Members of Parliament (MP’s) debated a motion from Mississauga-Erin Mills MP Iqra Khalid on Islamophobia Wednesday evening. Khalid introduced the motion last fall asking that the government should recognize the need to quell the increasing public climate of hate and fear; and condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination. It also asked that the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage study potential approaches to reducing or eliminating systemic racism including Islamophobia in Canada.
“I am a proud Canadian among hundreds and thousands of others who will not tolerate hate based on religion or skin colour. I rise today with my fellow Canadians to reject and condemn Islamophobia,” she said when she tabled the motion. An e-petition with 70,000 signatures called on the House of Commons to recognize that extremists aren’t representative of Islam.
The Liberals are supporting Khalid’s motion. Heritage Minister Melanie Joly applauded her courage tweeting out “Thanks to my colleague @iamIqraKhalid for her great leadership in presenting M103.”
Critics argue it threatens free speech. Khalid defends her motion pointing out that it’s not legislation and will not interfere with the freedom of expression. “And I would be the first person to oppose anything that infringes on our Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” she said. Freedom of speech is protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Conservatives Present Their Own Motion
The Conservatives have presented a different motion today. They ask the House of Commons “to recognize that Canada is not immune to hate/ fear, and condemning all forms of racism, religious intolerance and discrimination of Muslims, Jews, Christians, Sikhs, Hindus, and other religious communities.”
Their motion has caused divisions among the leadership contenders. Conservative MP Michael Chong plans to support the motion. He rejects the idea it threatens free speech. Chong released a statement . “In light of the mass shooting at the Quebec Islamic Cultural Centre in Quebec City last month, where six Muslims were killed, and 19 injured while they prayed in their mosque, it is appropriate and important that Canadian parliamentarians study the issue of anti-Muslim and anti-Islamic prejudice and discrimination.”
Kellie Leitch tweeted her determination that all should be treated the same. “We should treat all religions equally. I am opposed to m-103. No religion should enjoy special privileges.”
Lisa Raitt does not support Khalid’s motion. She objects to the wording. “M-103 is focused on a controversial term- Islamophobia, which I don’t believe is appropriate and as such I do not support this motion.”
M-103 amendments possible
One of the problems with Iqra Khalid’s motion is that Islamophobia is undefined. Shimon Fogel is CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs. He’s been in contact with Khalid regarding possible changes including a possible definition.
“The Jewish community wants to demonstrate its support and solidarity with a Muslim community that feels under siege, but this cannot come at the cost of a constructive conversation about those elements or manifestations of Islam that are not only antithetical to Canadian values, but have been the basis of hatred toward and attacks on Jewish communities around the world,” he told the CBC. The motion isn’t scheduled to be voted on until April.
Follow Iqra Khalid’s motion as it progresses through Parliament here.