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House of Commons Hansard #142 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was islamophobia.

Topics

Opposition Motion—Systemic racism and religious discriminationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Anthony Housefather Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his motion, and the careful consideration he gave in drafting the motion. I appreciate the inclusivity of the motion. I think the real issue for many members on this side of the House is the lack of the word “Islamaphobia” that is present in Motion No. 103.

I believe Islamaphobia should be defined. I wonder if the hon. member would be willing to add at the end of the first sentence “...senseless violent acts at a Quebec City mosque, which speaks to an irrational hatred or fear of Muslims, known as Islamaphobia”?

There, I have defined it. I have put it in context. I have said it is an irrational hatred and fear of Muslims. I have said nothing else to further define it or do anything to take away freedom of speech. I wonder if the member would consider working with me this morning to find an amendment that would make everyone in the House willing to support the motion so we could have unanimous agreement.

Opposition Motion—Systemic racism and religious discriminationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, I hope the member opposite is not being mischievous, because it is my understanding that the Liberals have already come out and said they are going to oppose this motion. They are going to conflict their own members by doing that, and that is actually an issue they are going to have to deal with over there. We are of one mind on this side.

Opposition Motion—Systemic racism and religious discriminationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is always a privilege and an honour to rise in the House to talk about an issue. However, after 16 months of having the privilege of representing the people of Louis-Saint-Laurent here in the House, rarely have I felt so passionately about something as I do this morning.

The motion before us today is a positive, unifying motion that is based on the same principles that form the very foundation of our country, namely, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and an unequivocal condemnation of racism, discrimination, and intolerance. It also calls on our fellow parliamentarians to ensure we work together to come up with solutions to fiercely fight against all disrespectful acts committed against individuals who practise the faith of their choosing. That is why we strongly support this motion. We find it surprising that anyone could be indifferent or opposed to the wording of this motion. Let us take the time to give it the due diligence it deserves.

First, we mention the tragic events that happened at a Quebec City mosque two and a half weeks ago. We were all shaken by this tragedy, but I am from Louis-Saint-Laurent, so it hit closer to home for me. I live about 15 kilometres from the mosque in question. It is hard to imagine that something like this could happen in Quebec City, or anywhere in Canada, but it did. Let us leave it to the courts to handle this, but so far it looks like the suspect was not motivated by the ideology of any political party whatsoever in this country, contrary to what some fools have said. It is important to point that out.

We are all moved by what happened in Quebec City. Innocent people practising their faith were gathered together at a place of worship to pray, when they were savagely killed by a murderer. That is what is driving us to move this motion.

Then, there is the next phrase, “That the House...condemn all forms of systemic racism, religious intolerance, and discrimination”. Who could be against that? Vigorously condemning racism, intolerance, and any act of discrimination is the very essence of this country and of every man and woman who lives by democratic principles. How can anyone in the House be against that?

These are some of the most horrendous crimes that can be committed against Muslims, Jews, Christians, Sikhs, Hindus, and other religious communities, and we condemn those acts. Terrorism has no borders. Unbridled terrorism has no language, law, gender, religion, or fath. Terrorism is the worst side of society. It is an attack on all people and all religions.

No one religion is better than another. Every religion is equal. Unfortunately, yes, there are despicable people who deserve to be severely condemned. That is why our motion talks about condemning “all forms of systemic racism, religious intolerance, and discrimination of Muslims, Jews, Christians, Sikhs, Hindus, and other religious communities”. I am quoting the motion here because it is important, and words have meaning.

The motion then calls upon the House to instruct a parliamentary committee to find a way to eliminate all types of discrimination in Canada and to better reflect the enshrined rights and freedoms in the Constitution Acts, because that is key.

The wording of a motion is very important, and in this case it is based on respect for the individual, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, proper religious observance, the unequivocal condemnation of the worst side of society, and efforts to find meaningful solutions so that we can live in a country that is more tolerant and more open to everyone.

