From The National Post
Tory MP wants veiled voting banned
A Conservative MP introduced a private member’s bill on Friday that would require Canadians to show their faces before they vote.
Laura Stone, Postmedia News · Friday, Feb. 11, 2011
OTTAWA — A Conservative MP introduced a private member’s bill on Friday that would require Canadians to show their faces before they vote.
Steven Blaney, who represents the Quebec riding of Levis-Bellechasse, said the bill would fix a “gap”in the electoral system and is not meant to discriminate against Muslims.
“For me it is important that we all share this transparency,”said Blaney. “We are all proud to live in this country, we are all proud to share (its) basic principles. I think one of these basic principles is transparency through our election and democratic process, so that’s why I’m presenting this bill and it is applying to everybody and treating everybody in the same way,” he said.
Blaney steered clear of mentioning Islamic head coverings such as burkas or niqabs in his press conference to introduce the bill, instead drawing on examples such as Halloween and ski masks that he said Canadians have donned while attempting to vote.
He also said that while citizens are still allowed to vote by mail, his bill only addresses the process of voting at an election booth. The bill includes an exception for medical reasons.
Elections Canada has an “administrative procedure”in place for validating identities when faces are covered, said spokesman John Enright.
The voter can remove the face-covering in private, or swear an oath of eligibility certifying that they are qualified electors as well as providing two pieces of identification. Anyone who refuses to remove the covering or say the oath will not be permitted to vote, said Enright.
In 2007, both the Conservative federal government and the Quebec government announced they would introduce legislation to ban veiled voting after Elections Canada ruled Muslim women could vote with their faces covered during Quebec byelections. Ottawa passed a law that year which required voters to produce identification, although not necessarily containing a photo if two pieces of ID bearing the voter’s address were presented.
The Quebec government adopted in 2007 the law to compel all voters to uncover their faces. The Conservatives dropped their plans in 2009 amid opposition dissent, although the Liberals and Bloc Quebecois originally supported the decision.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said he disagrees with the Elections Canada procedure outlined by Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand.
According to Elections Canada, there has not been a single instance of an individual attempting to vote with their face covered since 2007.