Opponents of the anti-Islamophobia federal government motion M-103 wave Canadian flags during a rally outside City Hall in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on March 4, 2017. (REUTERS/CHRIS HELGEN)
March 30, 2017
Canada’s House of Commons has passed a motion after months of heated debate, protests and counter-protests. Motion 103, or M-103, calls for the government to “condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination”. While it’s not a law, it paves the way for a study on anti-Muslim sentiment in Canada and would outline how the government should respond.
Critics of the motion say it is a threat to free speech and that they should be able to criticise Islam freely if they choose. They ask why Islam should be singled out for special treatment compared to other religions, despite the fact parliament has already taken similar measures. In 2015, for example, a motion condemning anti-Semitism passed unanimously with little controversy.
Still, critics say the lack of a definition of Islamophobia in the text of M-103 leaves too much open to interpretation, and that it is a slippery slope that could lead to a bill legislating against free speech. In the Canadian parliamentary system, motions often precede studies, which can lead to a bill.
Liberal Member of Parliament Iqra Khalid tabled the non-binding motion, which supporters say protects diversity and looks for ways Canada can be more inclusive. It took on additional significance in the wake of the Quebec Mosque shooting in January that left six Muslim men dead. Khalid says the motion is necessary to find out how widespread Islamophobia is in Canada. Earlier this month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, “Do we have a problem with Islamophobia in this country? Yes we do.” He also addressed a “very scary and real” rise in hate speech that he said needs to be addressed.
Reports of anti-Muslim hate crimes rose 442 percent between 2013 and 2016, according to the National Council of Canadian Muslims. Across Canadian university campuses, there has been a rise in leaflets and posters containing outright racist messages or right-wing political slogans.
Canada, long considered a bastion of liberal democracy, has not been immune to the rise of right-wing groups and the tide of populism sweeping the globe. Anti-immigrant groups like the Soldiers of Odin and the Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West have become more vocal and visible since President Donald Trump’s election in the United States. These groups are among the outspoken critics of M-103.
The Stream looks at the increase in anti-Muslim sentiment in Canada and what difference M-103 might make.
In this epsiode of The Stream, we speak with:
Brad Trost @BradTrostCPC
Member of Parliament, Conservative Party
Amira Elghawaby @AmiraElghawaby
Communications Director, National Council of Canadian Muslims
Barbara Perry @IntHateStudies
Professor, University of Ontario
Chair, International Network for Hate Studies
What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.