Anti-Islamophobia motion passes Canadian House of Commons

Legislators in the Canadian House of Commons passed a non-binding motion on Thursday that condemns Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination.

Iqra Khalid, a Member of Parliament for the governing Liberal Party and a Muslim, tabled M-103, as the motion is known, in the House last December. It easily passed the Commons by a 201-91 vote, and based on its messaging should have received unanimous support from MPs as a petition did last year that called on the Commons to "condemn all forms of Islamophobia."

M-103 does not create law or change an existing one, and it gathered special significance following an attack on a mosque in the French-speaking Canadian province of Quebec in late January that left six Muslim shot dead.

But the opposition Conservatives, most of whom voted against the motion on Thursday, argued that it failed to define "Islamophobia" and could stifle free speech for anyone who criticized the more radical forms of Islam. So the Tories introduced a counter-motion.

It removed the word "Islamophobia" and replaced it with a broader motion that called on MPs to "condemn all forms of systemic racism, religious intolerance and discrimination of Muslims, Jews, Christians, Sikhs, Hindus and other religious communities." The Liberals rejected the amended motion, and their leader, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, recently said that "we have to expose" those "who still have problems with the idea that we would condemn discrimination against Muslims" identified as Islamophobia.

Anti-Muslim hatred in Canada is not uncommon, and particularly in Quebec. Police in the province's largest city of Montreal received 29 reports of hate incidents in the three days following the shooting at the mosque.

But most Canadians don't seem to support M-103, with a recent public-opinion poll showing that 42 percent of Canadians would have voted against it, compared to 29 percent who would have voted for it and an equal percentage who were unsure. The Angus Reid survey also found that 31 percent of the 1,511 Canadian polled felt that it would either threaten freedom of speech or would not have "any real impact."

The motion recommends that the Canadian government should "recognize the need to quell the increasing public climate of hate and fear," and asks the House Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage to develop a government-wide, community-centered approach to reduce, or ideally eliminate, systemic racism and religious discrimination, including Islamophobia in Canada.

M-103 also requires that the committee collect data on hate-crime reports and conduct "needs assessments for impacted communities," and within eight months from now, present its findings and recommendations to the Commons.

Trudeau was in Toronto and not in the House on Thursday to vote for the motion. (rol)
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