Newsletter for MPs - August 2017
Newsletter for MPs
Chief Editor, Marshall Garland
Contributing editors: Russ Cooper, David Nitkin, Madeline Weld
Contributors this month: Russ Cooper, Ralph Goldfinger, Peter Kyriakides
Volume Number 1, Issue Number 3, Summer 2017
You are receiving this newsletter because you are a Member of Parliament, an advisor to one, or a Parliamentary staffer to the the Heritage Standing Committee.
We welcome your comments, questions, and submissions.
Motion 103 -
Opaque, Not Transparent
Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage
Motion 103 - Opaque, Not Transparent
by Marshall Garland
The author and editor is a former computer security analyst and has been active in various social causes for over 45 years. He currently lives in Winnipeg.
"It's not about what you tell the reader,it's about what you conceal."
- Dan Brown, author
One of the planks in the Liberal Party platform during the election campaign of 2015 was to bring more transparency to government. The Liberals persistently repeated their promise that openness in government would be the order of the day; no more government goings-on behind closed doors and withholding information from the public.
Now almost two years since their October 2015 victory, the Liberals have done a marvelous job of carrying on the very tradition of non-transparency they accused their predecessors of. Motion 103, predicated on Petition e-411, is an excellent example of a government action that is neither open nor transparent, but rather misleading and coercive.
Is it the intent of Motion-103 to be deliberately vague and non-transparent?
Is its true purpose to introduce new legislation?
A critical analysis of M-103 may conclude that the motion marks the beginning of a process leading to a bill that curtails, by force if necessary (i.e., “quell”), some of the fundamental freedoms guaranteed to Canadians in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms: “b. freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication”.
M-103 can be seen to be a racist, divisive motion:
Instead of being inclusive, it singles out one identifiable group for special privilege to the detriment of all others.
It ignores the government’s own statistics on police-reported hate crimes, which identify Canadian Blacks and Jews as the two most hate-crime targeted groups in the country.
Time and again, the PMO, MPs, and the media have assured us that M-103 is “just” a motion and is non-binding. If that claim is true, why has the Standing Committee for Canadian Heritage been tasked with coming up with solutions?
The Honourable Raj Grewal already gave us the answer during the first M-103 debate in the House of Commons on February 16, 2017, “… so we… can study it and propose laws…” (Hansard, February 16, 2017, p. 9030)
Motion 103 is an exercise in duplicity. By refusing to define “Islamophobia”, M-103 is deliberately incomplete and misleading. It is hiding the truth.
M-103 is in no way transparent.
Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage
Minutes published verbatim for in camera meeting held June 20, 2017
Systemic Racism and Religious Discrimination
Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2) and the motion adopted by the Committee on Tuesday, April 4, 2017, the Committee commenced its study of systemic racism and religious discrimination.
It was agreed, — That 36 witness appearance places be allocated to the Liberal Party, 24 to the Conservative Party and 12 to the New Democratic Party; and that witnesses be placed in panels according to the allocation above and following the priority assigned by each party.
It was agreed, — That academic witnesses and human rights commissions be invited to make written submissions.
It was agreed, — That, unless a party choses to insert them among their priority of witnesses, requests to appear not be further considered, but that they be asked to make written submissions.
At 5:41 p.m., the Committee adjourned to the call of the Chair.
Are M-103 Deliberations a foregone conclusion?
by Major (Ret’d) Russ Cooper
Major (Ret’d) Russ Cooper has retired from military service as a decorated combat CF18 fighter pilot and from civil aviation as an international airliner pilot. He is published internationally in the field of civil aviation security and currently writes on related subjects while operating his own avionics flight test and certification company. He is a founding member of the Canadian Citizens for Charter Rights and Freedoms (C3RF) advocacy group that seeks to preserve the free speech rights of all Canadians.
