Ottawa - In February, Liberal MP Iqra Khalid introduced Private Member’s Motion M-103, which calls for the end of systematic racism and racial discrimination. The motion, which condemnsIslamophobia, while simultaneously omitting hatred towards all other religions, is inherently flawed. Here is why.
To be clear, the Conservative Party remains fully opposed to all forms of hate speech, racial discrimination, religious intolerance and bigotry. It is for those exact reasons the previous conservative government created the Office of Religious Freedom within the Department of Foreign Affairs. This office was tasked with protecting freedom of religion and belief internationally, as well as to promote Canadian values of tolerance and pluralism. However, in complete juxtaposition of this motion, the Liberal Government decided to shut the office down.
Whether it be through our Constitution, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the American Bill of Rights, or even the internationally accepted Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations, in one form or another, religious discrimination and hatred is rightly prohibited. Not only does Canada currently sanction these practices, but we also devotedly enforce the laws against them in the Criminal Code. As a result, from the most primitive of outlooks, it is clear that M-103 is both redundant and purely political; especially considering it is non-binding and therefore bears no legal weight.
Despite the motions genuine intention to protect all people and to promote inclusivity, its poor construct, instead, does the exact opposite. Perhaps the single largest issue with the motion is that it specifically condemns “Islamophobia”, without any reference to other religions, ethnicities or cultures. Even more troubling is that the motion does not define what Islamophobia is.
In reality, there are some one million Muslims in Canada. The community is an integral part of our nation and undoubtedly adds to the multicultural diversity that Canadians pride themselves on. With that being said, when undefined and controversial terms such as Islamophobia are introduced in the House of Commons, concerns about stifling legitimate debate begin to be raised. If criticizing Islamic terrorism, Sharia Law, and the Niqab all begin to fall under the broad and misleading term of ‘Islamophobia’, we may very well find ourselves contradicting one of the foundational principles our country was built on, that of freedom of speech.
The Government's role is to protect citizens, whether they practice a religion or not. It is not to protect specific religions. It is for this precise reason the Conservative party proposed a counter motion which replaced Islamophobia with a more inclusive phrase calling for the condemnation of “systemic racism, religious intolerance and discrimination of Muslims, Jews, Christians, Sikhs, Hindus, and other religious communities” alike. Even Irwin Cotler, former Liberal MP and Attorney General expressed his reservations for the motion and recommended the word Islamophobia be replaced with “anti-Muslim bigotry.”
To sum it all up, I want to reiterate the importance of separating church and state. It is the government’s role to protect the citizens of this country, not the government’s role to protect the religions of this country. Unfortunately, M-103 is redundant, and specifically singles out one group of individuals, while putting the rest of society into the periphery.
Kevin Budning is majoring in Conflict Studies & Human Rights at the University of Ottawa