Tory MP Larry Miller tells niqab-wearers at oath ceremonies to ‘stay the hell where you came from’
OWEN SOUND, Ont. — A Conservative MP has apologized for telling a radio station that Muslim women who want to wear a niqab while taking the oath of citizenship should “stay the hell where you came from.”
Larry Miller, who represents the riding of Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound, made the comment Monday in the wake of a Federal Court ruling that struck down a ban on face coverings during citizenship oaths.
“I think most Canadians feel the same. That’s maybe saying it a little harshly, but it’s the way I feel,” Miller told 560 CFOS AM.
“I’m so sick and tired of people wanting to come here because they know it’s a good country and then they want to change things before they even really officially become a Canadian, so I have no sympathy for her.”
Miller apologized on Tuesday, calling his comments “inappropriate.”
“I stand by my view that anyone being sworn-in as a new citizen of our country must uncover their face. However I apologize for and retract my comments that went beyond this,” he said in the statement.
Zunera Ishaq, a permanent resident of Canada since 2008, put her citizenship ceremony on hold last year in a bid to strike down the niqab ban.
Ishaq wrote in an opinion piece published Monday in The Toronto Star that she decided to launch the challenge out of her desire to live on her own terms.
“I am not looking for Mr. Harper to approve my life choices or dress. I am certainly not looking for him to speak on my behalf and ‘save’ me from oppression, without even ever having bothered to reach out to me and speak with me.”
Police said a 44-year-old man, upset with Miller’s comments on the show, went to Miller’s office Monday afternoon to speak to him. Police said officers were called because the man was wearing camouflage clothing and had a Palestinian flag on his arm. Police said no charges were laid.
It was the second embarrassing backtrack this month by the ruling Conservatives as they gear up for an October election that they have signalled they will centre around the economy and the fight against “jihadist terrorism.”
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has spoken strongly against wearing the niqab in citizenship ceremonies, but his office admitted Tuesday that Miller’s comments went too far.
“The member in question made inappropriate comments that went beyond our clear position,” the PMO’s press secretary said in a statement.
The National Council of Canadian Muslims said Miller’s remarks followed “a sadly unsurprising pattern of inflammatory rhetoric from the government seemingly designed to keep the electorate focused on identity politics in order to distract them from broader issues in an election year.”
Earlier this month Conservative MP John Williamson retracted complaints he voiced about how a federal program enabled “whities” to stay home while “brown people” come in as temporary foreign workers.
This week Pierre Paul-Hus, a PC candidate in Quebec, told local media that women should not even wear niqabs in public.
Gerald Butts, adviser to opposition Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, said on Twitter Harper “has done zero to condemn this behaviour. His silence condones it.”
– with files from Reuters