Canada: Muslim women won’t have to unveil to vote

Muslim women with their faces covered by niqabs or burkas will be allowed to vote in three Quebec federal by-elections Sept. 17 without removing them, Elections Canada said yesterday.

The women, however, will have to present a valid piece of identification with a photo and another document proving their identity. If they do not have these two documents, a woman with her face covered can have her identity confirmed by another voter in the same polling station.

Both the voucher and the vouchee would be required to make a sworn statement under oath. An elector can only vouch for one other elector.

Otherwise, they will have to show their faces, Elections Canada said in a statement.

The ruling contrasts with one made by Quebec’s chief electoral officer in last March’s provincial election. Responding to extraordinary public pressure, Quebec’s chief electoral officer Marcel Blanchet reversed his initial decision to allow women to vote without removing their veils to confirm their identity.

Blanchet feared for the safety of election workers and the prospect of the vote turning into a “masquerade.”

The three by-elections are in the ridings of Outremont, Saint-Hyacinthe-Bagot and Roberval-Lac-St-Jean.

Advance polling for the by-elections begins today and continues tomorrow and Monday between noon and 8 p.m.

Locations of advance polls are printed on voter-information cards distributed in the ridings, or on the Elections Canada website,

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Religion News Blog posted this on Friday September 7, 2007.
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