A number of concerns have been raised to my office and posted on social media in regards to a Private Members’ Motion from my colleague Iqra Khalid condemning Islamophobia known as M-103. The motion seeks to “condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination”, call on the government to collect better data on all hate crimes, and study if there is anything that can be done by the Federal Government to combat hate crimes and religious discrimination
I support this motion and will be voting in favour of it. I’d like to address some of the concerns and misinformation out there, including falsehoods mentioned by Conservative Members of Parliament:
1) “This will limit free speech” – This is a preposterous suggestion. This is a non-binding motion, not a Bill. Passing of the motion will not change Canadian law and it will not amend the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which protects free speech. I can assure you that I take very seriously my role as a lawyer and a legislator and I would not support any attempt to limit Charter Rights.
2) “Islamophobia is not defined in the motion” – True, but why is that a source of concern? If it were a Bill I would agree it would need to be a defined term, but as a motion calling on the Government to study the matter further, a parliamentary committee can tackle a definition. However, in the legal world, if we don’t have a defined term, we go to the dictionary for a definition – according to the Oxford English Dictionary Islamophobia is “Dislike of or prejudice against Islam or Muslims, especially as a political force.”
3) “This motion will expand hate crime laws to prevent me from being critical of Islam” – The motion does not amend any hate crime legislation. However, the Courts will always protect free speech – even if we did choose to amend hate crime legislation, the Supreme Court has placed limits on what Parliament can do regarding hate crimes as protection of free speech is a priority. This motion does not prevent criticism – religion is a human institution. You can be critical of the institution without hating or discriminating against the individuals who practice the faith. The Criminal Code carves out exceptions to hate speech laws that are made in the public interest or are good faith criticisms or opinions.
4) “The motion mentions Islamophobia, why not discrimination against other religions?” – Though the motion condemns all forms of religious discrimination it does mention Islamophobia twice. Six people were murdered in Quebec because of Islamophobia and the motion`s author has experienced discrimination because she is a Muslim woman. As this is Private Members’ business and not a piece of Government Legislation, it is her job to bring forward her personal perspective and those of her community, which includes Islamophobia.
5) “This Motion will lead to the implementation of Sharia Law” – Seriously? No the motion is not implementing sharia law. However, these “concerns” of which I’ve received many underline the need of Parliament to study religious discrimination.
As a Member of Parliament, it is my role to stand up and voice concerns, especially for vulnerable groups and people. Though hate crimes have gone down in Canada over several years, hate crimes against Muslims have gone up during that period. We have neighbours and friends in the Muslim Community in Niagara questioning whether they are welcomed in our society and that is unacceptable. Let’s stand together, speak out against the misinformation and condemn Islamophobia and all forms of religious discrimination.