Heritage Committee - October 2 Meeting
The 75th meeting of the Heritage Committee was held on 02 October, 2017 and was recorded in audio format only. It was not chaired by Hedy Fry as she was travelling. The Chair of the meeting is not known as he did not introduce himself on the recording.
The first witness was Mr. Murray Sinclair, a Senator from Manitoba, an indigenous Canadian and a judge of 30 years. He stated that "systemic racism" is the racism that is left over after you get rid of the racists. It is residual within the body of laws that are used to govern the country and impacts those of differing cultures. This is the case as Canadian law is based on English "common law" and adversely impacts those from cultures outside of this realm. He went to discuss sentencing rules and practices that hurt certain communities over others due to a failure to take into consideration differing cultural realities and ways of thinking. In response to a question from MP Vandal, he noted that things were proceeding in the right direction but the results were getting worse. He noted that courts were now accommodating indigenous backgrounds and life experiences in sentencing but more indigenous people were winding up in jail. The disconnect between these policy changes and their results was not further queried. Mr. Sinclair, upon questioning by MP Reid, went on to state that Canadians of European extraction believed that those of other cultures and backgrounds were inferior and this was a prime factor in the institutionalization of racism that adversely impacted indigenous peoples in Canada. An accounting of related laws and rules needs to be undertaken with a mind to addressing them. It would seem that Mr. Sinclair believes it is the responsibility of the host community to be culturally aware of indigenous ways and to make required accommodations.
Mr. Kevin Barlow of the Metro Vancouver Aboriginal Executive Council stated that Canadian indigenous people have been discriminated against for hundreds of years including years of the recent past. He noted the residential school situation as one in which indigenous peoples have suffered with recently. He noted that an "extreme polarization" has set with one community being set against the other through "fake news" and government policies that favour one group over another - benefits afforded refugees over regular Canadians was mentioned in this regard.
Mr. Nantel rose to raise a "notice of motion" that required an "in camera" session. Mr. Anderson stated he had no idea of such a notice.
Testimony resumed with Mr. Samer Mazjoub, President of the Canadian Muslim Forum. He introduced himself as the author of petition e-411 in conjunction with the sponsorship afforded by MP Frank Baylis. He stated that Islamophobia is a certain thing as evidenced by data collected to date and the Quebec City mosque attack of January, 2017. He was adamant that hatred and discrimination against Muslims was a proven thing and pointed to by the fact of the passage of M-103 in the House of Commons and condemnation of Islamophobia in multiple provincial legislatures and, again, in the House of Commons in October, 2016. It was further asserted that the term Islamophobia was in no way meant to curtail freedom of speech in Canada. In response to a question from MP Virani, Mr. Mazjoub stated that the situation was more problematic in Quebec by virtue of the Quebec City mosque attack and the evidence of white supremacist groups that openly express hatred towards Muslims on social media. The matter was not pursued further even though the fact that no terror or hate related charges had been raised in the Quebec City case or any specific evidence of hatred expressed in social media was presented.
Faisal Bhabha, Associate Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University gave testimony on behalf of the Canadian Muslim Lawyers Association. He stated that the problem with the current situation is that courts apply the law on the basis of the evidence at hand and not on the basis of the social issues at play. They are not able to deal, therefore, with Islamophobia in which a specific community is "terrorized" and pilloried. Social scientists are the only ones who can understand the factors involved in Islamophobia and see how the war against terror has trickled down to become discrimination against Muslims even as White extremism is at play. It is "whites" who are attacking the "other" around the country. Time should not be lost in defining Islamophobia perfectly - it should be spent understanding the problem itself. Mr. Bhabha then moved on to claim it was a well known fact that Canadian police suffer from "unconscious bias" in their dealings with minority communities. In response to a question from MP Baylis on whether Islamophobia meant criticism of Islam would not be permitted, he was quite evasive and said criticism of Islam was not the problem - hatred of Islam was. In a related query by MP Reid, he stated that criticism of Islam could be construed as Islamophobic based on how one defined Islam.