Edmonton

Alberta premier denies supporting niqab ban despite past public statements

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is denying he supported a ban on niqabs even though he issued a directive in 2011 banning women from wearing them during citizenship ceremonies when he was the federal minister of citizenship and immigration.

Kenney instituted niqab ban during citizenship ceremonies in 2011

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is denying he ever supported a ban on niqab or face veils worn by some Muslim women. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is denying he supported a ban on niqabs even though he issued a directive in 2011 banning women from wearing them during citizenship ceremonies when he was the federal minister of citizenship and immigration.

Kenney made the remarks during a news conference following the virtual Western Premiers Conference on Tuesday. 

"I've never supported a proposed ban," Kenney said.

"To the contrary, I've always said that Canada is a country that protects and respects religious freedom and pluralism, and the government has no business regulating what people wear unlike in certain European and Middle Eastern countries that do have bans on face coverings," he added. 

"That has never been proposed. I've always opposed that."

Kenney is facing new questions about his record in light of recent comments by Tim Uppal, the Conservative MP for Edmonton-Mill Woods.

Uppal, who became the spokesperson for the niqab ban as the minister of state of multiculturalism in the Harper cabinet, apologized in a Facebook post Sunday for not pushing back harder against the policies of his former government which he said "alienated Muslim Canadians and contributed to the growing problem of Islamaphobia in Canada."

WATCH | Alberta premier discusses niqab ban

Kenney says he never supported niqab ban

CBC News Edmonton

2 months ago
2:39
Speaking at news conference following the virtual Western Premiers Conference on Tuesday, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney denied that he supported a ban on niqabs even though he issued a directive in 2011 banning women from wearing them during citizenship ceremonies when he was the federal minister of citizenship and immigration. 2:39

Uppal said he decided to publicly account for his past actions after four members of a Muslim family were struck and killed by a man driving a truck in London, Ont. 

The accused is now facing terrorism charges in addition to four charges of first-degree murder and one charge of attempted murder. One family member, a nine-year-old boy, survived the attack. 

Uppal's caucus colleague, Calgary-Nose Hill MP Michelle Rempel Garner, also apologized for her inaction. 

Despite his denial on Tuesday, Kenney continued to take responsibility for and defend the policy as recently as 2015, when the ban was struck down in court. 

Kenney was also a member of cabinet when the Conservative government led by former prime minister Stephen Harper proposed a hotline during an election campaign to report so-called "barbaric cultural practices."

Edmonton-Mill Woods MP Tim Uppal, seen here in 2015 when he was minister of state for multiculturalism, became the spokesperson for legislation to ban face-coverings at citizenship ceremonies. (CBC)

Uppal, who appeared on CBC Radio's Edmonton AM Tuesday, deflected questions about whether he felt Kenney should apologize as he was accounting for his own actions as the minister of state for multiculturalism. 

"[Kenney] has a very good relationship with a lot of people in the Muslim community," Uppal said. "This is something that I have seen myself first-hand." 

Kenney left federal politics in 2016 to run for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta, the first step in his successful drive to unite the PCs with the Wildrose Party. 

Jasvir Deol, the NDP MLA for Edmonton-Meadows, called for Kenney to apologize.  The premier was not in Tuesday's question period to take Opposition questions on the issue. 

now