The M-103 anti-Islamophobia motion passed in the House of Commons with a partisan 201 to 91 vote count on 23 March of this year. The partisan nature of the vote is uncontested as both the Liberal and NDP parties voted en masse against a block of Conservative Members of Parliament to win the day. What was surprising was the fact that there was a contest in the first place. After all, the M-103 initiative, floated by Mississauga Erin-Mills MP Iqra Khalid, was considered a slam dunk in line with its predecessor venture, “E” Petition 411 (Islam). This latter petition passed unanimously in Parliament on 26 October, 2016. Paradoxically, it appears the foregone conclusion that was “E” 411 turned into a battle supreme in the case of M-103 when a sleepy public awoke and started to ask, “what do you mean by Islamophobia?”.
Public concern ramped up slowly enough with the tabling of M-103 in early December, 2016. It gained steam mightily, however, in the ensuing months with the initiation of related petitions, public protests, journalistic articles and the engagement of a unified Conservative Party. This concern reached a fever pitch in the few days that preceded the M-103 vote with some 900,000 citizens emailing their concerns on the motion to their Members of Parliament. Over and over again they expressed the fear that the term “Islamophobia” might be a Trojan horse hiding a move to curtail free speech rights - specifically the right to criticize all things Islamic. The problem is this would include Islamic things such as Sharia Law, a legal code that incorporates many practices that are seen as antithetical to Western forms of jurisprudence. It’s easy to see how MP Khalid’s assurance that Islamophobia meant “an irrational fear of Muslims that leads to discrimination” fell flat with a public that reasonably saw the term to mean an irrational fear (phobia) of Islam (along with its fellow traveler, Sharia Law). After all, everywhere anti-Islamophobia initiatives have been passed in Western European jurisdictions there has been a parallel rise in prosecutions of speech critical of Islam itself.
Everyday Canadians were, and are, obviously engaged in the M-103 debate but will their concerns be reflected in the 240 day “study period” that will be conducted by the Heritage Committee? This period was kicked off when the motion passed in Parliament on 23 March, 2017 and is slated to end just prior to Christmas break 2017. One thing is for sure, absent any extensions the Committee will be hard-pressed to accommodate these apprehensions as it develops, in the words of the motion, “a whole-of-government approach to reducing or eliminating systemic racism and religious discrimination including Islamophobia, in Canada…”. Given these assertions, the Committee seems to be working from the notion that racism, of which “Islamophobia” is a component part, is hard-baked into the Canadian psyche – a notion that belies the fact that Canadians graciously accept an ever-increasing number of immigrants, refugees and foreign workers/ students to their neighbourhoods without consideration of race or point of origin.
Will this obvious disconnect between notion and fact be studied to ensure faulty conclusions and findings are avoided? This would not appear to be the case as the 20 June, 2017, meeting of the Committee, the last before the summer recess and the return of Parliament on 18 September, indicates a rationing of witness testimony on the basis of Party affiliation. The Liberals, for example, will be allowed to call 36 witnesses for study purposes while the Conservatives and NDP Parties will be allowed to call 24 and 12 respectively. Given the nature of the math and the fact that the Liberals and NDP are aligned on the matter of “Islamophobia” being a component part of Canadian racism and religious discrimination, it would appear that the Conservatives will be heavily outgunned when it comes to arguing that “Islamophobia” is just as much about criticizing the faith of Islam as it is about discriminating against faith practitioners in the form of individual Muslims.
It would appear that the rush of time and the instatement of a process that permits one side of the argument to overwhelm the other will lock-in a predetermined outcome – an outcome that confirms that Canadians are in dire need of being “quelled” of their Islamophobic tendencies. The Heritage Committee has chosen to exclude public input save for invited guests sponsored by Canada’s major political parties. There will be no open hearings held in communities across the country that stand to be impacted by M-103 outcomes. This is truly incredible given the fact that the public-at-large has demonstrated such an overwhelming interest in these outcomes including the possibility that their free speech rights will be adversely impacted. There is only one way to right the rigged system that the M-103 deliberation process appears to be. Individual Canadians and organizations will need to take it upon themselves to make their voices heard. If you are one such person or group, you may consider doing so through a written submission with the help of the advice noted here. After all, absent your input Islamophobia stands to change Canada along lines that are already in evidence in other Western jurisdictions.
