Canadian Parliament is expected to vote on a Liberal motion designed to condemn systemic racism and discrimination, and it specifically notes “Islamophobia.”
Motion M-103, presented by Ontario Liberal MP Iqra Khalid (Mississauga-Erin Mills), asks the House of Commons to “condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination” and calls on the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage to “undertake a study on how the government could develop a whole-of-government approach to reducing or eliminating systemic racism and religious discrimination including Islamophobia, in Canada.”
The motion has raised the question – even among Liberal MPs – of why Islam gets particular mention while other major religions such as Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Hinduism do not.
South Surrey-White Rock Conservative MP Dianne Watts said she would like to see the motion reworded.
“The Liberals, the NDP, certainly ourselves as Conservatives, would like to see that context broadened because it’s unacceptable to be targeted for your race, religion or beliefs. You should never be targeted,” Watts told Peace Arch News Monday.
“Any hate crimes that are perpetrated against a specific religion or specific race is totally unacceptable.” Asked if the motion needs to be broadened beyond “all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination,” Watts said no.
“There’s been some amendment to it, as I understand. I don’t have it in front of me. But I know that there was discussions that have ensued… ensuring that it covered, like I said, everybody. Anybody that’s targeted because of their race or religion is unacceptable.”
The language of the motion that refers to all forms of racism/discrimination, has not been amended since announced in the House of Commons by Khalid – a Muslim MP – Dec. 5.
The motion has received mixed reaction from Liberal Surrey MPs.
“The critique of the motion is fair comment because normally you don’t make a law to deal with one specific situation, you make laws that are meant to apply evenly across,” Liberal MP Ken Hardie (Fleetwood-Port Kells) told Black Press last week.
“I’ve got some reservations about it. I want to hear the debate. I haven’t made up my mind one way or the other,” he said.
Randeep Sarai, Liberal MP for Surrey Centre, said he doesn’t have an issue with the motion as presented. “It would be great to be broader,” Sarai said. “I think discrimination of any group should not be tolerated.”
John Aldag, Liberal MP for Cloverdale-Langley City, said he will support the motion as it stands.
“In Canada, over the last several years, ever since 2001 and the 9-11 attacks in the States, there’s been this creeping narrative that has really started to target one specific religious group, and I think that for sure there is still elements of hate and misunderstanding amongst others, both minority groups and religions, but not to the extent we’ve seen through the Islamic community,” Aldag said. “I believe this ongoing increase in narrative aimed at the Muslim community, that really has become an issue, needs specific attention.”
Sukh Dhaliwal, Liberal MP for Surrey-Newton, will also support the motion as-is.
“The good thing is our prime minister and all the leaders of the opposition parties, along with all Canadians, have stood together to tell them we stand with the Muslim community and we stand united when it comes to hate or terrorism,” Dhaliwal said.
Last week, Watts said the intent of the motion is “supportable in the broader context.” “There’s people that are anti-Islamic, there’s people that are anti-Jewish, there’s people that are anti-Christian,” she said. “It certainly needs to be broader in context to just really address any hate or fear based on racism or religion.
“Racism and religious discrimination is wrong…. There’s no way to get around that. I think it should be crafted in that context, that we in Canada are very accepting and we do not discriminate based on race or religion, and so for me, that’s what I’d like to see.”
The motion is scheduled for debate in the House of Commons Feb. 21.
– with files from Tom Zytaruk