Canada

Motion M 103: stifling dissent

written by Mary MacDonald
February 26, 2017 10:52 pm

Iqra Khalid was elected as the Liberal MP for Mississauga- Erin Mills in the 2015 federal election. She has quickly risen to prominence in the Liberal Party, gaining a high profile as the sponsor of Motion M 103 Condemning Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination.

The motion is creating deep divisions in Canada. Nowhere was this more evident than while watching a CPAC broadcast of a House debate on Feb. 16. Critics of this motion have been the recipients of incendiary invective by Liberal MPs and others. Those supporting Ms. Khalid point to a petition signed by 69,000 Canadians who asked that the government take action. 69,000 signatures is representative of merely one-fifth of one percent of Canadians, a statistically insignificant number.

Wanting to learn more about Ms. Khalid, I checked a biographical sketch featuring her with Justin Trudeau. Ms. Khalid arrived in Canada in the late 1990s, after living in England and her native Pakistan. For a rookie MP, she has gained visibility in sponsoring this motion, which, while benign on its face, has the capacity to lay the groundwork for efforts to subvert the Charter’s guarantee of freedom of speech.

During a House debate on Khalid’s motion, Liberal MPs launched a scathing attack on opposition MPs who expressed concern about the ambiguity of Motion M 103’s content. Questions were raised by opposition MPs about the lack of precision and clarity of the word Islamophobia. The Liberal MPs denounced those who raised legitimate concerns about the nebulous, ambiguous term Islamophobia.

Such queries were met with furious indignation by Liberal MPs Raj Grewal (Brampton East) and Randy Boissonnault (Edmonton Centre) who accused Opposition members of sowing a “campaign of fear and division” for presenting a counter-motion, the content of which would not contain reference to Islamophobia. The tone of the Liberal MPs who spoke in favor of Motion M 103 was one of derision, mockery, ridicule and contempt for the opinions of others who dared to raise questions. Indeed, the vitriol emanating from the government bench was such that it suggested the mere raising of questions was itself racist.

The reaction of Liberal MPs to those who stood up in defense of the Canadian core value of freedom of speech validates the genuinely expressed fears of opposition members. If an open and civil debate cannot take place in the House of Commons, this atmosphere, created by government MPs, is deeply unsettling. It is an immutable core right to voice criticism about certain tenets of religions that contribute to violence against women and misogyny. Hatred of women is a metaphysical and undistilled feature of most religions. For evidence of this, look no further than the demands of Orthodox Jewish males who refuse to be seated next to females on airplanes. To avoid causing offense, such outrageous demands are being accommodated by some airlines.

To eliminate misogyny at its root we must safeguard at all cost the right to freely discuss the symbiotic relationship that exists between religion(s) and the myriad ways it reinforces the debasement of women. In a democratic country, citizens must resist attempts, however disguised, to stifle or lay the groundwork for government-sponsored actions that could create a climate of fear and intimidation for writers; essayists; researchers and cartoonists.

Ms. Khalid submitted her motion to Parliament well before the tragic events in Quebec City. Canadian soldiers died in defense of the most fundamental right, that of freedom of speech. Her motion before Parliament has already produced a chilling effect, as evident in her colleagues’ arrogant and elitist response to legitimate concerns about its content. If passed, Motion M 103 does not create a law making it unacceptable to voice criticism of religion or its pernicious role in the subjugation of women. It will, however, serve as a precursor to those who are intent on creating one, piecemeal.