There are many issues before Parliament, but the matter my office has received the most feedback on lately is Motion 103.
To be clear, the motion introduced by Mississauga-Erin Mills Liberal MP Iqra Khalid is neither a “bill” nor a “law.” It does not “introduce Sharia law,” as some people have suggested, nor would it “ban freedom of speech.”
The motion requests that the House undertake a study on how the government could reduce racism and religious discrimination.
However, M-103 is also focused on a controversial term, Islamophobia, which some believe may be used to shut down legitimate debate rather than to encourage it; to intimidate rather than to inform.
Even former Liberal justice minister and renowned human-rights lawyer Irwin Cotler argued that any motion which sought to combat racism would have far broader support if it didn’t contain the word Islamophobia.
Conservatives are fully committed to freedom of religion and freedom of speech. We condemn, in the strongest of terms, all acts committed against religious communities, including at places of worship.
It was Conservatives who established the Office of Religious Freedom in 2012 to protect freedom of religion and belief internationally, as well as to promote Canadian values of tolerance and pluralism.
The Liberal government shut the office down shortly after coming into power.
Our Conservative caucus tried to work constructively with Ms. Khalid to introduce amendments recognizing the need to fight racism, religious intolerance and discrimination of all religious communities.
Initially, Ms. Khalid told a number of our MPs that she would need to “check with the Prime Minister’s Office,” which is an odd thing to say when it comes to private members’ business, and eventually she refused to entertain any amendments.
M-103 will be voted on in April and our leader, Rona Ambrose, instructed our caucus that Conservatives will be holding a free vote on M-103.
On Feb. 16, Conservatives introduced a nearly identical yet more inclusive motion condemning “systemic racism, religious intolerance and discrimination of Muslims, Jews, Christians, Sikhs, Hindus and other religious communities.”
Before the ink on our motion even had a chance to dry, Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly was unequivocal on behalf of the Liberals stating, “We will oppose it.”
We hoped the Prime Minister’s Office and the Trudeau government would agree with this approach, but sadly it appears this issue has more to do with politics for them than it does about denouncing racism and combatting hate crimes.
Canada already has robust laws against hate and Section 2 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms enshrines fundamental freedoms including religion.
When it comes to the number of reported hate crimes in Canada motivated by religion, the latest data actually shows Jews are the most frequent target by a margin of three to one over Muslims, despite the Muslim population in Canada outnumbering those of the Jewish faith by more than three to one.
For that reason alone, it was important to take a more inclusive approach in condemning religious intolerance and I was proud to support our Conservative motion this past Tuesday.
Unfortunately, in spite of support from all opposition parties, our motion was defeated by the Liberals in a vote of 126 to 165.