Jason Kenney insisting that his record of support for Canada’s Muslim community is clear (Photo: Screenshot of news video).

“I’ve always said that Canada is a country that protects and respects religious freedom and pluralism, and the government has no business regulating what people wear…” — Jason Kenney, yesterday.

“Whaaat?” — Everybody else, also yesterday. 

Former prime minister Stephen Harper (Photo: Office of the Prime Minister).

Is Jason Kenney’s constant gaslighting getting worse? Or were we just not paying sufficient attention when the man was safely ensconced down there in the nation’s capital, being Parliamentary and ministerial? 

Whatever it is, surely even diehard supporters of the Alberta premier’s United Conservative Party must find Mr. Kenney’s claim yesterday that he never supported a ban on the veils known as niqabs worn by a minuscule minority of Muslim women just a little bit disturbing. 

The issue came up after yesterday’s online conference of western Canadian provincial and territorial leaders when reporters braced the premier about long-past statements and policies that were described as Islamophobic at the time, and look far more consequential in the aftermath of the apparent hate-motivated murder of four members of a Muslim family in London, Ont.

Among them, Mr. Kenney’s directive not to permit women to wear niqab veils during citizenship ceremonies in 2011 when he was immigration minister, his dogged defence of that policy after the courts struck the policy down, and the Conservative Party’s unsuccessful dog-whistling election campaign in the fall of 2015.

Bizarrely, notwithstanding the fact his comments were all over the media at the time and are still readily available, Premier Kenney denied it all. “I’ve never supported a proposed ban,” he insisted. “That has never been proposed. I’ve always opposed that.”

“My record on these matters could not be more clear,” he said in a video clip of his remarks yesterday, reciting a long list of issues on which he has supported Canadian Muslims. 

The press asked the question because in the past few days two prominent Alberta federal MPs have apologized for things they and other members of the Conservative Party of Canada said during the 2015 federal election campaign, when a desperate prime minister Stephen Harper gave in to the urge to use racist cultural dog-whistles as an election strategy. 

Edmonton Mill Woods Conservative MP Tim Uppal (Photo: Andrew Scheer/Flickr).

Tim Uppal, now the Conservative MP for Edmonton Mill Woods apologized on Sunday for his failure to oppose the strategy, which he admitted “contributed to the growing problem of Islamophobia in Canada.”

Last week Calgary Nose Hill Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner, also apologized for her weak response to the 2015 niqab hysteria and her party’s so-called “barbaric cultural practices” tip line, both of which were clearly intended to demonize Muslims and set them apart from other Canadians. 

These are interesting reactions in the present circumstance, since so few Conservatives had the courage to speak out against Mr. Harper’s strategy in 2015. As I wrote at the time, “the single most disheartening thing about this long 2015 federal election campaign has been the silence among influential Conservatives about Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s deplorable strategy of race baiting to create a wedge issue.”

“It should not need to be said that such tactics deserve contempt and public disapprobation from all across the political spectrum. … And yet, on the right, there has been very little said, and among Conservatives, almost nothing. This silence is unnerving.”

Calgary Nose Hill Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner (Photo: Originator unidentified, Creative Commons).

Of course, Mr. Harper rarely said this stuff himself – although his “old stock Canadians” crack came close. But no one with an ounce of sense, then or now, denies the manufactured niqab brouhaha – generated by the Conservative Party’s foreign consultants and domestic backroom boys – was intentional.

While Mr. Kenney is clearly gaslighting us again, his parsing of his past phrases is reminiscent of U.S. president Bill Clinton’s famous remark to a grand jury that “it depends on what your definition of ‘is’ is.”

Jerrica Goodwin, Mr. Kenney’s press secretary, explained what he’s trying to do more clearly. He didn’t mean a blanket ban on wearing niqabs, just here or there where examples could be used to rile up the Conservative base. (My phrasing, not hers, of course.) “The premier has never supported such an all-encompassing policy,” she explained. (Emphasis added.) 

That’s true, as far as it goes. But it really changes nothing. 

“This is a problem within the Conservative Party that’s not going to go away just because we’ve had an election,” I concluded in 2015. “Only Conservatives can get their own house in order.”

They never really have.

With his offensive commentary from 2011 and 2015 ricocheting all over social media last night, Alberta’s premier needs to swallow his pride, admit he was wrong and apologize. Then his more positive contributions can speak for themselves. 

Join the Conversation


  1. The Harper government dragged its feet on accepting Muslim refugees from the Syrian war; we learned later that the PMO was vetting the refugee applicant files http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2016/01/27/documents-show-how-conservatives-cherry-picked-syrian-refugee-files_n_9092370.html.

    Kenney was the federal minister who made the crippling budget cuts to the Interim Federal Health Program, which provides medical care coverage for refugees. And it was Kenney who called for the Niqab ban in 2011. He tweeted photos taken from anti-Muslim websites https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/canadian-defense-minister-tweets-hoax-photos-anti-muslim-hate-sites.

