Growing group of Tory leadership hopefuls oppose move to have House of Commons denounce Islamophobia

Funny, I don’t recall any Conservatives expressing concerns about singling out Antisemitism when they were in power and launched a number of initiatives (e.g., hosting an international conference on combatting antisemitism, jointing the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance) that were sometimes at the expense of general anti-racism and discrimination messaging and programming.

And was there not also a strong political aspect to the Conservative government’s efforts with respect to Canadian Jews? Interim Leader Ambrose should be mindful of stones and glass houses:

A growing 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 purposefully 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 and wary 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 after the party unveiled a promise to institute a “Barbaric Practices Snitch Line” and vowed to repeal citizenship for new Canadians in some circumstances.

“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, Ont.

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 that 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 that 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 says 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,” Bernier 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.”

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

Khalid was not available for an interview Monday but, when she tabled her motion last December, she told the House of Commons, ” I am a young, brown, Muslim, Canadian woman. When I moved to Canada in the 1990s — a young girl trying to make this nation my home — some kids in school would yell as they pushed me, ‘Go home, you Muslim,’ but I was home. I am among thousands of Muslims who have been victimized because of hate and fear.

“I am a proud Canadian among hundreds and thousands of others who will not tolerate hate based on religion or skin colour. I rise today with my fellow Canadians to reject and condemn Islamophobia.”

Her motion, if it passes, would not change any Canadian laws, as Bernier correctly noted in his Facebook post. Moreover, House of Commons standing committees are often asked to study a particular issue and make recommendations to the government on a course of action.

Governments sometimes act on committee recommendations, but they just as often ignore them.

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,” Ambrose said. For Conservatives, it will be a “free vote,” which means they may vote as they choose. Ambrose said she is open to amendments that deal with her concerns about speech.

“We absolutely condemn all forms of hatred, racism and violence,” Ambrose said.

Source: Growing group of Tory leadership hopefuls oppose move to have House of Commons denounce Islamophobia | National Post

And David Akin’s latest update and interview with Iqra Khalid, the MP sponsoring the motion:

Liberal MP Iqra Khalid said she is keen to allay the “fear and anxiety” some Canadians have about her attempt to have the House of Commons denounce Islamophobia, systemic racism and intolerance.

In an exclusive interview Tuesday with the National Post, Khalid, a Pakistan-born first-time MP from Mississauga, Ont., said she is not willing to alter her  motion, which has been given the parliamentary designation M-103, even though some Conservative MPs have suggested she do so and even though she says she has been subjected to “a lot of hatred” and abuse since she first proposed the motion last December.

“Watering down the motion will not be in the best interests of Canadians who are working to fight this (intolerance),” Khalid said.

Debate on M-103 is expected to begin at about 5:30 pm ET Wednesday in the House of Commons and run for about an hour. And while it is procedurally possible that a vote could also happen Wednesday, it is much more likely that the vote will be put off until early April.

Khalid will find significant support from her own caucus colleagues and from the NDP but not as much from the Conservative benches. Rona Ambrose, the interim Conservative party leader, in an interview with the National Post Monday, said she is opposed to Khalid’s motion and several of the contenders to become permanent leader also oppose it.

Liberal MP keen to allay ‘fear and anxiety’ on anti-Islamophobia motion but will not change it in face of ‘hatred’

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About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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