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Public relations defense of Conservative policy

Written by Sherwin, published on March 2, 2012

Georgy Baxter wood cut of a press

I’ve fallen behind publishing some short reflections about the editorial Dan Gardner wrote about women who choose to wear a veil. I’m still committed to writing them. I have a couple posts already drafted. It’s an important issue to me, and I hold that Dan Gardner showed poor judgment writing on the topic, and for that matter, so did the editorial board at the Ottawa Citizen, for publishing it.

I have previously written that the article was a public relations screen for the Conservatives who chose to ban the Niqab from the citizenship oath. Here’s why I think this.

In the article, Dan Gardner argued that it was reasonable to place restrictions on the women who choose to wear the veil:

I’m not going to debate the wisdom of that decision. Reasonable arguments can be made for and against it, as one can make reasonable arguments for and against requiring people to bare their faces when they vote or testify in court. The same is true of banning veils in public, as France has done. – Dan Gardner, December 14, 2011

What’s interesting is that Dan Gardner himself has later denied saying that it’s reasonable to restrict the rights of women who choose to wear the veil, on several occasions. Here is one:

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What Gardner is referring to here is this claim that arrives near the end of his article:

We must protect a stigmatized minority from bigots. We must defend the freedom to dress as we wish to the greatest extent practicable. – Dan Gardner, December 14, 2011

This is not sufficient. Gardner does not, for example, say that it is practicable to defend the rights of women who choose to wear the Niqab. And Gardner does not, for another example, say that women who choose to wear the veil need protection from the rules set by the Conservative Government. These are important omissions.

In fact, he does the opposite: he writes that the restrictions on these women’s rights are reasonable. Moreover, Gardner spends the bulk of the article arguing that the veil is anti-woman, anti-social, and anti-human. Taken together, this is an overwhelming defense of the status quo policies and public sentiments, both in France and in Canada.

It’s of interest to me, and highly relevant to this issue, that Gardner has written that the veil is both “hideous” and “odious” – but interestingly, this language never appeared in his article that he published in the Ottawa Citizen. This is what I’ll reflect on next time.

Also, in this series:

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