Freedom of speech, bigotry and anti-Muslim sentiment in Canada would seem to cut to the heart of an ongoing fiery debate this week between our federal Conservative and Liberal politicians.
At issue is a motion, known as M-103, that came before the House of Commons yesterday for debate.
The motion urges the government to “recognize the need to quell the increasing public climate of hate and fear” and “condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religions discrimination ...”
Tabled by first-time Liberal MP Iqra Khalid, it would also request that the House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage study how to eliminate systemic racism and religious discrimination “including Islamophobia,” and further, seek the federal government to collect data on hate crimes in this country so it can be studied.
The wording of this motion stuck in the craw of members of the Conservative Opposition, including several candidates running for the leadership of the Conservative Party, who claim that it seeks to limit their right to freedom of speech.
It’s an argument that was bolstered by organizations like The Rebel media, a hard-right conservative political platform founded by former Sun News Network host Ezra Levant, who organized a “Rally for Free Speech” on Wednesday to fight back against what he said were attempts to silence anyone who criticizes Islam.
Specifically, Levant and the federal Tories seem to be in a tizzy over the use of the word “Islamophobia” in Khalid’s motion, which in truth does seem to single out one religion in particular. As the National Post reported this week, the motion is not actually a piece of proposed legislation. If it passes, as it is expected to on Thursday, it will create no new laws nor change any existing laws.
The motion came to the fore after nearly 70,000 Canadians signed a petition calling on MPs to “join us in recognizing that extremist individuals do not represent the religion of Islam, and in condemning all forms of Islamophobia.”
The Conservatives countered the Liberal motion yesterday with their own, which makes no reference to Islamophobia, but rather calls on the government to “condemn all forms of systemic racism, religious intolerance, and discrimination of Muslims, Jews Christians, Sikhs, Hindus and other religious communities.”
Canadians must be very glad to see our federal politicians falling all over themselves to show their constituents how they are fighting bigotry and hatred by firing political shots at each other across the aisle. All in a cynical attempt to convince voters that their party is on the side of the angels.
National Post columnist Andrew Coyne said it well yesterday when he suggested on Twitter that people should not be labelled intolerant or bigoted for offering thoughtful critiques of Islam. “But calling Muslims “unintegrateable?” Yeah,” he wrote.
There is a venomous strain of politicians within the Conservative party who seek to divide Canadians based on fear and bigotry —the Kelly Leitch-style politician who seems ready to shove her version of Canadian values down Canadians’ throat.
Yet on the other side of the House, we have Liberal backbenchers bringing down feel-good wishy-washy motions that do little more than preach to the choir, and ignite passionate and misdirected outrage from Conservative politicians.
There is good reason to condemn acts of hatred and violence against all faiths, but there has undoubtedly been a rise in vocal anti-Muslim sentiments in this country with the Donald Trump administration taking power in Washington, D.C.
Conservatives running for leadership of their party are in part to blame for fanning those flames on this side of the border.
And it isn’t unfair to say that a growing “Islamophobia” brought about the recent shooting at a mosque in Quebec City that left six Muslim men dead, and several others wounded.
This irrational rage at the wording of a mere motion with no legislative teeth is symptomatic of a larger political problem facing Canadians. If our legislators cannot find rational common ground when it comes to the definitions of “anti-Muslim” and “Islamophobia,” how on earth are they going to actually tackle this growing bigotry?
Or is that, in the end, the whole point?