Liberal government backing controversial motion on condemning Islamophobia
The Liberal government is coming out strongly in favour of a motion to condemn Islamophobia and all other forms of racism and religious discrimination.
Heritage Minister Melanie Joly said passing the non-binding motion would send a strong message about discrimination against the Muslim community, particularly in light of the recent deadly attack on a mosque in Quebec City.
“We overwhelmingly reject the politics of racism and exclusion,” Joly said Wednesday outside the House of Commons.
She was surrounded by Liberal MPs — including several cabinet ministers — as a strong show of support, and a signal of her confidence that despite this being a free vote, there would not be anyone in the Liberal caucus who is expected to stand against it.
“Our government is committed to building a diverse, inclusive and welcoming society that promotes respect for all, regardless of faith, race or ethnicity.”
The private member’s motion, put forward by Liberal MP Iqra Khalid, was to be debated in the House of Commons later Wednesday.
It calls on the government to “recognize the need to quell the increasing public climate of hate and fear” and condemn Islamophobia, as well as all other kinds of “systemic racism and religious discrimination.
If the motion, known as M-103, is passed, the Commons heritage committee would also be asked to study the issue and develop a strategy to tackle it.
A number of Conservative MPs — including leadership contestants — have called for the motion to be more inclusive, warning it risks stifling freedom of expression by preventing criticism of elements of Islam or Muslim culture, such as the face-covering veil known as the niqab.
Conservative MP Lisa Raitt, who is a leadership candidate, said she understands the motion is non-binding, but added she has been hearing from constituents and others who fear that it could one day lead to limits on free speech.
“They’re worried about whether or not they’re going to be able to say certain things about, for example, sharia law, or criticize female genital mutilation,” Raitt said.
She said she would be more supportive of having a committee study racism and religious discrimination without the way things are worded in the motion.
Both Joly and Khalid insisted the motion would not touch on freedom of expression.