A number of Canadian women leaders from a variety of backgrounds initiated the idea of a RespectWomen statement in response to the deeply troubling and divisive political and public debate about the niqab that has arisen during the current federal election.

Together, they have drafted a statement (see below) which calls on political and other leaders to commit to a vision of Canada that embraces all women, regardless of how they dress or how they express their religious beliefs.

The statement has quickly gathered well in excess of 500 signatures of high profile Canadian women from all walks of life including the worlds of law, politics, civil society, religion, academia, international affairs, labour and business.

Please take a moment to share it on social media by clicking on one of the icons found at the bottom of this page. You are also welcome to leave a comment in the comment box below.

6 thoughts on “Respect Women Statement

  1. I am very happy that women leaders have written this letter; I hope, though that everyone will remember that there are many women who would agree with this letter but were not approached to sign it. They, too, are leaders in their communities, or within their families, even though they may not have national profile. It is important that all sorts of women be included when “talking with women”.

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  2. I fully support the position communicated in the statement. The foundation of Canada’s existence is being hijacked-all in the name of unethical politics.
    Let’s focus on what really matters-not only for women, but ALL Canadians-the economy, our low dollar, a country with provinces & territories that are fractured & need federal leaders to bring our pluralistic, genuinely caring society back together. Our mosaic of strengths & talents as a country is far to valuable to be jeopardized further.

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  3. Here are my comments/questions.

    We are united in our commitment to the Canadian values of equality, freedom, and justice. (What does it mean, Canadian values? Are these things that we have or aspire to? I have lived in Canada over 60 years and have never known equality, freedom or justice to exist in here for all.)

    We are deeply troubled by the divisive national discussion about women and the niqab. (Agreed. Just let everyone know that all women who wear niqabs in Canada are doing so by their own choice and not the choice or will of anyone else. Once you say this, this issue will evaporate. How come you don’t already know this?)

    We believe it undermines important rights to freedom of expression and freedom of religion, and deepens the inequality faced by many women in the country.
    (Agreed. Just let everyone know that all women who wear niqabs in Canada are doing so by their own choice and not the choice or will of anyone else. Once you say this, this issue will evaporate.)

    Whatever our own feelings are with respect to the niqab, democracy based in individual rights requires us to be respectful: in order to have our own rights respected we must respect the rights of others.
    (I cannot agree with any statement that speaks to rights and not responsibilities. To me, they are indivisible – one without the other breeds inequality and injustice.)

    We believe that freedom of religion and freedom of expression include the freedom to dress in accordance with our religious views or personal preferences.
    (Agreed. Just let everyone know that all women who wear niqabs in Canada are doing so by their own choice and not the choice or will of anyone else. Once you say this, this issue will evaporate.)

    It troubles us that the current focus on the few instances of women wanting to wear a niqab during their citizenship ceremony has divided Canadians and stigmatized Muslim women. (Agreed. Just let everyone know that all women who wear niqabs in Canada are doing so by their own choice and not the choice or will of anyone else. Once you say this, this issue will evaporate.)

    As women leaders we are concerned about the high levels of violence faced by women and girls in Canada, and in particular the high rates of violence experienced by Indigenous women and girls.
    (I am concerned as well. Having helped raise sons and daughters, I was and continue to be aware of the responsibility parents have in shaping our children to become well-adjusted, caring, responsible adults. We, (my wife and I) could never have done our job as parents without the help and guidance from God, the Creator. Unless what is in the news is wrong (if it is, please let me know the real picture), perpetrators of violence towards women are most likely to be someone known to the victim. To me, this problem, excluding indegenous women, has root in the overall breakdown of the family (faith-based or not), and that the boys who act in violence as men (actually not men, because no man would do this) were not raised to respect women. For indegenous women, this is hightened by hundreds of years of society-sponsored oppression.)

    It is time to set aside the issue of the niqab and move to the issues that impact the daily lives of most women and girls in Canada.
    (Agreed. Just let everyone know that all women who wear niqabs in Canada are doing so by their own choice and not the choice or will of anyone else. Once you say this, this issue will evaporate.)

    We ask all leaders and public figures in the country to refrain from allowing the issue of the niqab to create an atmosphere of intolerance and xenophobia in this country.
    (Agreed. Just let everyone know that all women who wear niqabs in Canada are doing so by their own choice and not the choice or will of anyone else. Once you say this, this issue will evaporate. Regarding xenophobia. I know the definition, but please explain if your meaning is on the part of those here, newcomers or both?)

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    1. I trust this worthy gentleman has absolute proof that all women wearing niqab are doing so voluntarily in Canada. Ditto arranged marriages, “honour” killings, etc.? Women’s rights are the same world over – but getting the patriarchy to recognize this fact is a long and rocky road. Canada can and should set a global example of equality for all, not spend our time nitpicking semantics when statements try to expose and clarify our lack of true equality for women, immigrants, non-“old stock”, etc.etc.

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  4. Zunera Ishaq did the right thing to challenge the Conservative government in the courts for the right to wear her niqab while taking her oath of citizenship. Multiculturalism is a challenging social construct but when we see young people with their friends we see that it is a way of life that works for those willing to learn from others. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as our Justice System are working in this case.

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