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Asked about potential legal objections to his ban on women wearing a burka or niqab during citizenship ceremonies, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney dismissed any such case as "some stupid Charter of Rights challenge."
Asked about potential legal objections to his ban on women wearing a burka or niqab during citizenship ceremonies, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney dismissed any such case as "some stupid Charter of Rights challenge."

Citizenship

Ban the burka if you want, but the Charter deserves respect Add to ...

As I trudge the streets of Canada, I find few sights more depressing than women in full burkas, even if cool sneakers sometimes peek out at the bottom. It seems such a retreat from the splendors of life.

Yet the right of a woman in Canada to wear the burka or the niqab face veil in public is not an easy matter to assess. Should the state have the authority to ban the practice, as France has done? I’m not sure.

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Which brings us to Immigration Minister Jason Kenney’s sudden edict that women in niqabs taking the oath of citizenship must lift their veils. Otherwise, according to the minister, their pledge to be faithful to Canada and Queen Elizabeth might be mumbled without anyone knowing. Apparently, no previous immigrant has ever done that before in this great land of ours.

But okay, there are valid arguments on both sides. Far more troubling is Mr. Kenney’s what-do-I-care response, when asked about the chance of legal objections to the ban.

“I’m sure they’ll trump up some stupid Charter of Rights challenge,” Mr. Kenney said.

This from a minister of the Crown, charged with upholding the laws of Canada? Shame.

The good old political game

There’s lots out there to make a fella blue, even if you’re Health Minister Mike de Jong. Cabinet just doesn’t have the same old zing without former ministerial live wires Iain Black, John van Dongen and Kevin Krueger around to keep the mind alive.

So whenever the damp, drizzly November in his soul brings the normally ebullient Health Minister down, Mr. de Jong revives his spirits with a shot of Danny Gallivan.

He goes to YouTube and calls up the unsurpassed play-by-play announcer’s call of the final few minutes and overtime of the legendary win by Montreal over the Don Cherry-coached Boston Bruins in the seventh game of their 1979 Stanley Cup semi-final. Suddenly, all is right in Mike’s world.

It made me wonder: What if Danny Gallivan had employed his superb, exotic vocabulary to broadcast goings-on at the Victoria Forum, home of the B.C. Legislature?

I can hear him now, his voice rising and falling with the cadences of verbal cut-and-thrusts across the aisle.

“There’s Falcon, picking his way rather gingerly through the budget estimates … and oh, a cannonading question from Horgan, kicked back in rapier-like fashion by the big veteran, Coleman. … Now, a stoppage in play, as a ruling gets caught up in the Speaker’s paraphernalia … the Liberals head back up the floor with their patented spinarama move, to wit, the political flip flop …”

At the old Montreal Forum, Danny was forever joined in the booth by colour commentator Dick Irvin Jr., producing innumerable nostalgic references to “your father,” who coached the Canadiens in the 1940s.

In Victoria, he might have had a different broadcast partner. “Well, Dix, I remember your premier. What a scintillating mentor he was for those young left-wingers …”

And finally, Danny would say: “The bell goes and the votes are over.”

The history of a lifetime

Pause a moment as you contemplate another fun-filled venture to a clogged mall thronged with kajillions of dispirited Christmas shoppers, and reflect on the passage of time.

Earlier this month, Canada lost its last living citizen to have breathed the air of the past three centuries. At 112, Fung Sum Ying was just six years younger than the peasant under glass in Tiananmen Square, aka Mao Zedong, when pneumonia put an end to her long, active life that began in a southern Chinese village in 1899.

Sum Ying was alive when the Boxer Rebellion broke out, she was nine when the Empress Dowager Cixi died on the Imperial Throne in Beijing, and about to be married the year Sun Yat-Sen succumbed to liver cancer.

She was old enough to have had to refuse to have her feet bound, as was then the terrible custom for women, to have wedded an early Chinese immigrant to Canada who paid the head tax, and then, as a result of one of this country’s most shameful policies, to have remained trapped in China with three children, unable to join her husband until the racist Exclusion Act was repealed in 1947.

The story of 20th-century China and Canada in one long life.

Freedom for felines

Suzanne Anton, where are you? The fulsome outrage Ms. Anton worked up over front-yard wheat and backyard chickens – though not shared by voters – is just what’s needed, as another idea whose time has come heads toward City Hall.

Yes, folks, get ready for an off-leash park for cats. Dogs have them, but “there are no designated places for cats to roam free,” complains a petition already signed by more than 150 feline fans.

Meow-y Christmas, everyone.

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