The motion, as it now stands, is beyond reproach. It is unfortunate to see that some people are trying to claim that it has inappropriate partisan motives. It is exactly the opposite. This motion seeks to bring everyone together. It tells everyone that we believe in all religions, that we respect all religions, and that we are going to protect Canadians' right to practise their faith as they see fit. No one faith is better than another. Every religion has something to offer those who believe and are driven by that belief system. That is a good thing.

Like most of the people in my riding and most French Canadians, I am Roman Catholic. Why? It is because my parents, my great-grandparents, and probably my great-great-grandparents were.

When Father Léger Robitaille, the Sainte-Marie-Médiatrice parish priest, baptized me in 1964, I was not asked if I wanted to be baptized, but I am very pleased that I was. However, I could have been born into another faith. No one religion is better than another. Woe to those who attack others because of their religion.

Working really hard to protect laws, to protect religious faith, and to give people fundamental freedoms is nothing new for us. The first initiative was introduced in 1960. It was a Conservative prime minister, the Right Honourable John George Diefenbaker, who brought in the Bill of Rights. It was a step in the right direction for Canada. I am glad that it was a Conservative prime minister, but that is not really important; what is important is that it was a Canadian prime minister who took this step. This bill of rights says that freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of association are fundamental freedoms. That is what Canada is about and that is what our motion says.

Many years later, on April 24, 2013, the House of Commons gave its unanimous consent to a motion. That motion was about how Canada's commitment “to the creation of an Office of Religious Freedom should be used to help protect religious minorities and promote the pluralism that is essential to the development of free and democratic societies”.

Way back in 2013, not just the Conservative government but the entire House of Commons unanimously called for the creation of the office, which was in fact set up in 2013, February 10, 2013, to be exact.

What was the office's purpose? It had a three-part mandate: first, to advocate on behalf of communities under threat and to build our capacity to monitor and promote religious freedom. A key objective of Canada's foreign policy is to promote freedom of religion and the freedom to practice religion around the world as one of Canada's fundamental values, which it is. Lastly, the office was supposed to implement effective programs to establish partnerships with international organizations.

The purpose of the office was to promote absolute freedom of expression and absolute freedom of religion, to promote what makes Canada the great, beautiful country that we all love and appreciate, that is recognized around the world, because we respect each and every person and we protect them through this measure.

It is also worth noting that the office had an external advisory committee made up of representatives from various communities, including atheists, Muslims, Sikhs, Jews, and Hindus. That committee was created specifically to help ensure that everyone can live and worship as they please, to promote that.

Furthermore, in what is perhaps an even more telling move, the creation of the office was not announced at a hotel, in a press room, or here, in the nation's auditorium during a press conference. No, it was announced in a mosque, because we are all aware that, in today's world, we cannot rule out the possibility of someone attacking a mosque, which is sadly what happened recently right here in Canada, in my home province of Quebec. The Conservative government wanted to send a very clear message. It promoted religious freedom, freedom of opinion, and freedom of expression in a mosque. The message was clear.

Now the current government, unfortunately driven by the worst partisan political instincts, decided the office had to be bad since it had been created by the Conservatives, so it retooled it and give it a new mission. Fundamentally, this issue should unite all Canadians; it should not be a partisan issue. There are plenty of files in which we can let each other have it. We can play politics on all kinds of other topics, but on this particular topic, we should be appealing to the most serious, noble values of Canadians, namely, freedom of expression and freedom of religion, and that is exactly what this motion is promoting.

Opposition Motion—Systemic racism and religious discriminationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

February 16th, 2017 / 10:30 a.m.

Mississauga Centre Ontario

Liberal

Omar Alghabra LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs (Consular Affairs)

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his contribution today, and I want to take this moment, probably one of the rarest moments that I will get to ask him a question.

It is regrettable that only two weeks after the mosque attack the Conservatives are doing everything they can to avoid the word “Islamophobia”.

