While it doesn’t make it against the law, some are saying that the motion that condemns Islamophobia in Canada could lead to criticisms of the religion being viewed was acts of Islamophobia, which could muzzle free speech rights. M-103, which was passed on Thursday, states that the House Of Commons condemns “Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination.”
Here’s the text of the motion:
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.
It doesn’t seem too controversial, though opponents say that this motion could put free speech in the crosshairs—and a substantial number of Canadians feel the same way (via The National Post):
Liberals, New Democrats, and Green Party MP Elizabeth May were in favour; most Conservative and all Bloc Quebecois MPs were opposed.
The vote was 201 for and 91 against.
The motion was proposed by Iqra Khalid, a first-time MP representing a Mississauga, Ont. riding. In addition to the resolution condemning Islamophobia, it asks the House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage to study the issue of “eliminating systemic racism and religious discrimination including Islamophobia;” and calls on the federal government collect data on hate crimes for further study.
In debate earlier this week, Conservative MPs endorsed the sentiment but objected to the wording of the motion in the belief that it could lead to the suppression of speech rights.
“The word ‘Islamophobia’ can be used to mean both discrimination against Muslims and criticism of Islamic doctrine or practice. It is important that we not conflate the two – religious people deserve legal protection, but religions do not,” Conservative MP Garnett Genuis said during a Commons debate Tuesday night. “People should not discriminate against individuals, but should feel quite free to criticize the doctrine, history, or practice of any religion.”
Khalid’s motion changes no existing laws nor does it create any new laws.
And yet, the Angus Reid poll finds that three in 10 of those surveyed believed Khalid’s motion is, in fact, “a threat to Canadians’ freedom of speech.”
The publication added that the Angus Reid poll also noted that most Canadians are against the motion, with 42 percent saying they would've voted against it if they were members of parliament. Twenty-nine percent would support it and another 29 percent weren’t sure or said they would have abstained. The sample size was 1,511 people.