On Thursday, the Canadian government passed motion M-103, condemning “Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination.” It passed with a vote of 201-91.
The non-binding motion calls for the launch of a parliamentary committee which will study new government approaches to reduce systemic racism and discrimination in Canada. This committee will collect hate-crime data over the course of eight months and report back to the House of Commons with recommendations to address their findings.
The anti-Islamophobia motion was brought forward last December by Liberal MP Iqra Khalid. It was inspired by an e-petition posted on the Government of Canada website, which called for the House of Commons to “join us in recognizing that extremist individuals do not represent the religion of Islam, and in condemning all forms of Islamophobia.” The 2016 petition garnered almost 70,000 signatures from all over Canada.
M-103 gained momentum following the Quebec mosque attack in January. The shooting by 27-year-old white supremacist and Trump supporter, Alex Bisonette claimed the lives of six Muslim men. It was widely seen as a “wake-up call” and “harsh reminder” of the Islamophobia which exists in Canada, as well as the need to call attention to the growing number of hate-crimes against Canadian Muslims.
Despite this, the motion has been the source of contention and protest. Conservative MPs have claimed this motion will quell free speech and prevent the criticism of Islam. Both the Conservative Party and the Bloc Québécois party voted against the motion. Many believe the motion should not mention Islamophobia explicitly, in order to condemn all forms of discrimination equally. However, the motion does address all forms of discrimination, but highlights the specific issue of Islamophobia in Canada. In 2015, a similar motion against anti-Semitism was passed by the House of Commons, with no contention or mention of free speech.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association spoke in favour of the motion, stating that “There is no rational argument that M-103…restricts or constrains [freedom of expression].”
Since it was introduced, the Canadian Coalition of Concerned Citizens, an anti-refugee and anti-Muslim organization, has held protests across the country to rally against the motion. This has sparked many much larger counter-protests against Islamophobia and in support of refugees.
As the motion passed, protesters stood outside of parliament holding signs reading messages such as “No Sharia in Canada” and “Free Speech.” They demonstrate the need for Canada to, as M-103 aptly states, “quell the increasing public climate of hate and fear.”
At the same time, another group stood in support of the motion. Their signs read, “Freedom of Speech is Not Freedom to Abuse,” “Solidarity against Islamophobia,” and “Refugees Welcome.”