I know the hon. member condemned the mosque attack, but has he had some time to reflect? He is a prolific guest on radio talk shows in Quebec. Has he reflected on the words that he has been using over the last few years? Has he accepted some responsibility for the type of rhetoric that has been going on there?

Opposition Motion—Systemic racism and religious discriminationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is walking on very thin ice.

I would like to bring to his attention a fact about the suspect. So far there is no evidence of any ties to the radio shows the hon. member is referring to, or any ties to any political party in Quebec, or any ties to any federal political party whatsoever.

This is a loaded question, so I will choose my words carefully.

My colleague seems to follow closely what I say on the radio. True, I have been known to appear on the odd radio show. Generally, when the phone rings, I answer it. I would like to share with him something that I said in January, when his Prime Minister took three days to react to the tragedy in Berlin. I was asked if I thought that the Prime Minister of Canada had taken three days to react because the victims were Christian and the attack was carried out by ISIL.

Do you know what I said? I said that the primary victims of ISIL were Muslims, people practising their own faith and for whom I have a great deal of respect. Among ISIL's victims are good Muslims, people who believe in freedom of expression and freedom of religion.

Opposition Motion—Systemic racism and religious discriminationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Robert-Falcon Ouellette Liberal Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, why is a distinction being made? The motion also refers to other religious communities.

People are often dismissive of or know absolutely nothing about the religious traditions of indigenous peoples, particularly those of the Neheyo, which is part of the Cree nation.

Personally, I take part in a ceremony that lasts four days, during which I do not eat or drink and I dance for the Creator. It is an extremely complicated religious ceremony.

In the past, indigenous peoples have been oppressed. We could not practise our religion in public until 1951. Even today, indigenous communities across the country are still experiencing problems in some areas, such as in schools and even in certain communities.

I believe Islamophobia is a bigger problem than we realize.

As a result, I would like to know two things. First, why are we not including all communities? Second, how can we make a distinction between what is happening today with indigenous peoples and Islamophobia, which I believe to be a real problem.

Opposition Motion—Systemic racism and religious discriminationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am moved by my colleague's comments. I respect him and what is more, Wendake is in my riding, as he well knows, and I am proud to represent that community.

Our motion does not distinguish between communities. Religion is specific to each Canadian. The motion is for all Canadians, beginning with the first nations and the faith that inspires them and is specific to them.

Therefore, we do not have a list that focuses on a single word or a specific religion; it applies to all religions, other religious communities, and other religious practices.

It is a good thing that the member is so proud of his heritage. I encourage all Canadians to be proud of their heritage, especially the first nations. All the better if the member participates in religious practices of that nature, and I congratulate him for it. That is exactly what the motion says. Canadians must continue to own and live their faith and to show that they are proud of their religion. All Canadians must be able to do so safely.

Opposition Motion—Systemic racism and religious discriminationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Ahuntsic-Cartierville Québec

Liberal

Mélanie Joly LiberalMinister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the parliamentary secretary for multiculturalism, the MP for Parkdale—High Park, stood in the House of Commons in solidarity with the Liberal caucus to announce the government's support for the MP for Mississauga—Erin Mills' motion recognizing the need to counter all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination, including Islamophobia. Today, it is my turn to stand in the House of Commons to echo this same message and denounce loud and clear the unfortunate tide of hate and fear. Our government stands united in support of this message of compassion and empathy, confirming our support for the Muslim community here in Canada and acknowledging the hardships the members of this community endure.

Today, the opposition is presenting a watered-down version of the motion put forward by the MP for Mississauga—Erin Mills. It is without a doubt a political ploy put forward by the Conservative Party to save itself from internal division. The motion presented today is a diversion to serve political purposes.

We must not fool ourselves. The Conservatives lack courage and are hiding behind a false argument. They claim to be bringing people together, but they are not acknowledging the challenges faced by the Muslim community across the country.

This is why we will not be supporting the opposition motion today.

