Is Islamophobia taking hold in this country? And will a motion bring it to an end?

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

February 24th, 2017



Canada’s Criminal Code prohibits hate propaganda of all kinds. The Canadian Human Rights Act forbids discrimination, including race and religion. All provinces and territories have human rights legislation which mimics the federal act in matters of provincial or territorial concern, as for example, in areas of employment or accommodation. And overriding all of this is the Charter of Rights and Canada’s constitution.

Iqra Khalid

MP Iqra Khalid introduced a Motion in the House of Commons.

So why is Liberal MP Iqra Khalid, so driven to get her motion on Islamophobia passed by the House? And why is she having such a tough time, including receiving death threats? In part the problem lies with the title – ‘Anti-Islamophobia’. Nobody seems to really know what that term, invented only a couple decades ago, even means. A phobia is an irrational fear. Yet, the outcome we are most concerned with is hate, and not fear – anti-Islamic.

Former Liberal MP and respected statesman Irwin Cotler had pushed through an independent motion on anti-semitism under the former Harper government. But then anti-semitism is a pretty well understood matter, we have only to think about the holocaust. And Cotler’s motion was pretty clear about its aims and objectives. So he is not impressed with Khalid’s motion – particularly regarding that term in its title.

There are some folks concerned that this motion is the proverbial camel with its nose in the tent – eventually the rest of its body will follow. The fear is that Sharia law and blasphemy legislation are just around the corner, ready to spring into the law books, once this motion gets passed. The opponents argue that this will legitimize further infringements of our rights to free speech, or worse. That may be a reach, but I’ve heard people being accused of anti-semitic bias for merely protesting against Israel’s settlement policies.

Floor of House of C

A little shoving people around on the floor of the House of Commons.

There is a lot of silly stuff that goes on in Parliament and politics makes strange bed fellows. MP Michael Chong, who gave up his Cabinet post over Mr. Harper’s Quebec-as-a-nation motion, stands almost alone in his party in support of Khalid’s motion. But then he is running in the Conservative leadership race, so why not rush-in where the other Tories fear to tread.

But it’s not like these motions are ever anything but gratuitous fluff, a pandering by MPs to the demands of some loud voices back home. It is doubtful that Canada’s neo-Nazis immediately ripped the swastikas off their chests once Parliament had passed Mr. Cotler’s motion. And this motion introduced by Ms. Khalid is unlikely to erase the public’s fears about a next jihad coming to a neighbourhood near them, irrational or not.

Funeral for quebec muslims

Public funeral for some of the Muslims murdered in Quebec.

We are all united in the horror we witnessed last December in a Quebec city mosque. Condemnation came from everywhere, MPs, political parties and community leaders across all of Canada. But Ms. Khalid’s motion was actually introduced before that tragic massacre. A motion condemning such an event is always appropriate. But that isn’t Khalid’s motion. Instead, her’s threatens to divide Canadians, something that Mr. Trudeau had hoped to avoid during the course of his sunny ways government.

As we look at what is happening in Europe and south of the border, it is hard not to have doubts and questions about Canada’s policy on refugees and immigration. Canada has generously opened its door to thousands of refugees coming from places where this religion, which most of us don’t really understand, plays a significant role in their daily life. But tolerance in an open society has its limits.

The coming of the Trump presidency and his Muslim travel ban to the USA has poured ice-water into the hearts of all non-Christians and non-citizens there. Those not being deported are fearful that this is just the beginning, and that far more draconian measures are on their way. As a consequence Canada is now seeing the start of the kind of illegal migration across its borders which has plagued its southern neighbour for years, and which ultimately led to the creation of the Donald.

muslims crossing the border

Police officers helping immigrants cross the border into Canada.

Many Canadians are still apprehensive of just how many refugees are to be allowed into this country. The Manitoba crossings are an elephant in the snow fields, and that has forced the opposition parties to take a stand. One of them is chastising Trudeau for not upholding the law and the other demanding he rip up the agreement which identifies the US as a safe nation for refugees.

Ultimately, an unregulated flow of migrants is a problem. It’s the very reason that Angela Merkel will lose her re-election this year as German Chancellor. So Mr. Trudeau needs to pay attention. The public mood is shifting from wanting to helping those in need, to a wariness and the need to seal the borders.

Mr. Trudeau has made consensus among Canadians a touchstone of his policies. He recently tore-up his promise on electoral reform for that very reason – saying it lacked consensus. In that vein, he needs to take a long and hard look at the divisiveness being created by this motion now before the House.

Rivers looking to his leftRay Rivers writes weekly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was a candidate for provincial office in Burlington in 1995.  He was the founder of the Burlington citizen committee on sustainability at a time when climate warming was a hotly debated subject.     Tweet @rayzrivers


Background links:

Anti-Discrimination and Hate –   Motion 103 –    More Motion –   Anti-Islamophobia

More Anti –   Camel in the Tent –   US Muslim Ban –   Opposition –   Support –   Border Chaos –   Manitoba Crossings

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4 comments to Is Islamophobia taking hold in this country? And will a motion bring it to an end?

  • Joe Gaetan

    Ray you covered the important aspects of the provincial and federal efforts to control a “phobia”. I think there are better ways to address the fears, prejudices, hatred or dislikes that are directed at all religions and other things we don’t understand. Singling out one phobia makes no sense whatsoever and is not the way to go.

  • Gary

    As one of your usual critics, Mr. Rivers, I applaud you on this carefully crafted piece on this difficult and emotional subject. I think your statement about a religion not really well understood by many people is right on the money. And if they had a greater understanding of it they would be in a much better position to determine what the consequence might be of adopting this resolution using the term ‘Islamophobia’. The opposition parties introduced a motion that was non-discriminatory and contained pretty much all that was in the Liberal motion sans that word ‘Islamophobia’ It was voted down by the majority Liberals. The Muslim author of the Liberal motion would not accept deletion of the word ‘Islamophobia’ and one should pause and ask ‘why’? If one looks at the history of this word one can detect a pattern. Bear in mind that the second part of this motion is to have the federal government examine ways in which religions can be protected from discrimination. In other countries in Europe that has devolved into anti-blasphemy legislation with real penalties and discouraged openly free speech. This is not an unimportant word and the consequences of including in federal government thinking can be very problematical.

  • Hans

    If the term “irrational fear” is substituted for “Islamophobia” into the MP’s motion, it no longer makes any sense and therefore should not be supported.

  • Sheila Ludgate

    I appreciate reading your take on these issues, Ray. I already feel a not-so-subtle pressure to refrain from questioning certain policies/procedures/practices or risk being accused of some imagined offence. As soon as any reasoned discourse is discouraged – let alone forbidden – we’re treading on really dangerous ground, and it’s not the Canada I’ve been raised to love & respect.