Justin Trudeau: “The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration said that the hijab was an indefensible perversion of Canadian values.”
By: Dana Wagner on
Justin Trudeau, Liberal Party leader and MP for Papineau, in Question Period on March 10, 2015
In a case of putting words in someone else’s mouth, Justin Trudeau misquoted or wrongly paraphrased comments by Chris Alexander, giving a false impression of what the immigration minister said.FactsCan Score: False
In the House earlier this month, Justin Trudeau questioned the Prime Minister about comments made by two of his MPs, John Williamson and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander.
On the first set of comments, which made the news and for which Williamson later apologized, Trudeau said the MP “said disgraceful things about foreign workers.” This is Trudeau’s opinion, and comes across as opinion.
On Alexander, Trudeau said “the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration said that the hijab was an indefensible perversion of Canadian values.” This sounds like Trudeau is quoting Alexander, not giving an opinion on his comments. The average listener would reasonably think Alexander said this. Trudeau repeated the claim in a speech given later the same day.
Head scarves are in the news because of a Federal Court decision in February to overturn a government ban on face-coverings during the citizenship ceremony. The government says it will appeal the decision. The hijab is a scarf worn by some Muslim women that covers the hair and does not cover the face. It seems like Alexander misused this word in his comments, perhaps in place of “niqab,” which does cover the face.
The source of Trudeau’s remark, according to the Liberal leader’s office, is an email from Alexander to Conservative Party members. A copy of the email was posted on Twitter by Toronto Star columnist Susan Delacourt. On the hijab, here’s what Alexander said:
“We believe that when someone becomes a Canadian citizen, they should embrace our culture and everything that makes us proud to be Canadian. That should be done without interference, freely and openly. It’s why we filed a notice to appeal this week’s court decision allowing people to wear the hijab while taking the Oath.”
Alexander did not say that wearing the hijab or the niqab is indefensibly perverting Canadian values. Trudeau’s claim is false for two reasons:
First, in the visible body of the email, the words “indefensible perversion” do not appear at all.
But Trudeau could have been paraphrasing, which raises the second reason: it’s inaccurate to use strong, emotional language while paraphrasing if this does not reflect the original language used. The right way to paraphrase is to give the gist of something in fewer words, or clearer words, or just different words – but without changing the meaning. Words like “indefensible perversion” change the meaning. In this case, they make the comments sound inflammatory.
Whether he misquoted or badly paraphrased the immigration minister, Trudeau’s claim is false. Alexander did not say this in the email cited by Trudeau’s office.