  2. With the premier of Alberta, (this position is still in question, but that’s another discussion for another time) is that he has selective memory. Did I really say that? Why, yes you did! The premier also said the same lie when he was confronted with his Neo-Stalinist remarks aimed at Peter Lougheed and Don Getty, with their diversification (make work) projects. He didn’t recall saying that comment, but he actually did.

  3. I’m afraid its becoming more serious and we need to soon come up with a good term to describe it. Do we go for a more medical one like Kenny-zheimers, or call him Kenny-ochio? Maybe we can look to the singer Shaggy for inspiration and call this another case of the “it wasn’t meez”. In any event I think this condition of forgetfulness or denial has become so noticeable and persistent that it needs a name.

    I agree the Conservatives need to come to terms with some of their past mistakes and at least a few like Mr. Uppal and Ms. Rempel Garner seem to be starting to get there. Or perhaps they are just having election jitters. Mr. Uppal’s riding is very ethnically diverse.

    Mr. Kenney on the other hand represented all that was wrong with the Conservatives approach to diversity, rushing from dinner to banquet to get votes, but never really there when needed in the long run.

    Yes, perhaps some Conservatives are starting to come to terms with this. I suppose better late than never, but as usual Kenney is so far behind the times he thinks he is ahead.

  4. One wonders who Jason Kenney imagines he’s placating with this untenable denial, that part of his base who would like to make maga hats mandatory and ban all other hats or everybody else?

  5. Jason Kenney is a pathological liar and it seems to getting worse with each passing week.

    It has reached the point where I assume he’s lying every time he speaks.

  6. Headline today on the CBC website: “Police search for man who berated Muslim woman, kids in downtown Calgary”.

    If Mr. Kenney thinks his past comments and attitudes towards Muslim women have nothing to do with this, he is deluding himself. No one else is fooled by his denialism. I smell pants on fire again.

  7. Kenney panders to WIP.
    Wildrose Islamophobe Party

    One can only hope Paul Hinman can slow the courage Kenney clearly lacks.

  8. In an earlier missive, I declared that Premier Crying & Screaming Midget has the extraordinary ability to edit himself in the future, and then take this edit back into the past, where it will become the reality then. In other words, Kenney has the ability to reinvent anything that has happened in his past when called out on it in the future.

    It’s an amazing talent. Though one must have absolutely no shame when doing it, because it’s the sort of thing that is such boldfaced lying that it cannot be hidden or denied. But it’s not like Kenney has had a problem with augmented reality. He learned this skill from Stephen Harpo.

    Harpo had his own accomplished edits of reality that were hilarious. Prior to the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, Harpo, joined by the entire CPC caucus on Parliament Hill, publicly demanded that the Chretien government join with the US on their military mission to Iraq. He demanded that Canada dispatch an expeditionary force to the region and oust an evil dictator. While calls for killing and relentless bombing campaigns thrill the CON libido, years later, when G.W. Bush’s adventure in Iraq couldn’t stop going sideways, exacting an enormous toll in blood and treasure, Harpo readily and categorically denied that he was ever a war hawk on Iraq. If anything, he was a peacenik on the issue. Even when the video proved Harpo lied about what he said, he was determined to convince everyone that they shouldn’t believe the reality witnessed by their eyes and ears. And don’t get me started on the so-called surplus that the CONs declared in their 2015 Budget, because that was also another instance of Harpo’s convenient relationship with reality.

    I can see the title of Kenney’s memoirs now… Jason Kenney. The Alberta Years: A Time of Niqab Bans and Vaxx-lotteries

  9. “Then his more positive contributions can speak for themselves”?
    And if we all listen really closely and keep very, very quiet, we might actually be able to hear them.

  10. The Conservative Party’s odious “niqab” ploy was just one nail in its coffin during the 2015 election campaign, but the race-baiting tactic was heard loudest as the hammer drove it home and helped to seal the nine year-old government’s fate. I do remember quite clearly Minister Kenney’s snippy apologetics for a number of supposed policies that, behind their own thin veil, were really intended to dog-whistle enmity against Muslims for purely partisan reasons in order to solidify, it was hoped, support for the flagging Harper regime. Kenney’s rationalization of a niqab ban during citizenship swearing-in ceremonies was only half as lame as his denial now, six years later, that he never said it. The novice K-Boy watcher might wonder if he’s gaslighting himself.

