Treatment by MPs at M-103 committee hearing nothing short of lousy
Leading up to my testimony at the House of Commons Heritage Committee last week, I had expected MPs to have some degree of interest in what a Muslim had to say about M-103 and the loaded word “Islamophobia”. Instead, I felt a tangible hostility from the phalanx of Liberal MPs, as well as the chair, MP Hedy Fry. Their body language, and refusal to address anything I had said as a witness made it evident to me this was not a “hearing”, but an exercise to rubber stamp a pre-determined outcome. This wasn’t the first time I had seen what appeared to me as a kangaroo court. Nearly 50 years ago in 1970, I was brought in handcuffs before a Martial Law Court in Karachi, Pakistan where a military colonel presided over my sentencing, even before I had spoken. Nothing I could have said would have mattered in the day’s proceedings that sent me to a hill top prison in Balochistan. Of course, my committee appearance in Ottawa was not that bad and my freedom was not at stake. But the attitude of the chair reminded me of the Pakistani colonel. Fry was not there to hear me, in my view, but to time me and interrupt me, so that I could not complete my thoughts or respond to attacks on me by Liberal MP Arif Virani. While I spoke, many of the MPs helped themselves to sandwiches and instead of taking notes, munched away. At one stage, Fry scolded me, telling me to not respond to Virani’s question directly, but to address her, and that it was only through the chair that I could answer questions. Of course, this rule did not seem to apply to the other witness whose answers on M-103 sounded like they came straight from the Liberal hymnbook about “Islamophobia”, even suggesting I should be incarcerated for one of my tweets last year. The haranguing was so blatant that it came as a shock to one MP, who later called me and left a message to “apologize” for the “intimidation and bullying” to which I had been subjected. He said in his over 17 years as an MP he had not seen anything like it. But this wasn’t about me. It was about Canada. It is with profound sadness that I have witnessed the fall in parliamentary standards over the years in my country. I migrated to Canada in 1987. My first home was in Notre-Dame-De-Grace (NDG), Montreal, where, among the first Canadians I met was Warren Almand, then the Liberal MP of the riding. It was a pleasure to talk to him. There was Liberal MP Bob Kaplan of York Centre, a complete gentleman who spent an hour with me in an airline lounge trying to understand the situation in Pakistan, as well as being intrigued that I had lived in Saudi Arabia. In the late 1980s and 1990s, Canada was blessed by parliamentarians like New Democrats Philip Edmonston from Chambly and Dan Heap of Toronto; Conservatives like Alan Redway in York East and my MP in Ajax, René Soetens. And who can forget Ed Broadbent, Brian Mulroney and Jean Chretien? By contrast, the Liberal (and NDP) MPs I witnessed at my appearance before the Heritage Committee are not even a shadow of their predecessors. Arrogant, mean-spirited and petty are what comes to mind when I hear their names. This article was originally published on the Toronto Sun website on September 26, 2017, and can be viewed on their site by clicking here.