Playing upon people's hate and fear is, well, of the dark side. The rise of the niqab issue in Canadian politics is symbolic politics at its worst. How so? Because it takes a non-problem and puts it at the center of the political system. A very small minority of a small minority wear niqabs. Despite their utter irrelevance to larger political issues, these women have become a focal point because Stephen Harper wants to appeal to the xenophobic tendencies in Canada.
Yes, majorities in country don't like the niqab. So what? I bet majorities don't like a bunch of religious practices. But that is why the right to observe one's religion is enshrined in Canada's constitution. Picking on the small is easy, picking on them when others fear them is very easy.
But that which is easy and that which is right are actually pretty easy to distinguish in this case. One of the basic challenges of any Prime Minister is to choose between that which is easy and that which is right (thanks, Dumbledore), and the current PM is disqualifying himself for holding that office as he continues to choose that which is easy.
The bigger problem here is that once one decides to ride the wave of xenophobia, one cannot simply get off easily or safely at a time and place of one's choosing. Oh, and if we want to radicalize the next generation of Muslims in Canada, alienating their mothers/sisters/daughters/etc is a good place to start.
This stance is simply un-Canadian (and un-American for that matter). I have always been ambivalent about Stephen Harper, disliking his stances on transparency (he's against it), his hostility to public servants, and his hypocrisy about the military and NATO (defending/supporting when convenient, undermining the rest of the time) but appreciating his political acumen, his sincerity when it comes to his love of Canada, and all that.
But this late grasp, this desperate reach for one of the worst yet tempting tactics in politics is below him and below any Canadian politician worthy of higher office. There is no problem here---just a group of people who are feared by the majority, so why not exploit those fears to hold onto office for another few years?