Over the past few years, I and many other Canadians have witnessed a growing tide of hatred and intolerance toward the Muslim community. Yesterday, our government came forward with a message of hope, a message of solidarity, a message of support for the MP for Mississauga—Erin Mills, who faced a barrage of online abuse, but we can think of many other instances of Islamophobia.

Let us recall what has happened. A fire at a Peterborough mosque was arson. A Hamilton mosque was firebombed. Two women were threatened with a noose in Edmonton. Two men in Toronto tried to rip off a woman's head scarf. A Muslim woman in London was spat on in a grocery store. There were anti-Muslim posters at the University of Calgary. Mosques were vandalized in Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec, and Sept-Îles. Those of us in leadership positions have a social responsibility to take a strong stance on these acts of hate perpetrated against individuals of Muslim faith.

Let me be clear. Islamophobia is a real problem. Neighbours, friends, co-workers of the Muslim faith endure systemic racism and religious discrimination in our country.

Our government recognizes that Islamophobia exists, and that is the first step in fighting the hate and fear towards this community.

While police-reported hate crimes have fallen in Canada in recent years, they have doubled against the Muslim community between 2012 and 2014.

As the Minister of Canadian Heritage but also as the member for Ahuntsic-Cartierville, one of the most diverse communities in the country and home to 50 different cultural communities, I urge the House to keep all of that in mind.

As I stand here in the House today, I am thinking of Esra, one of my constituents in Ahuntsic-Cartierville. This young Muslim woman was born here in Canada. She is currently studying education at UQAM and is having a hard time finding a job. She is a victim of discrimination every day because she wears a head scarf.

I am also thinking of Mohamed, a good friend of mine, an intelligent, skilled young man who is having trouble finding a job because of his name. I am also thinking of colleagues of mine in Ahuntsic-Cartierville who are afraid to go pray at their local mosque. They do not feel safe because of the prevailing climate in this country right now.

That being said, foremost in my mind are the Muslims who were killed because they were in a place of worship.

The tragic events that occurred in Quebec City on January 29 shook us deeply. The motivation behind this horrendous attack in a place of worship and reflection goes against everything this country stands for. We stand united in the face of this catastrophe. As political leaders, we have a moral imperative not to turn our backs on something so insidious, so galling as discrimination based on religious beliefs.

Things do not cease to exist just because we do not name them. We have a real problem, and that problem is Islamophobia. The Conservatives want to find a solution without really talking about the problem, without naming it, and that is actually making the problem worse. We have a duty. Every time a community is targeted, we must condemn such actions. I find it sad that people are using certain communities to make political hay. We need to condemn that too.

The Conservatives have decided to engage in divisive politics. They were unable to stay united in the fight against discrimination even though it is so important.

At the end of the day, the motion of the MP for Mississauga—Erin Mills ensures that in Canada we stand for free and respectful exchanges of ideas and opinions, and it leaves no place for hatred nor any tolerance of abuse. It bears repeating that we are at our best when we care for one another. Over the years, we have learned to work together and to value diversity, diversity of backgrounds as well as diversity of opinions, customs, and beliefs. This diversity has strengthened and enriched us.

We must never stop protecting what makes our country great: our diversity. As Canadians, we must stand united and say no to the politics of fear and division. More than ever, we must defend our values and lead by example.

Canada's strength is found in many facets: in our respect for rights and freedoms, in our welcoming and open society, and in our diversity. There is no better time to reflect and build on these strengths, and our government is fully engaged to focus on Canada's ethnic, linguistic, cultural, and regional diversity and to find ways to deepen our relationships across the country and within our many communities. Canada's commitment to diversity is one of the pillars of our social contract, the social contract that unites each and every one of us. I am really proud of this.

I would like to bring attention to the fact that the opposition thinks otherwise. The Conservatives have brought this motion forward in a cynical attempt to serve their political purposes and avoid addressing the real issue of Islamophobia. It boggles the mind that members of the House, members who have put their names forward to lead political parties, would try to capitalize on fear and division for their own benefit. Some have actually had the gall to use this as an opportunity to blast out emails and mailers to raise money for their campaigns, to use fear of Islamophobia to enrich their own success.

