EDMONTON — Alberta NDP Premier Rachel Notley says she is disappointed and troubled by the way minority rights are being debated on the federal campaign trail. Notley was asked Thursday whether she had any concerns with the way the federal Conservatives are campaigning about forcing Muslim women to removes their niqabs while taking the citizenship oath. The premier said she was hesitant to weigh in, but did. "I really don't want to actually fire this up a lot more but I will say simply this: I am disappointed and troubled to see minority rights issues becoming political footballs in the election," she told reporters on a conference call about her economic mission to Eastern Canada and the U.S. "I don't think that is helpful." Notley did not cite any of her specific concerns. "I am going to leave it at that," she said. The issue of religious accommodation and specifically banning the wearing of face coverings during citizenship ceremonies has become one of the campaign's most contentious issues, particularly in seat-rich Quebec There is wide support in that province for the Conservative and Bloc Quebecois position that women wearing the niqab be forced to remove it when swearing the oath. NDP Leader Tom Mulcair, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May oppose the ban. Mulcair has criticized Harper and Duceppe for using the divisive issue to score political points, while acknowledging that many people feel strongly about it. Notley is not the first Alberta politician to speak out on the niqab being an issue in the campaign. In an interview earlier this week on Evan Solomon's satellite radio podcast, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi ripped the Conservative's position as politically motivated and "dangerous." On Thursday, the mayor then took issue with Conservative Defence Minister Jason Kenney's response. Kenney was quoted in the Calgary Herald as saying: "It seems to me that it’s the mayor and people like him who are politicizing it. I don’t think this should be an issue of contention." Nenshi, who is Muslim, fired back on Twttier. "'People like me,' eh?" Nenshi responded. "Let's just assume (Jason Kenney) means 'thoughtful people,' shall we?" The hashtag #PeopleLikeNenshi quickly took off after the response.
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