A Conservative MP has apologized for telling Muslim women who don't want to remove a face-covering veil while taking the oath of citizenship to "stay the hell where you came from."
Larry Miller, MP for the Ontario riding of Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound, made the remarks Monday on a local radio show, "Open Line with Bill Murdoch." The MP was discussing the government's appeal of a Federal Court ruling that overturned a ban on the wearing of the niqab during the citizenship ceremony.
While conceding he was putting things "a little harshly," Miller said most Canadians feel the same way.
"I'm so sick and tired of people wanting to come here because they know it's a good country and they want to change things before they even really officially become a Canadian," he said.
Miller did not refer directly to Zunera Ishaq, the Pakistani woman who sued the government, saying the niqab ban was an infringement of her rights. However, Miller said he had "no sympathy" for the "lady" who challenged the ban in court and said he was baffled that she won.
Press Progress has posted an audio clip from the program online:
In a statement Tuesday, Miller said he recognized the comments he made were "inappropriate," but stood by the view that anyone sworn in as a new Canadian citizen should reveal their face.
"However, I apologize for and retract my comments that went beyond this," he said in the statement.
A spokesman from the Prime Minister's Office told The Canadian Press that Miller's remarks were offside and went beyond the government's "clear position.''
"What the prime minister has stated is that we believe it is offensive that someone would cover their face at the very moment they want to join the Canadian family,'' Carl Vallee said in an e-mail.
Despite Miller's apology, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau took to Twitter Tuesday afternoon to link the backbencher's remarks to Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Trudeau also charged that Miller's remarks prove Harper is stoking prejudice against Muslims.
"This is a prime minister who encourages and condones the politics of division and fear and that is very dangerous in Canada, in a pluralistic, strong, free society like ours,'' he told The Canadian Press.
Miller also told the Bayshore Broadcasting talk show Monday that the police were called to his office after an irate man dressed in camouflage and carrying a Palestinian flag demanded to speak the MP about his earlier comments. The man reportedly told Miller's staff he was a Muslim.
"From their description, he was a typical Caucasian," Miller said. "Like we don't know, is this gentleman radicalized? Is he just somebody expressing their displeasure?
"And if that’s the case, I'm okay with that. But he scared the ladies in my office and I’m not going to tolerate that."
No charges were laid in the incident. According to the media release from the Owen Sound Police Service, the male, 44, made no threats and left Miller's office when told the MP was not there.
The man also apologized "for causing such alarm," the release reads.
In a 2010 profile by National Post columnist John Ivison, Miller was described as a much-loved and respected voice in the Conservative caucus because of his reputation as a straight-shooter.
"We call him the Keeper of the Flame — the voice of principle and straightforward talk in caucus," said Edmonton MP James Rajotte at the time.
The Post also wrote that Miller was said to be vocal in caucus that "Canadians expect their government to enforce sovereignty over its own borders."
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