Others have used poor taste by using imagery of the Ottawa terror attack as a backdrop in mail-outs and emails to protest Islamophobia. In fact, just yesterday, three members of the House were speakers at a so-called freedom rally in Toronto, a rally organized by a man who claimed that the mosque shooting in Quebec City was actually an act of Muslim terror that lying media refused to report. Anyone who tells Canadians that this motion is the “first step toward restricting our right to criticize Islam” or that “thought police in Ottawa dictate what we can and cannot say” is misleading and undermining a real issue that is deserving of our attention.

As we fight racism and discrimination, I want to share with members a program I announced last week in Scarborough. As minister responsible for multiculturalism, I was very proud to announce that our government invested $5.5 million in the inter-action multiculturalism funding program. Non-profit organizations can apply for funding for projects that aim to promote intercultural dialogue, fight systemic racism, and cultivate respect of diversity. Programs like this one foster mutual understanding and help create bonds between all Canadians. After all, diversity and inclusion are central to who we are as Canadians, which is why they are a pillar of Canada 150 celebrations taking place this year.

Today, I invite all hon. members of the House to promote this program in their community.

A few months ago, I had the opportunity of hosting a round table on diversity with my colleagues the MP for Edmonton Mill Woods and the MP for Edmonton Centre. We sat down with 15 students and we heard about their successes, their challenges, and their ambitions. It was really an uplifting conversation.

I learned a great deal from this conversation and I was surrounded by people from different religious backgrounds.

Everyone there condemned Islamophobia. No one was afraid to speak out against it. Even though as Jews, Sikhs, indigenous peoples, or black persons they are part of a minority, they stood behind the Muslim community. Having often been victims of discrimination themselves, they acknowledged that Islamophobia is a problem in Canada.

The same thing happened in my riding. In Ahuntsic-Cartierville, I had the opportunity to meet with several leaders from different religious backgrounds, including Armenians, Coptic Christians, Maronites, or even Shia Muslims, Sunni Muslims, and atheists. All these community leaders and religious leaders acknowledged that Islamophobia is a problem. They all acknowledged that we must work together to fight prejudice and that if we did not, we would be preventing our society from achieving healthy social cohesion.

While we are dealing with a difficult subject—and we cannot ignore the evidence of racism and discrimination in Canada—we have reason for optimism. An Environics study reveals that an increasing majority of Canadians identify multiculturalism as one of the most important symbols of the country's national identity. But the study also showed that Canadians increasingly acknowledge that there are systemic barriers facing visible minorities, which require a societal response.

I strongly oppose this motion and encourage my fellow members to recognize the importance of collectively standing against a motion like this that seeks to avoid the real conversation, and which attempts to divide us.

Motion No. 103 is a signal to the Canadian people that we will never relent in our pursuit of a more equitable and just society, one that actively promotes diversity and inclusion. Our strength as a country lies in our diversity. I would encourage my colleague across the way to support Motion No. 103.

I would also like to seek unanimous consent for the following motion. That the motion be amended, first, by deleting the words “the House: (a) recognize that Canadian society is not immune to the climate of hate and fear exemplified by the recent and senseless violent acts at a Quebec City mosque; (b) condemn all forms of systemic racism, religious intolerance, and discrimination of Muslims, Jews, Christians, Sikhs, Hindus, and other religious communities; and (c) instruct” and substituting the following: “, in the opinion of the House, the government should, (a) recognize the need to quell the increasing public climate of hate and fear, (b) condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination and take note of House of Commons' petition e-411 and the issues raised by it; and (c) request that”; and, second, by adding after the words “all types of discrimination” the following: “including Islamophobia”.

