Canadians could have joined together and roundly condemn all forms of racism and discrimination. The M-103 conversation should have been one about unity and consensus. We could have learned from each other and moved forward together. This never happened. Because crass politics got in the way. Conservative MPs and the vast majority of public sentiment had concerns about Liberal MP Iqra Khalid’s M-103, a motion to tackle racism that needlessly singled out “Islamophobia” for special treatment. Canadians had questions. The Liberals weren’t prepared to offer answers. Why was “Islamophobia” featured so prominently? And how did Khalid and her Liberal colleagues define the phrase? For some people, in some parts of the world, Islamophobia basically equals blasphemy – covering any and all criticism of Islam. And many countries have harsh laws against supposed Islamophobic blasphemy. Canadians don’t want even a sliver of this sentiment to be endorsed by their legislators. We can’t blame them. Neither do we. The government could have clarified the matter. They could have taken the advice of the likes of Conservative leadership candidate Erin O’Toole and former Liberal cabinet minister Irwin Cotler and toned down the provocative language. Khalid refused and even indicated it was in the hands of the prime minister’s office. This is a cynical saga Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his advisors are orchestrating. If their goal was to just condemn discrimination against Muslims, then they should have said so, and changed the wording so every Canadian could get behind the motion. If their goal was to divide parliament on a wedge issue, then shame on them. Based on what we know, this seems to be what happened. If their goal was in fact to use the word Islamophobia in the same troublesome way it’s used in other countries – which we certainly hope is not the case – then we’ve got a big problem on our hands. The short answer is we just don’t know. They’ve never made an effort to reach out to critics and address Canadians’ concerns. Now the issue is set to go to the heritage committee. How will they proceed? They could start by removing Islamophobia from their terminology and instead committee to probing all forms of racism, intolerance and discrimination.
This article was originally published on the Toronto Sun website on March 24, 2017, and can be viewed on their site by clicking here.