Veiled voting ban 'reasonable': Kenney
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney says a private members bill that would force people to show their faces when they vote is "reasonable."
A Quebec Conservative backbencher, Steven Blaney, rekindled the debate over veiled voters on Friday with the tabling of a bill that critics decry as an attempt to divide the electorate.
Kenney came out in support of the proposed legislation during an interview Sunday on CTV's Question Period.
He noted the government is not in the business of telling people how to dress.
Last year, the French government banned women from wearing the burka and other full-face Islamic garment in public.
"I don't think we should be adopting the French idea of banning, telling people what they can and cannot wear," Kenney said.
"I believe in personal liberty, even if I find some expressions of personal liberty a bit peculiar. I don't think we should be regulating what people wear but when a citizen comes to deal with the government, particularly to exercise their right to vote, I think it's entirely reasonable that we say we need to confirm who you are and a facial identification is a reasonable way of doing that."
When he introduced the bill, Blaney had no data to suggest that face covering was actually a problem for Elections Canada staff. The agency reported that no one failed to comply with requests to identify themselves during the 2008 vote.
Kenney is first cabinet minister to come out in support of the bill.
On Friday both the Liberals and NDP said Blaney was trying to rekindle debate over accommodation of religious minorities in Quebec.
Under the current law, voters are not specifically compelled to show their faces.
But Elections Canada has retained the right to ask someone to swear an oath attesting to their eligibility to vote, if they refuse to remove a face covering. If the voter declines the oath, the agency doesn't let them vote.
Blaney wouldn't say his bill is aimed at Muslim women, but said there have been incidents in which voters showed up at the polls wearing ski masks or Halloween masks.