Mr. Speaker, I would like to follow up where my leader just left off and address the comments of members across the way.
Let there be no misunderstanding, the New Democratic Party first and foremost condemns the terrorist acts of September 11. For all of us the horror of September 11 does not go away. More than three weeks after the terrorist acts in New York and Washington, the images of death and destruction are as horrific as ever and they continually haunt us.
The heroic acts of firefighters and first responders reacting to this terrible tragedy on September 11 continue to overwhelm us and evoke feelings of incredible appreciation for these professions. The courage we now see from the grieving families of the 7,000 victims is a source of incredible inspiration for all of us. It is often said that calamity brings out the best in people and that the greatest catastrophe produces goodness. That is what we are seeing today and that is giving us hope for the future.
It would be very easy for Canadians and people around the world to fall into deep depression and despair as a result of these events. It would be terribly wrong to allow that to happen. It would be a capitulation to evil. It would be committing a sin of omission. It would be a diminishment of the very lives that were lost.
Such despair or psychic numbing as Dr. Helen Caldicott has called it, is the temptation to shut out from our minds and hearts the terrifying acts of September 11. The resolution we propose today is in the spirit shown by parliament over these past two weeks to avoid falling into despair, to remember that the situation is not hopeless, to give Canadians that message, to find answers and to seek justice.
This motion is a very clear and unequivocal condemnation of the terrorist acts of September 11 as crimes against humanity. The catastrophe we are responding to is terrorism and terrorism that went beyond the pale of anybody's understanding. These acts are crimes against humanity that must be condemned and rooted out of our global society.
Those responsible for hijacking innocent aircraft passengers and crashing planes into buildings slaughtering thousands more must be brought to justice in accordance as our motion says “with international law and within the framework of the United Nations”. That justice be done and that the evil doers be held accountable for these most heinous of acts is our overriding preoccupation.
There is a danger in all of this that must be avoided. As one Manitoban, the president of the Manitoba Federation of Labour Rob Hilliard, said in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks:
Our history is littered with examples of equally innocent people being blamed and punished or even killed for the acts of others who shared their racial, ethnic or religious characteristics. In our grief and rage, we must remember that the perpetrators must be held accountable--not every member of an ethnic or religious community that they may come from.
This sentiment is very much a part of the motion we present today. Parliament acknowledged this concern on September 21 when we, together with one voice, issued a plea for political, community and faith leaders to speak out against violence, hatred and intolerance of any kind. We all agreed to reassert our country's fundamental adherence to the rule of law and to preserving and protecting human rights as outlined in our charter.
Today we call on the government to translate this statement of principle into actions. The rising tide of intolerance and racism, the growing evidence of hatred and xenophobia in our society today, demand concerted efforts, a concerted, deliberate plan of action with a timetable and resources. That is a fundamental part of the motion we present to parliament today.
This is an issue we are all dealing with in our own communities and for which we are searching for answers. In my own constituency in Winnipeg, which is probably one of the most ethnically diverse ridings anywhere in the country, many walk in fear. They walk in fear of misplaced anger. Many are victims of ethnic slurs or racial taunts.
Members of the Sikh community in my constituency have told me about their fears. Many have decided to lay low, stay at home and avoid travel in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks. Many others have talked about the humiliation of seeing their homes or garages spray painted with the words go home.
The fires at mosques, the beating of young kids and the verbal attacks being unleashed on our whole community are reprehensible. We must stand together today with a determined effort, especially in these times, to eradicate our society of such incidents.
The harmony of our neighbourhoods, a harmony created over the years by efforts to share cultural traditions, have interfaith exchanges and put in place anti-racism initiatives, is facing a serious setback. Today we turn collectively to parliament and the Government of Canada to address this critical issue.
The danger of people equating Islam with terrorism is the most disturbing development following the terrorist act. Mary Sanchez from the Winnipeg Free Press said:
The words “Islamic terrorists” have been repeated like a mantra by media commentators, around dinner tables, in workplaces and schools. Yet Muslims and Islamic scholars say it would be hard to find two words more opposite in meaning. Experts say that to be a Muslim--which means to be a follower of Islam--is to be fundamentally opposed to the acts last week that likely killed more than 5,000 at the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon.
We are mindful that all religions have fanatical sects and Islam is no different. We are saying today that we deplore the hijacking of any religion to justify violent political acts. The United Church said the same thing in a statement following the events of September 11.
We are all dealing with constituents who are more fearful and worried in the aftermath of September 11. Members themselves often walk in fear and look at strangers in a different way. That cannot be. It must not be allowed to continue. We must regain our confidence and reassert our beliefs, especially during this difficult time.
We are facing a precarious situation and a new climate of insecurity. This will test our commitment to individual liberties and harden in some instances, as we have seen in circles around us, our attitudes toward immigration policy.
There is no question that the events of September 11 have brought anti-immigration, anti-refugee and anti-multicultural zealots out of the woodwork. It is a development we are gravely concerned about. We will fight it with the motion and by doing everything we can in the House.
My time is nearing an end. As my party's leader has said, in the search for answers and solutions Canada must be true to its traditions. It must uphold its belief in freedom, democracy and the rule of law. It must maintain its history of recognizing the strengths of multiculturalism and the tremendous benefits to our society of cultural exchanges. Canadians must continue to respect differences and refuse to tolerate racism, intolerance or xenophobia.
In that context I am pleased to be able to make an amendment to the motion before us today. I move:
That the motion be amended by inserting the words “and other visible minorities” after the word “Canadians”.