Canadian Parliament passes "anti-Islamophobia motion" but it's unclear what it means

Perhaps all that talk about a “Trump Effect in Canada” was a bit premature.

Last night I was seeing a lot of buzz on social media about Canada implementing Sharia Law or doing something else equally extreme. As it turns out that’s not quite what happened, but it’s definitely worth looking into. The activity in the Canadian Parliament under discussion was the passage of motion M-103, which carries a benign sounding title which condemns, “Systemic Racism and Religious Discrimination.” Under the covers the motion isn’t nearly so broad and encompassing. It’s focused pretty much entirely on “combating Islamophobia” and makes no mention of other sorts of discrimination such as antisemitism. And as reported in the National Post last night, it was far from unanimous.

The House of Commons voted Thursday afternoon to condemn “Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination” but the vote for the controversial M-103 was not unanimous.

Liberals, New Democrats, and Green Party MP Elizabeth May were in favour; most Conservative and all Bloc Quebecois MPs were opposed. The vote was 201 for and 91 against…

The motion was proposed by Iqra Khalid, a first-time MP representing a Mississauga, Ont. riding. In addition to the resolution condemning Islamophobia, it asks the House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage to study the issue of “eliminating systemic racism and religious discrimination including Islamophobia;” and calls on the federal government collect data on hate crimes for further study.

It’s worth noting that the vote took place just as public polling indicated that the measure only enjoys 29% approval, with 42% opposing and the rest unsure.

But before we sound the alarm bells too loudly we should point out that this didn’t represent the passage of any new laws or regulations. This “motion” was pretty much the same as a resolution in Congress where a “sense” of the membership is expressed (frequently on a voice vote) saying that the members mourn the passing of some entertainment icon or “support” victims of Alzheimer’s or what have you. But there’s more to M-103 than just that and it’s causing concern. The measure also calls on (but does not legislatively mandate) the Canadian Heritage Committee to, “collect data on hate crimes for further study.”

That’s a troubling phrase, but once again it doesn’t produce any concrete laws. Presumably there would need to be actual legislation drafted and enacted to actually do something with the data once it’s compiled. Still, the chilling nature of the language in this bill, particularly as it applies to free speech, has plenty of Canadians concerned. Back in January when M-103 was first under discussion, Anthony Furey at the Toronto Sun was sounding the alarm over what this could mean in the future and saying that the motion was “nothing but trouble.”

Now motions aren’t the same as private member’s bills. They’re often just about nodding in agreement with some flaky sentiment. M-103 is different. It’s got teeth.

It calls on the Heritage Committee to commence a study on eliminating Islamophobia. The study could then recommend laws to pursue this nebulous goal. If they do, there’s a good chance they’ll be dragnet laws that criminalize anyone who dares stand up to the many unsavoury parts of orthodox Islam.

There’s certainly evidence of an increasing climate of hate in Canada … coming from within Islam. Supremacist groups like the Brotherhood and Hizb ut-Tahrir have a rising presence here. And yet this motion could handcuff us from standing up to them.

So this isn’t the sudden onset of Sharia Law in the Great White North… at least not yet. But it’s troubling to be sure. Eliminating actual discrimination and violence against any minority (or really anyone, for that matter) is an admirable goal, but this certainly has the flavor of something which is intended to tamp down even the mildest criticism of Islam and violent extremism, to say nothing of outright terrorism. The liberals in charge of Canada’s government should tread carefully because, as the poll data shows, they are stirring up a big pool of resentment and opposition among their own citizens.