There has been a great deal of discussion in recent days surrounding a motion put forward by one of my colleagues, Iqra Khalid, Member of Parliament for Erin Mills. Many individuals have called or written to my office with sincere questions about what is in this motion, largely because of an active campaign by others to spread misinformation about what this motion says, what it does, and what it stands for.
Motion 103 is a non-binding motion that allows the House of Commons to express its opinion on a given subject. It is not a bill that could become law, it is a motion. It is not legally enforceable nor does it create any legal obligation for Canadians. The motion in question cannot and will not curtail freedom of speech. What motions do accomplish is allow the house to symbolically support a cause that a majority of its members may feel is important. The fact that there is no legal effect of this motion does not mean it is not important. Symbols matter, and symbolic statement opposing discrimination matter even more. This is not creating a law nor an obligation on Canadians; it is making a moral statement against bigotry.
The text of Motion 103 is as follows:
That, in the opinion of the House, the government should:
(a) recognize the need to quell the increasing public climate of hate and fear;
(b) condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination and take note of House of Commons’ petition e-411 and the issues raised by it; and
(c) request that the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage undertake a study on how the government could
(i) develop a whole-of-government approach to reducing or eliminating systemic racism and religious
discrimination including Islamophobia, in Canada, while ensuring a community-centered focus with a
holistic response through evidence-based policy-making,
(ii) collect data to contextualize hate crime reports and to conduct needs assessments for impacted
communities, and that the Committee should present its findings and recommendations to the House no
later than 240 calendar days from the adoption of this motion, provided that in its report, the
Committee should make recommendations that the government may use to better reflect the
enshrined rights and freedoms in the Constitution Acts, including the Canadian Charter of
Rights and Freedoms.
As the text of motion makes clear, there is nothing in this motion that limits freedom of speech, there is nothing in this motion that prevents open discussion, and there is certainly nothing in this motion that has anything to do with Sharia practices or any other religious law for that matter.
What this motion does is allow the house to condemn discrimination against Canadians who are Muslim, while at the same time condemning “all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination”. It also tasks the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage with studying ways to counter “systemic racism and religious discrimination including Islamophobia”. Note that the motion reads including islamophobia, not limited to islamophobia. This study is in keeping with our commitment as Canadians to dealing with inequality and preventing discrimination. The Canadian Heritage Committee would set a number of days for the study and choose witnesses to appear from across the country. After listening to witnesses and deliberating, the Committee would make a series of recommendations that would be part a report that would be tabled in the House of Commons.
Such a study would allow us as a Government and we as Canadians to take reasonable steps to reduce and eliminate all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination. If the study were to recommend any changes to existing laws or new laws or any changes to the Canadian Human Rights Act, then new bills could be proposed and would need to be debated in the House. As with all bills, these new bills would need to comply with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
As Canadians we regularly call out bad behaviour and shine light on those communities who most need our support. We support the LGBTQ2 community by calling homophobia and transphobia, we support women when we stand against misogyny and violence against women, we support members of the Jewish community when we denounce anti-semitism. We use the term islamophobia in support members of our community who follow Islam and to call out intolerance and discrimination against them.
Canadians oppose discrimination and bigotry against our Muslim neighbors, coworkers, friends and fellow citizens. In recent weeks we witnessed a horrific reminder of what anti-Muslim hate can lead to at the Islamic Centre in Quebec City. This motion is nothing more than a statement of our collective opposition to this kind of hate and I look forward to voting in favour of motion 103 and what it really represents.