FUREY: M103 report makes Canada look like cesspool of intolerance

Editor's Note: Anthony Furey examines the Heritage Committee’s report arising from Motion M-103, and convincingly argues that it was all a giant waste of time and money and that the whole premise of Motion M-103, that Canada is, in Furey’s words, “a cesspool of intolerance,” is bogus. It raises the question of whether the Liberal party, which forced the passage of M-103, is pandering to a certain segment of the population.

Protesters rally over motion M-103, the Liberal anti-Islamophobia motion, on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on March 21, 2017.

Ignore the M103 committee report at your peril. Sure, it’s over one hundred pages of mostly dull bureaucratic jargon. And it largely doesn’t live up to its hype. There is no mention, positive or negative, of sharia law — as many of its critics cautioned against. Nor is there the same disproportionate focus on tending to the bruised ego of Sunni Islam, which is the tone that dominated the e-petition that first inspired the government motion that in turn kicked off this heritage committee report that was released the other day. Looks like the lobbying efforts on the part of concerned citizens was in large measure a success. Read the full report here.

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But what remains is still troubling. There are few pockets of society that the report – titled “Taking Action Against Systemic Racism and Religious Discrimination Including Islamophobia” – doesn’t malign as having racial and religious animus bred in the bone.

The witness testimonies, taken together, tell us it’s happening to broad swaths of people in our schools, the legal system, government, healthcare, the workplace and elsewhere. The infractions range in severity from graffiti to murder. We seem to have a five-alarm fire on our hands, at least based on the report’s 30 recommendations. They cover pretty wide terrain. They call for the creation of new plans, guidelines, directorates, hiring practices, impact assessments and other such make-work endeavours.

Liberal MP Iqra Khalid makes an announcement about an anti-Islamophobia motion on Parliament Hill while Minister of Canadian Heritage Melanie Joly looks on in Ottawa on Wednesday, February 15, 2017.

Now this all may come as a shock to Canadians throughout our increasingly ethnically diverse cities and towns happily going about their business in relative harmony with each other, that they are in fact broken to the core. The report does though offer a bit of a wink in this direction. “As society has evolved and with the advent of human rights legislation and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, these overt forms of systemic discrimination have become rare. However, more subtle, often unintentional forms of systemic or institutional racism and discrimination continue to exist.” So they’re not really talking about racist acts in the way most people think about them, like harassing people with racial epithets or outright violence. They’re referring to things like microaggressions.

When it comes to actual police-reported hate crimes, the number for 2016 was 1,409 incidents, which is slightly above the recent average. This includes things like racist graffiti. Threats and assaults make up 563 of these. Now these numbers are not good if only because one such incident is always too many. However for perspective this is less than 0.1% of the 1,895,546 crimes (excluding traffic violations) for the year. It’s also important to note that those are reported crimes; the numbers that resulted in charges and convictions are much lower. The question we then need to ask ourselves is not so much is this situation a bad thing (because it clearly is) but does it warrant the sort of moral panic that consumed the nation when reports first surfaced of an attack against an 11-year-old girl in a hijab? Does it require the sort of heavy-handed overhaul of our institutions that the report recommends and activists demand? Are we in fact this cesspool of discrimination the report makes us out to be?

Demonstrators protest against Islamophobia and for free speech clash at City Hall in Toronto, Ont. on Saturday March 4, 2017.

It’s telling, to see where the government’s priorities take them and that they placed such a heavy emphasis on this one issue as to convene committee hearings and engage in regular national hand-wringing. For context, in 2016 there were 381,594 violent crimes in Canada. This includes 777 cases of attempted murder, 3,395 cases of level 3 aggravated assault and 6,245 child pornography offences. That last category has increased by 233% over the past decade. And yet despite these very real crimes that harm the lives of Canadians of no doubt every race and religion, our legislators have spent a disproportionate amount of time studying how intersectionality affects microaggressions, two words that my spell-checker is now trying to tell me don’t even exist.

Given all of this, it should come as no surprise that one of the few really specific recommendations that came from these groups was a shameless request for more money for their activism and scholarship. That alone should cause us to pause and reflect on this whole ordeal, which at its height needlessly tore at our social fabric. Whether it was intentional or not, the closing line of the report really gets at the heart of the matter: “While witnesses noted the significant achievements made in terms of equality and diversity, some acknowledged that Canada is not perfect and can do better.” So, yes, let’s all agree to try our best to be respectful of each other and not wage microaggressions. But let’s collectively shut down the implicit argument furthered throughout this report, that Canadian society is some sort of hateful rot. This article was originally published on the Toronto Sun website on February 5, 2018 and can be viewed on their website by clicking here.

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