Words Do Matter
by Ralph Goldfinger
Ralph Goldfinger holds a graduate degree in Economics and has been in the business world since he graduated. He is a Canadian citizen who wants to see Canada remain democratic and free.
In December, 2016, Iqra Khalid, Liberal MP for Mississauga-Erin Mills, introduced a private member's motion, Motion M-103, which reads in part:
that the Members of Parliament call on the Government of Canada to “condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism”;
that the government needs to conduct a study to determine how it “could develop a whole-of-government approach to reduce or eliminate systemic racism and religious discrimination including Islamophobia”.
Some of those opposed to the motion requested that the word “Islamophobia” be replaced with the phrase “anti-Muslim bigotry” but their request was rebuffed.
We have heard arguments from the motion’s proponents that M-103 is only a motion and not a bill, but these arguments ignore the reality that motions can go on to form the basis of bills, which are binding.
Public discussion of M-103 shows proactive engagement and should be encouraged. The motion contains embedded within it expected deliverables, and debate about the motion’s wording is natural and should be anticipated.
WORDS DO MATTER
Had “Islamophobia” been replaced with with “anti–Muslim bigotry”, much of the opposition to the motion would have dissipated. Reminiscent of sibling rivalry, there is also an objection that no other religious entity was mentioned in this bill, despite racist incidents being higher toward other identifiable groups such as Jews and Blacks.
Although the percentage increase in recent targeted attacks relative to those in previous years has been greater for Muslims than for other identified groups, one should not lose sight of the fact that the number of such attacks overall remains very low. Statistically, both in terms of absolute numbers and on a hate crimes per 100,000 basis, the number of attacks against Muslims remains lower than for Jews or Blacks. The data on hate crimes do not support the need for Muslims to be singled out for special protection.
If the Government of Canada wants to ensure “a community-centered focus with a holistic response”, M-103’s language identifying other racial and ethnic groups should have been more encompassing. The term 'Islamophobia' could have been replaced with 'bigotry against Muslims,' and other groups who are also targets of hate crimes could have been listed as well. Using the word “Islamophobia” in M-103 appears to present preferential treatment.
“Islamophobia” encompasses 3 broad categories which can be outlined below:
Anti-Muslim (the person)
Anti-Islam (the religion)
Anti-Islamism (the political force)
The objective of M-103 should be to address concerns against racism pertaining to all identifiable groups of people; this would not be a contentious objective.
The word “Islamophobia” is a broad catch-all concept that also pertains to the religion of Islam. Using “Islamophobia” implies that any criticism of the Islamic religion would be considered racist. There are many examples pertaining to the New Testament, Old Testament, and the Koran that can be debated which should not be considered racist, but rather healthy debate.
The word “Islamophobia” can also include Islam as a political force, otherwise known as Islamism.
The three categories encompassed by the term "Islamophobia" may be considered as separate, but would be easily conflated by the public. This conflation could arguably be the intention of some of those using the term.
One of the supposed intents of M-103 is to build a non-racist and cohesive society. In fact, the motion achieves the opposite result. It is divisive.
Alarms bells sounded when there was a refusal to change the wording from “Islamophobia” to “anti-Muslim bigotry”. On a logical basis, this change should have achieved the desired goal as set out in M-103.
Concerns also arose that our civil liberties are in danger of being compromised through the use of the catch-all term "Islamophobia". The concern is that legitimate free speech can and will be deemed as hate speech. Regardless of the intentions of M-103, the effect upon our law-abiding citizens will cause a stifling of legitimate criticism and discussion, and hence will have a compromising effect on our freedom of expression. This would be a great travesty.