Opposition Motion—Systemic racism and religious discriminationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

It is my duty to inform hon. members that when an amendment is proposed to an opposition motion, that amendment can only be moved with the consent of the sponsor of the motion. I therefore ask the hon. member for Cypress Hills—Grasslands if he wishes to consent to the amendment being moved.

Opposition Motion—Systemic racism and religious discriminationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have had no prior contact on this amendment. I do not know what the member is trying to do from the floor of the House of Commons here and I have no idea of the content of the amendment, so I have to say no.

Opposition Motion—Systemic racism and religious discriminationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

There being no consent, pursuant to Standing Order 85, the amendment cannot be moved at this time.

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Cypress Hills—Grasslands.

Opposition Motion—Systemic racism and religious discriminationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, I do not know that the bizarre stubbornness of the Liberals amazes anyone anymore.

The member has talked about Motion No. 103 and the message of confusion that surrounded this motion. Even senior figures of the Liberal Party, such as Irwin Cotler, had advised her to make amendments to this motion, and those amendments were very similar to the ones we proposed as well.

Everyone here has condemned all forms of religious discrimination, and particularly the examples that she has used this morning. However, I am just wondering if the member could tell us what the Liberals think they are going to gain by dividing religious communities and by rejecting this inclusive motion that has such a positive message for Canada.

Opposition Motion—Systemic racism and religious discriminationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Mélanie Joly Liberal Ahuntsic-Cartierville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I think that my colleague is not talking about the real debate. The real debate is about the fact that, as the House, we need to stand united in condemning Islamophobia. I do not understand the fear that my colleague, and colleagues, are expressing against Islamophobia because when we know we have a problem, it is not by eluding to it and not talking about it that we will solve it. Therefore, I would urge my colleagues to stand with us, as strong parliamentarians, to support this very inclusive motion, Motion No. 103, in order to condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism.

Opposition Motion—Systemic racism and religious discriminationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Canadian Heritage is absolutely right that we all need to stand up and condemn hate and discrimination of all forms, no matter where we see it, and that includes where it is taking place south of the border. One might argue that President Donald Trump is perhaps one of the biggest promoters of Islamophobia right now, with the immigration ban that he tried to bring forward. The member said that we have an obligation to denounce hate and discrimination. Does she agree that the Prime Minister also needs to stand up and denounce the hate and discrimination in Trump's discriminatory and racist ban?

Opposition Motion—Systemic racism and religious discriminationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Mélanie Joly Liberal Ahuntsic-Cartierville, QC

Mr. Speaker, we are talking about a debate happening in the House of Commons of Canada. We denounce any form of systemic racism and also Islamophobia in Canada. As the Prime Minister has said, he is not there to lecture other countries. I am proud to see that my colleague is supporting our work and our Motion No. 103.

Opposition Motion—Systemic racism and religious discriminationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Joël Godin Conservative Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague, the Minister of Canadian Heritage impugned the motives of the Conservative Party.

Therefore, I must say to the Liberals that they should take a look in the mirror. They are the ones who are trying to make political hay. As a parliamentarian, I find this to be unacceptable. The tragedy in Quebec City happened 10 minutes from my home. I represent the riding next to that of my colleague from Louis-Hébert, where this tragedy occurred.

I find it unacceptable that the Conservatives are being accused of being opportunistic. I would accuse the government and the party in power of the same thing. They are political opportunists and they are excluding certain groups.

They need to include all religions.

Opposition Motion—Systemic racism and religious discriminationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Mélanie Joly Liberal Ahuntsic-Cartierville, QC

Mr. Speaker, last December, our colleague from Mississauga—Erin Mills tabled a motion in response to a petition presented by the member for Pierrefonds—Dollard that had been supported and signed by 70,000 people. The member for Pierrefonds—Dollard and the member for Mississauga—Erin Mills decided to put forward this initiative, and I am very glad they did.

As a government, we recognize that Islamophobia is a problem. We are not afraid to recognize it or to say so, because we know that we need to come up with solutions to address this phenomenon.

