Tory hope­fuls op­pose Is­lam­o­pho­bia de­bate


Ottawa Citizen - - POLITICS - DAVID AKIN Na­tional Post dakin@post­ Twit­­dakin

Agrow­ing num­ber of Con­ser­va­tive lead­er­ship ri­vals are declar­ing their op­po­si­tion to a Lib­eral MP’s mo­tion to have the House of Com­mons de­nounce Is­lam­o­pho­bia and other forms of sys­temic racism.

And the in­terim leader of the party, Rona Am­brose, is also likely to vote against the mo­tion, which will be de­bated Wed­nes­day, as she ac­cuses the Lib­er­als of try­ing to sow divi­sion in her party with the ini­tia­tive.

The op­po­si­tion to the anti-Is­lam­o­pho­bia mo­tion by Kel­lie Leitch, Maxime Bernier, An­drew Scheer and oth­ers is likely to play well with a Con­ser­va­tive base that, ac­cord­ing to sev­eral polls, is more sus­pi­cious of Mus­lim im­mi­grants than other groups of vot­ers.

But as more Tories op­pose the mo­tion, their po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents will have more of a chance to charge that Con­ser­va­tives are in­tol­er­ant at best and big­oted at worse, a res­ur­rec­tion of crit­i­cisms that hurt them at the bal­lot box in 2015.

“Vot­ing against this mo­tion is sim­ply non­sen­si­cal,” said Karl Be­langer, who spent 19 years as a top ad­viser to three lead­ers of the fed­eral NDP.

“No mat­ter what the con­vo­luted ex­pla­na­tion is, you are vot­ing against con­demn­ing Is­lam­o­pho­bia and all forms of sys­temic racism and re­li­gious dis­crim­i­na­tion. That will stick.”

The res­o­lu­tion at hand is known as M-103. It was put be­fore the House of Com­mons in early De­cem­ber by Iqra Khalid, a first-time Lib­eral MP who rep­re­sents Mis­sis­sauga—Erin Mills in On­tario.

The mo­tion is sched­uled for an hour’s worth of de­bate in the House of Com­mons late Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon. And while there is a chance a vote could be held dur­ing that hour, the more likely out­come from a pro­ce­dural stand­point is a vote will be put off un­til early April.

Am­brose said she be­lieves the Lib­er­als will want to keep the is­sue front and cen­tre for weeks be­fore bring­ing it to a fi­nal vote.

“We know they are do­ing this purely for pol­i­tics,” she said.

Khalid, who was born in Pak­istan, wants to ac­com­plish three things with M-103: First, that the House “con­demn Is­lam­o­pho­bia and all forms of sys­temic racism and re­li­gious dis­crim­i­na­tion;” sec­ond, that the House of Com­mons Stand­ing Com­mit­tee on Cana­dian Her­itage be in­structed to study the is­sue of “elim­i­nat­ing sys­temic racism and re­li­gious dis­crim­i­na­tion in­clud­ing Is­lam­o­pho­bia;” and, fi­nally; that the fed­eral gov­ern­ment col­lect data on hate crimes for fur­ther study.

Scheer, in a re­cent fundrais­ing let­ter to his sup­port­ers, said one of the rea­sons he will vote against Khalid’s mo­tion is it could be con­strued as a move to sti­fle free speech. He also says the mo­tion does not de­fine “Is­lam­o­pho­bia” and, in any event, he can­not vote for a mo­tion that sin­gles out one re­li­gion for spe­cial sta­tus.

“It is also im­por­tant to note that we al­ready have laws that pro­tect Cana­di­ans against dis­crim­i­na­tion based on their faith. We also have laws against in­cit­ing vi­o­lence,” Scheer said.

Bernier cites sim­i­lar rea­sons for his op­po­si­tion to M-103 but, in a Face­book post over the week­end, said he could sup­port the mo­tion if the word “Is­lam­o­pho­bia” was re­moved from mo­tion.

“We should reaf­firm ev­ery­one’s right to be­lieve in and crit­i­cize what­ever be­lief they want, whether it is Is­lam, Chris­tian­ity, Ju­daism, Hin­duism, athe­ism, or any other,” he said.

MP Brad Trost, who is also run­ning for the lead­er­ship, said Jews and Chris­tians are more likely to be vic­tims of faith-based in­tol­er­ance. He called Khalid’s mo­tion “a farce.”

Steven Blaney, too, will vote against the mo­tion.

“While I rec­og­nize the value of pro­mot­ing re­spect for all re­li­gion, I in­tend to op­pose M-103, a mo­tion that is not well de­fined and clearly rep­re­sents a threat to free­dom of ex­pres­sion.”

Erin O’Toole, another lead­er­ship can­di­date, has reached out to Khalid with some sug­ges­tions to mod­ify the amend­ment so it might find more sup­port among Con­ser­va­tive MPs.

Khalid’s mo­tion, if it passes, would not change any Cana­dian laws, as Bernier cor­rectly noted in his Face­book post.

But Am­brose, in an in­ter­view with the Na­tional Post Mon­day evening, said she wor­ries her work try­ing to em­power women and girls in Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ties could be branded Is­lam­o­pho­bic if she crit­i­cizes the views of some Mus­lim men.

“Our mem­bers are re­ally con­cerned about this as a free­dom of speech is­sue,” she said.

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