Let's strive to make Canada a beacon of light, a world leader in liberty and free expression unconstrained by nebulous terms like "Islamophobia." Motion M-103 and any bills that might arise from it will not unite us but will divide us. We already see evidence of such division, not only in other countries as evidenced by the PEGIDA movement in Europe, but also here at home, as exemplified by La Meute in Quebec. A united Canada is a stronger Canada. So let us not single out any group with the term "Islamophobia." Let's replace it with "bigotry against Muslims," to which we could add other groups who have been subjected to discrimination. But better yet would be to remove the reference to any specific group or religion.
WORDS DO MATTER.
Just how free is free speech?
by Peter Kyriakides
Peter Kyriakides is a Social Media Consultant active in his local community, advocating for better social services. He currently resides in Abbotsford, BC.
We all know that there are practical limits to free speech. For example, speech that calls for violence breaches the boundaries of acceptable free speech. In light of this, we can see there are recognized boundaries which we all recognize as sensible and support as both fair and necessary.
Why then do we need to have a legal right to free speech?
Briefly, there are several elements that are central to any free, open, and democratic political system that facilitate criticism of the rulers by those who are ruled. These features are missing in totalitarian dictatorships:
the ability to dismiss the Government and,
the ability to criticize the Government.
The permission to criticize serves as a legal shield that is often incorporated as rights guaranteed by constitutions. These rights allow for the exposing of wrong-doing in high places, highlighting bad policies, and keeping Government and powerful officials honest by exposing corruption.
A third element which most Western nations incorporate in their constitutions is the separation of Church and State: the state does not endorse or favour any one particular religious belief system. The state remains secular and neutral in religious matters.
Since at least the end of the Second World War, these elements taken together have been the bedrock of most European and North American countries along with an independent judiciary, legislature, and executive, collectively known as the division of power. This arrangement has facilitated the peaceful social development and economic growth of most Western nation states.
The final advantageous element found in the Western System is the provision for the peaceful transfer of power following an election by the citizens of the state. This has been a tremendous boon to Western nations in contrast to other Government systems which by way of contrast sustain themselves by means of repression and the violent overthrow of authority with the death and destruction that follows that course of action.
When it comes to Islam we have three categories to consider:
Religious Islam: a belief system which posits a single deity with no spirit and no son as in the Christian tradition, currently the dominant religious belief system in the Western world.
Political and Legal Islam: which requires a Theocratic dictatorship and thus the denial of Western democratic principles.
Sharia: the body of Islamic law, based on the Quran and the traditions of the Prophet/Founder.
Political and Legal Islam’s prohibition on all examination and critical discussion of the Islamic religious texts denotes a blanket denial of free speech.
How is it a denial of free speech?
The big issue at the heart of political Islam is the prescription that Muslims must kill or be killed in the spreading of Islam – commonly called Jihad - in order to buy a guarantee of paradise after death.
Here is the problem: any legislation which criminalizes any examination or critical discussion of political Islam will inevitably mean that state security agencies will be denied access to material (Islamic religious texts) which will give them insight to the motivation and likely goals of Islamic terrorists. In other words, Political Islam is an ideology that has a violent impulse to propagate itself. By banning any examination of that ideology, security personnel will be blindsided and Canadian citizens will be at unnecessary risk because of it.
Our great shield in this struggle is our Charter of Rights and Freedoms and its guarantee of freedom of speech. The ability to research, discover, and publish findings with regard to Political and Legal Islam is vital to our national and personal security. Freedom of speech is a most precious right fought for by hundreds of thousands of men and women in many wars over many years. Are we to give it up, or some portion of it, so easily as a result of spurious and flawed statistics with regard to alleged abuses against Muslims. If such abuses indeed took place there are already laws in the Criminal Code of Canada to cover and provide legal protections.
It is up to those who argue that the freedom of speech should be curtailed to justify that opinion. Diminishing such an important existing right to accommodate the interests of one group to the detriment of everyone else is a slippery slope that should not be contemplated under any circumstances.