies have commented, with concern, on a number of these steps and omissions.
As an offering to women who are looking for genuine measures that will advance equality in Canada, banning the wearing of the niqab during citizenship ceremonies does not work. The focus on it is cynical and, we believe, not worthy conduct for Canada’s political leaders.
To gain our support and confidence, we ask political leaders to treat women – all women – with respect, and to stand for real measures that will assist women to enjoy equality in Canada.