When I jointly seconded my colleague MP Iqra Khalid’s Motion 103, I thought it was a no-brainer.
In the immediate wake of the Quebec attack, and in the wake of a doubling of hate crimes against Muslim-Canadians over the last three years (while hate crimes overall have decreased), M-103 calls on our government to condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination, and calls for our Heritage Committee to study how we can reduce or eliminate all systemic racism and religious discrimination, including Islamophobia.
Strangely, M-103 has become a divisive issue in our House of Commons, despite the fact that a similar motion recently passed unanimously in Ontario’s provincial legislature.
Conservative MP Kellie Leitch and company led the charge against the motion, claiming that it is an assault on free speech. But as the ardent defender of free speech, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association put it: “Not only does M-103 not restrict or censor speech, it is not a bill and is not a law. There is no rational argument that M-103…restricts or constrains section 2(b)” of our Charter.
Other federal Conservatives, in a related attack, claimed that Islamophobia is undefined and that we should not condemn legitimate criticism of radical Islam.
I agree that we should not condemn rational criticism of any religion, or of any other ideology or movement for that matter. I do not agree that M-103 asks us to do that.
We can criticize the treatment of women in Islam and Christianity, without being Islamophobic or Christophobic. We can criticize the organizers of Pride for excluding police officers without being homophobic. We can criticize a policy of open borders without being xenophobic.
More, we can dispute whether certain examples fall within any one of these definitions, and at the same time agree that each of these discriminatory ideas should be condemned.
Still, other federal Conservatives complained that M-103 lacked inclusivity by focusing on Islamophobia.
These same MPs forget that our House unanimously condemned global anti-Semitism in February 2015. Calling attention to particular kinds of discrimination does not preclude our caring to end others.
In any event, M-103 condemns all religious discrimination and racism. It singles out Islamophobia only as an example, and it does so for good reason.
After all, we live in a world in which anti-Muslim prejudices have increased ever since 9/11, and in a country that saw six men shot recently at a mosque in Quebec City by an apparent alt-right extremist. The current President of the Unites States has said “I think Islam hates us,” and called for a Muslim ban during the election. My colleague Iqra received a number of shocking and explicitly hateful messages in response to introducing M-103. And at a recent and depressing protest outside of a downtown Toronto mosque, signs read “Ban Islam” and “Muslims are terrorists.”
Islamophobia is a real phenomenon in our society. In the wake of the Quebec attack, we should stand in solidarity with Muslim-Canadians. And while M-103 is largely symbolic, symbols matter.
Nathaniel Erskine-Smith is the Liberal MP for Beaches-East York.