POLITICS

Newfoundland Mummers Spoof The Niqab Issue As Only They Can

10/13/2015 07:09 EDT | Updated 10/13/2015 07:59 EDT

Leave it to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to give the niqab issue the dose of lightness it needs.

Hundreds of them have committed to showing up to vote as "mummers," a cultural practice that goes back to the 19th century.

St. John's businessman Jon Keefe thought that mummering would be a perfect way to satirize the niqab issue, which has dominated the Canadian federal election in the weeks leading up to Oct. 19, The Telegram reported.

"On the surface, it’s a lighthearted event, an excuse to have a bit of fun on election day," he told the newspaper. "Beyond that, I hope it'll make people look at the subject of facial coverings a different way. I fully intend to vote without revealing any part of my face."

Mummering is a Christmas tradition in the eastern province, in which people dress up in ridiculous clothing, disguise their faces and voices, then visit homes and entertain occupants.

They receive drinks and food until people can guess who they are, at which point they lift their coverings.

Keefe thought it would be a perfect way to reflect on the issue of the niqab, which has been a prominent fixture in election talk after the Federal Court struck down a ban on wearing the Islamic garment during citizenship ceremonies last month.

The Federal Court of Appeal shot down an appeal, and reports later emerged showing that the ban only affected two out of 680,000 people in the years it was enforced.

So Keefe started a Facebook event, "Any Mummers 'Lowed to Vote," in which people were encouraged to show up to polling stations in mummers' clothing, face coverings and all.

"There are lots of different cultures within Canada, each with their own values and traditions, but we've managed to coexist so far," Keefe told Vice News.

"You shouldn't have to show your face to a stranger in order to avail of your basic democratic right to vote — it doesn't make sense."

The idea has caught on with voters such as Crystal Martin, who posted a YouTube video of herself voting in a mummer's outfit.

And the rules, it appears, are on the mummers' side.

Elections Canada states that you can vote with your face covered as long as you provide two pieces of ID, one of which has your current address, and then take an oath saying you're eligible to cast a ballot.

Keefe is firm that he's not making fun of people who wear the niqab, but the politicians who have made it into an issue.

"At the end of the day, I want to normalize the idea that you do not — and should not — have to expose your flesh to the government in order to avail of your basic democratic rights," he told Vice News. "That'd be barbaric."

Keefe isn't the only one who's taken on the issue of covering your face at the polling station.

Calgary woman Gail Throne showed up to cast a ballot in a ski mask, and said it was "just nuts" that she was able to do so.

And last week, voters in Quebec covered their faces using potato sacks, clown costumes and other clothing items.

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