VIA| Voters have turned up to polling stations wearing creative face coverings — including a wrestling mask and a pumpkin — in order to show their disdain for the niqab debate that at times dominated Canada’s 42nd election.
The unique voting attire was an apparent reaction to the controversy over whether women should be permitted to wear a face covering at citizenship ceremonies. The niqab debate became a hot-button issue after the Conservative government sought a stay for a Federal Court of Appeal decision that granted Zunera Ishaq, a Muslim woman, the right to wear a niqab while swearing the oath of citizenship. (Ishaq was officially granted citizenship last week.)
“This campaign has been plagued with fearmongering and jingoism, making a farce of real issues. I’ve chosen to respond to Harper’s ridiculous tactics by ridiculing the very issue he’s forced on Canadians for weeks,” Edmonton resident Mike Kendrick wrote in a Facebook post alongside a picture of himself wearing a Pentagón Jr. wrestling mask.
“The right to cover your head does not threaten the democratic process, whether you’re wearing a niqab, a khustka, or a luchador mask. Citizens should have the right to peaceful expression and belief without fear of government interference.”
Kendrick wrote on Facebook that at first polling station staffers were “confused, and not sure how to handle” his request to vote while dressed like a Mexican wrestler.
An Elections Canada worker told him he would have to take it off, but he “politely explained that Elections Canada says you can keep your face covered if you provide two pieces of ID and take an oath.”
A face covering is permitted at the polls if the voter swears an oath attesting to their status as an elector and shows the required identification, Elections Canada spokeswoman Natalie Babin Dufresne confirmed.
“They consulted their manuals to figure out how the oath worked. It was as simple as the polling clerk reading the oath and asking me to swear that I am who I claim to be, under penalty of law,” Kendrick wrote. “I cast my ballot, told everyone to have a nice day, and left to a few smirks, and a lone, crotchety old man muttering ‘you actually let him in here like that!?’”
Another voter shared a selfie on Instagram of himself wearing a pumpkin on his head. He was also photographed by Postmedia News as he lined up to vote at Ottawa City Hall.
“Despite the ugly views of some politicians who would like to lead us, all Canadians are equal,” Instagram user jrprus wrote. “We don’t come in different vintages.”