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Photo Courtesy Brett Hodnett

Wording of M103 bill vital to its meaning

By Andrew Kemle, March 21 2017 —

Motion 103 (M103) has been a contentious topic among many Canadians. M103 is a private member’s motion condemning “Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination” while also seeking to establish ways in which the government of Canada can combat an increase in discrimination. Those that have squared themselves against M103 continue to make it  apparent that they haven’t bothered looking at the actual motion. Opposition to M103 is misguided.

The loudest and most ignorant critique is that the motion restricts freedom of speech and makes certain types of thought and speech illegal. But since M103 is a private member’s motion, it possesses no legislative or regulatory power. Private member’s motions are designed to bring pertinent issues to the government’s attention — not create laws. If M103 passes, it establishes the official position of the government as condemning Islamophobia and other types of discrimination and standing for a peaceful, tolerant Canada. You won’t face any fines,  jail time or legal punishment via M103 for voicing Islamophobic opinions. It will simply be against the official position of the government.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has been emphatic in its comments that freedom of speech is in no way threatened or impeded by this motion. But many protesters either don’t care to process this new information or actively choose to ignore it. The number of far-right groups at anti-M103 protests and the hateful letters and emails the motion’s author Iqra Khalid has received might present a more malicious answer. Many of these protesters don’t actually care about free speech. Rather, they oppose the idea of Islamophobia being denounced in Canada.

Conservative Member of Parliament Michael Chong has pointed out that motions asking the government of Canada to condemn certain forms of discrimination — including anti-semitism and attacks against Yazidis — already exist. The idea of a specific condemnation of Islamophobia — a well-defined term meaning irrational hatred or fear of Muslims — is to send a message to those that would otherwise discriminate against or harm Muslims that their actions do not reflect the values Canadians hold. This is important for any minority, and voting to take the teeth out of this motion would be a great disservice to the group M103 is trying to support.

This loops back to the unsavoury implications for those that oppose this motion. It is increasingly likely that the main uproar is not because of civil liberties or the favouring of one specific group, but rather because this one specific group happens to be Muslims.

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