Friday, September 14, 2007

More on the veil controversy

An editorial in Tuesdays Globe & Mail deconstructs the to-do over women voting with veils. It is not a policy change or an accommodation--leaving aside the issue if such an accommodation should be made. As the editorial states:

...the rules designed by Parliament for that purpose do not require photo identification. ... Voters don't have to show a photo identification card for the simple reason that many - those without drivers' licenses, for instance - do not have such a card. That is why the Elections Act offers alternatives. Those without government-issued photo ID may show two pieces of identification approved by the Chief Electoral Officer, as long as one shows their address. Or they may have another voter vouch for them (no more than one person per "voucher"), if each swears an oath.

But much more concerning is this:

Mr. Harper surely knows what that law says. His government passed it with opposition support earlier this year. He also knows that eligible voters living temporarily abroad may vote by mail; they do not show their face, except to a mailbox. Yet on the weekend in Sydney, he accused Mr. Mayrand of defying the will of Parliament. "The role of Elections Canada is not to make its own laws." This false accusation against an independent Officer of Parliament smacks of intimidation.

Well, goodness gracious. There's the resolution of the whole thing right there. Yet, of course, the blathering continues. Many articles every day on the subject.

But much worse it makes me gnash my teeth in anguished this ridiculous editorial from Sheila Copps in the Edmonton Sun. Now, full disclosure, the snarky Torontonian academic in me can't even say "Edmonton Sun" without smirking, but she is kind of an elitist bitch. Nevertheless, Copps misses the boat alluded to in the G&M piece:

The law states that the voter is required to provide satisfactory proof of identity and address. How can identity be verified if electoral authorities cannot validate photo identification?


The PM was right to slam Mayrand's harebrained interpretation of election law. All political parties should be wary of someone who exhibits so little understanding of the obvious potential for voter abuse.

No, no, no, Ms. Copps. What happened was, Parliament passed a woefully incomplete law, and now Mayrand is being slammed for interpreting it. It's just like when they flip out at judges for imposing the democratically-imposed Charter. Sure, he could have been more creative with his interpretation, but he might have gotten into just as much trouble for being "activist." He interpreted it (a) according to common sense, and (b) in a way that would allow the most people to vote. As always, it's open to Parliament to change the laws, and as almost always, it's easier for them to blame those forced to interpret and apply those laws for doing it wrong, rather than admit that the laws themselves have loopholes. Hindsight is 20/20, and all that jazz.

The Globe had it right:

Mr. Harper and the other leaders should take their own advice. They should respect the voting law, and not single out veiled women for special treatment.

As they say in politics: Oh, snap.

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