Posted on Jun 15, 2021


EDMONTON - As two prominent Alberta federal Conservatives apologize for their roles in their party’s anti-Muslim policies in 2015, Jason Kenney must also apologize for promoting hatred towards Muslims.

Tim Uppal, MP for Edmonton Mill Woods and former federal Conservative cabinet minister, took to Facebook on Sunday to respond to the horrific murder of four Muslim Canadians in London. He wrote about the part he played in proposing a ban on the niqab, a face-covering worn by some Muslim women, and the community feedback he heard after losing the 2015 election.

“It was through these conversations that I really understood how this ban and other campaign announcements during the 2015 election alienated Muslim Canadians and contributed to the growing problem of Islamophobia in Canada,” Uppal wrote. “When it came to these policies, I should have used my seat at the table to push against divisiveness that promoted the notion of the other. I regret not being a stronger voice and sincerely apologize for my role.”

On June 8, Michelle Rempel Garner, MP for Calgary Nose Hill, wrote on her blog “one of my biggest regrets in my public service was being silent during the 2015 general election campaign on the wrongness of the barbaric cultural practices tip line, and the proposed niqab ban. Those policies were wrong. To the Muslim community, I’m deeply sorry for not fighting it then. I can assure you I won’t make the same mistake again.”

Rempel Garner continued “to Muslims across Canada, I am so, so sorry. To every racialized and marginalized person in Canada; across political stripe, you are right to demand equality and it is our collective responsibility to deliver justice, not platitudes.”

Jason Kenney was the architect of the policy Uppal and Rempel Garner apologized for. As Immigration Minister, he banned Muslim women from wearing the niqab during citizenship ceremonies in 2011, and said the niqab is “a cultural tradition, which I think reflects a certain view about women that we don't accept in Canada.”

As court documents later revealed, federal public servants questioned if the ban was legal. One wrote "my interpretation is that the Minister would like this done, regardless of whether there is a legislative base."

In 2015, Kenney described the niqab as a “medieval tribal custom” and an “abhorrent cultural practice.”

Kenney was also a senior cabinet minister when the federal Conservatives campaigned on offering Canadians a “barbaric cultural practices tip line,” widely denounced as an attempt to encourage racial division.

“I applaud these Conservatives MPs for confronting the harm they caused and apologizing to the Canadians they harmed,” said Jasvir Deol, NDP Critic for Multiculturalism. “It’s time for Jason Kenney to do the same.”

The Alberta Legislature will likely rise later this week, and the Official Opposition is calling on Jason Kenney to apologize in the assembly before then.

“Jason Kenney used his powers as a federal minister to sow division, mistrust, and hatred between Muslims Canadians and their neighbours,” Deol said. “He denigrated their culture as abhorrent, barbaric and medieval. This kind of language is the first step towards the rising anti-Muslim violence we have seen in Alberta and across Canada.

“It’s time for Jason Kenney to confront his racist words and actions, and apologize.”