Editor's Note: Major (ret’d) Russ Cooper has analyzed the Heritage Committee’s report, released in February, on “Systemic Racism and Religious Discrimination, Including Islamophobia,” and is not impressed. He examines the shaky premises and faulty assumptions on which Motion M-103 is based – including whether there even is a “rising climate of hate and fear” that the government needs to “quell” – and, not surprisingly, finds that they have resulted in many questionable recommendations. You’ll find his analysis under our Heritage Committee heading, and you can read his Executive Summary here.
Motion M-103 evolved from e-petition 411, a House of Commons petition that basically called for the condemnation of “all forms of Islamophobia”. The initiative was originally seen as well-intentioned and received unanimous approval by the House on 26 October, 2016. M-103 took petition e-411 as a founding document and went on to call for combatting a climate of fear and hate with “a whole-of-government approach to reducing or eliminating systemic racism and religious discrimination including Islamophobia”. All very well and fine until the Canadian public began asking the questions; is Canada in the midst of a rising tide of fear and hate, are our governance systems riddled with “systemic racism”, do Canadians have hate in their hearts for alien religions and just what does Islamophobia mean?
Motion M-103 was passed by parliament in March, 2017 and went through a study period of “240 days” before the sponsoring Heritage Committee submitted its report on 01 February, 2018. By its own account, as portrayed by authoritative data collected and submitted by Statistics Canada, the Report found that there was no rising tide of fear and hate and that “systemic racism” and “religious discrimination” were not as widespread as implied by the Motion. Additionally, and as detailed by the Conservative Party “dissenting report”, the term “Islamophobia” was left undefined and a source of great public consternation. Regardless, the Report went on to deal with these issues as if they posed serious problems.
In choosing to proceed apace without regard for the validity of the assumptions and facts that underpinned Motion M-103, the Committee’s “majority report” went on to make 30 recommendations of questionable usefulness. Regards those that dealt with a climate of fear and hate and “systemic racism”, all related recommendations need to be carefully vetted with a mind to rescinding those that are a misuse of public funds, energy and time. These are recommendations are 1, 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 21, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28 and 29.
Regards the charge of “religious discrimination”, the evidence presented by witness testimony revealed that there was indeed a bias that was aided by regulation and governmental design. This bias was attributed to a propensity for government policy and agencies to use secular ideologies to push out religious viewpoints from the public square. Recommendations that dealt with religious discrimination and could, therefore, use a review to correct such tendencies are Recommendations 1, 21, 22, 26 and 27.
In dealing with “Islamophobia”, witness testimony varied as to what the term actually meant with a significant number of witnesses emphatically calling for the term not to be used in any parliamentary context. This latter recommendation resonated with the public at large but the Committee went on to keep the term regardless. Recommendations 22 and 30 in the Draft Report deal with Islamophobia and are still seen as having the potential to negatively impact Canadian free speech rights. The former recommendation needs to be modified to remove its reference to “Islamophobia” while the latter needs to be totally rescinded.
As an adjunct to Motion M-103 and in support of the its main thrusts as noted above, the motion called for the collection of data capable of categorizing hate crimes and identifying victim groups with a mind to discerning related, community needs. Witness testimony was unanimous in supporting such a call but the Report missed some of their most salient suggestions. These included the introduction of safeguards to identify and deal with overly subjective and “hoax” reports, ensuring that related data is tamper-proof and expanding the information collected to include comprehensive offender data. Recommendations that deal with data collection and which, therefore, need to be vetted to ensure these issues are dealt with are 5, 6, 7, 8, 14, 24 and 27.