    But it wouldn’t be the first time Kenney’s tried to cancel his federal conservative past or illuminate his path to anti-federalism by the gas fire light. From looking a federal gift-horse in the mouth when it bought his province a pipeline whilst Kenney cried wolf that Ottawa was trying to kill Alberta, to slagging the very federal equalization system he himself endorsed as a HarperCon cabinet minister, to criticizing federal Covid help simply because Canadians’ government happens to be Liberal right now, through to questioning our federation just days before denying he had anything to do with ginning Islamophobia leading up to his federal party’s convincing drubbing in 2015-–while news media replay spots of him doing exactly just that—, the K-Boy continues to call his plays right out of Trump’s book: ‘The Harper federal government?—never heard of it…’

    Like some kind of illegitimate spawn of a prion and a Huckabee, Kenney affects a modern day Paris of the Prairies, showing up in Alberta, the once impregnable redoubt of Western Reformism, with a dog’s tongue in a bucket of gin as ‘proof’ the federalist Jason is dead and maybe never really existed. It might have seemed like it worked when his hapless federal equivalent attended a truck convoy of Wexiteers emblazoned with anti-federalist, anti-Ottawa, anti-Liberal and, most disturbing of all, with images of the Prime Minister hung by the neck dead above the words “Treason!” and “Traitor!” Until, that is, the Harperite rump was left high-prairied from the bifurcating federal Conservative party. (And here we thought Erin O’Toole came West to kiss Kenney’s ring in order to win the CPC leadership when, in fact, he was probably sussing out how it would go down when he proclaimed the debate over climate change “over.”)

    But, now the arc of Kenney’s after-flatus burners has peaked hypobollically and his own brethren hector him while the Golden Apple of discord scatters his balls like a perfect Bocce hammer, the Wexiteers and anti-vaxiteers are questioning his boast that only he knows where the demonized federal Liberals’ Achilles heel is. With his quiver nearly empty, his fletchers in disarray, and federal Liberals burning their ships on Juno’s Beach in preparation for a snap election which auguries and oracles predict will be victorious, it’s beginning to look like Kenney might not have an arrow to carry him back to a new Conservative Rome like Aeneas—or even hit the mark if he did.

    The gaslight burns bright as the UCP celebrates spreading word of a super stampede (as a former resident of the great city of Calgary myself, during Stampede, as well as a former resident of Quebec City during its Winter Festival, I know that locals tend to vacate during those cities’ respective spectacles, but I wonder how this will pan out during Covid which, Jason prognosticates, will always be with us—like the flu—so may’s well forget about it and party).

    Unfortunately for K-Paris, that horse with the woody is probably pulling a chuckwagon load of concealed, anti-vaxxer contagion —the kind that Trojans don’t protect from—straight into the Stampede grounds, ready to spread out in the city as the Stetsoned revellers sleep off their besottment. Their cue is Kenney’s guttering gaslight.

    Stay safe, my Alberta friends: we’re not out of the woods yet.

  11. Why isn’t his mother reprimanding him when she lives right above him?
    I used to get the bar of soap in my mouth for swearing or lying …

    This news site is always:
    you name it,
    and hey -good job to everyone who participates in telling the truth (and listening) to your mom.

  12. Jason Kenney is really good at making a lie sound like the truth, only this time he is telling the truth, and it is really smelling like a lie.

    Look at his wording. He is claiming, truthfully I assume, that he has never advocated for a full blown niqab ban. That is, he has never advocated for it to be illegal for a woman to wear a niqab as she goes about her day. He may have made his comment during a discussion about citizenship ceremonies, but that is not what he is talking about. Ergo, it is the truth.

    This really begs the question, what does he hope to gain from his deception? If he uses the argument above, all it is going to do is offend people with the suggestion they are gullible enough to believe him.

  13. So after much pondering, and a small amount of emoluments, I have seen the error in my political calculus! I would like to offer an apology to our long suffering Premier and encourage him to use this on his upcoming campain (sic) trail of tears! https://youtu.be/IbV8A6Ruqa0

  14. I’m asking you not to print this, but rather save it for the upcoming festive season. Designing Christmas cards for useless factotums on the cusp of an extraordinary summer of love and animal torment is a task most thinking and feeling humans would normally abstain from! But oh, in this case? I’ll make an exception! https://youtu.be/7VGa7G_Yl2Y

  15. Harper’s “old-stock Canadians” line is simply an anglophone counterpart to « pure laine Québécois », as they say in La Belle Province. Let’s be clear: the « projet national » of Québec nationalism is ethnocentric, xenophobic, & bigoted.

    Let’s look, for an example, at the infamous & odious Bill 21, the Laicity of the State legislation there that prohibits persons who adhere to certain faiths & wear visible symbols of that fairy, from working in public sector jobs. No turbans, yarmulkes, or hijabs allowed in the police forces, the courts, hospitals or in classrooms in Québec. It’s disgusting. What’s also disgusting is the abject cowardice of our country’s political leaders, all of whom — even the one who would himself be barred from working in the public sector in Québec, due to his turban — have mealy-mouthedly been bleating empty platitudes like “it’s a provincial matter”. Human rights aren’t a jurisdictional matter.

    Now, I fully support the so-called “French fact” of Canada, and it is indisputable that Québec is a distinct society within Canada & North America. But this legislation goes too far. We need political leaders with guts to say so & to take effective action to change it.

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