The Canadian media has been braying loudly about some woman who wants to wear a face covering while she takes her citizenship oath. The Harper government says she needs to uncover; so far the courts have disagreed. The media is trying to make the story about personal freedom of choice.
Its an old story – why should the state be allowed to deprive this woman of her individual freedom to appear as she claims her religion requires? The same argument is presented to justify RCMP wearing turbans and to support Indians being subject to prayer circles rather than the court system. Its her culture, so goes the argument, therefore we have no right to infringe but its a load of hooey.
I don’t have any innate right to attend a Catholic communion service dressed in a clown suit and signing “Roll Out The Barrel”. Nor can I join the Shriners dressed as a banana. Citizenship ceremonies should be held to at least as high a standard of tradition as religious or fraternal rituals. After all, if the traditions and ceremonies are NOT what is important, then why bother with them at all? If that element of tradition is so irrelevant then why not program a computer to send an email to the new citizen informing them of their acceptance into the Canadian family? That would surely be a “greener” option and would absolutely resolve the head covering issue.
There are very few standards left which define what it means to be a Canadian citizen. Multiculturalism and pluralism have served us well but at some level there must surely be some line behind which we will not retreat.