Liberal MP Iqra Khalid (Mississauga-Erin Mills) introduced M-103, a motion condemning “Islamophobia” and calling on Parliament to form a committee to study ways to battle “systemic” anti-Muslim sentiment.
Tory MPs and conservative pundits condemned the motion, saying it was a threat to free speech, but Liberal MPs said it was necessary to combat growing intolerance of Muslims in Canada.
Conservative MP David Anderson (Cypress Hills-Grasslands) offered an alternative motion, identical to Khalid’s, but without singling out Islamophobia. It called on MPs to condemn “all forms of systemic racism, religious intolerance and discrimination” and directed Parliament to study ways to reduce “all types of discrimination in Canada,” including “discrimination against of Muslims, Jews, Christians, Sikhs, Hindus, and other religious communities.”
Anderson’s bill was defeated 165-126 as every Liberal MP voted against the motion. The Conservatives were joined by NDP, Bloc Quebecois, and Green MPs. The National Post reported that all Liberals vowed to vote for M-103 when it is debated in third reading in Parliament in April. The NDP have said they will also support M-103, as did one Conservative MP, Michael Chong (Wellington-Halton Hills), who is running for leader of the party.
Conservatives are opposed to M-103 because the term Islamophobia is not properly defined and its absence of explicit recognition of other forms of religious discrimination. Writing in the Toronto Sun, Candice Malcolm of the True North Initiative said the motion does not distinguish between “everyday Muslims and fundamentalist Muslims.”
Some MPs such as Maxime Bernier (Beauce), Scott Reid (Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston), and Brad Trost (Saskatoon-University) have expressed concern the motion could lead to silencing any criticism of Islam. National Post columnist Barbara Kay worried that the motion could be used “as a directive to Canadians concerning the ‘correct’ opinions we are to adopt.”
Samer Majzoub, president of the Canadian Muslim Forum, said that the term Islamophobia was essential because “we are a community under siege.” He also claimed that opposition to M-103 itself, including Anderson’s alternative motion, helped create “waves of Islamophobia all over the country.”
Majzoub and Liberal MPs said concerns about freedom of speech were beside the point.
Toronto Sun columnist Anthony Furey said it is fair to wonder what will come out of Parliament’s study of Islamophobia. Furey said that critics of Stephen Woodworth’s 2012 Motion 312 which would have led to a Parliamentary study of preborn life was condemned for potentially reopening the abortion issue despite the fact the motion was silent on the issue. “Canadians have a right to know the potential long-term ramifications of even the smallest gestures coming from parliamentarians,” he wrote on Feb. 19. “This is what the media did with M-312. Yet they’re doing the exact opposite when it comes to M-103.” Furey noted that many journalists have joined the Liberals in “chastising and shaming” critics of the bill as racists.
The Sun’s Malcolm accused the Liberals of playing political games with M-103, saying they are “happy” to “dismiss their rivals as bigots, racists, and, yes, Islamophobes.”
At a rally organized by Rebel Media in Toronto, four Conservative leadership contenders spoke out against M-103. Trost said it was possible the motion could lead to “thought police” enforcing politically correct opinions in Canada while Chris Alexander said, “this is ground zero … for freedom of speech.”