What we do condemn is the fact that not only is the Conservative Party trying to present another version that trivializes Islamophobia, which proves that they are afraid to talk about this phenomenon, even though it is based on police-reported data, but also that certain people in the House who are running for the Conservative leadership are using Islamophobia to score political points. That is extremely troubling.

Opposition Motion—Systemic racism and religious discriminationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, this debate is lamentable. We know that Motion No. 103 would not remotely change the rights of free speech nor bring in sharia law. Also, on its face, the motion today from the hon. member for Cypress Hills—Grasslands does not pander to those elements that are creating these false impressions, but it creates a non-debate, where we should be unifying the voices in this place against hatred. We should be saying clearly to the Muslim community that it is protected in this country, at a time when elsewhere voices of intolerance are being raised against it. That is why Motion No. 103 makes sense.

Opposition Motion—Systemic racism and religious discriminationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Liberal

Mélanie Joly Liberal Ahuntsic-Cartierville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the leader of the Green Party for her sound words and her moral leadership on the issue.

Opposition Motion—Systemic racism and religious discriminationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Conservative

Martin Shields Conservative Bow River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to participate in this today.

My community is one of the most ethnically diverse communities in Canada, and people might find that a little surprising. We adopted the motto and worked for it, a community we are proud to call home. We have representatives of 100 different nationalities in our community. As the mayor, we worked strongly on inclusiveness over the years. I have been working with everybody in the community, every ethnicity, every religion.

That is why we support our motion. My community has done this for the last 15 years, and very successfully. We do not want specific ethnicities treated separately. We want to work inclusively, and that is why I support the motion.

Opposition Motion—Systemic racism and religious discriminationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Liberal

Mélanie Joly Liberal Ahuntsic-Cartierville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to hear there is a strong social cohesion in the member's riding, and that should be the case across Canada.

The reality is that some people of Muslim faith right now are not living in security in their own environment. We must address that issue. We must ensure to increase the level of security of trust in each other in order to ensure we have a strong social cohesion in every community.

It is our job as political leaders to do so, and I am happy to work with my colleague to ensure that Motion No. 103 is supported so we can address together that important problem.

Opposition Motion—Systemic racism and religious discriminationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Parkdale—High Park Ontario

Liberal

Arif Virani LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage (Multiculturalism)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the minister a bit more about the social media campaign of misinformation, fearmongering and abuse we have seen in the wake of the tabling of Motion No. 103, and even in the discussion about today's motion. How does that influence the necessity of addressing Islamophobia and specifically of calling it out by that very name?

Opposition Motion—Systemic racism and religious discriminationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Liberal

Mélanie Joly Liberal Ahuntsic-Cartierville, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague, the member for Mississauga—Erin Mills, since the presentation of her motion, has been going through a barrage of online abuse. She has been receiving thousands of emails, discriminating against her. Since even yesterday, when I announced we would be supporting Motion No. 103, my entire team in charge of social media has been dealing with online abuse against me because of the very issue of Islamophobia.

We know this is happening and we know we cannot tolerate it, so let us act on it. Let us ensure we denounce it and really work together to support 103, which will study the issue, come back with recommendations, and ultimately we can do a good government program to address this issue.

Opposition Motion—Systemic racism and religious discriminationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to the opposition day motion, tabled by the member for Cypress Hills—Grasslands. I will be sharing my time with the member for Longueuil—Saint-Hubert.

As the NDP critic for immigration, refugees, citizenship, and multiculturalism, as well as a member of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, I have often had the opportunity to speak to the issues of persecution and discrimination abroad and how Canada can best respond to be a world leader in a humanitarian crisis. Unfortunately, too often issues of discrimination, racism, and intolerance go unaddressed, and often even unnoticed at home.

This motion is very similar to Motion No. 103, as mentioned, on which the debate just began yesterday. As elected officials, and the representatives of our communities in the House of Commons, I firmly believe we have a duty to stand together against racism and discrimination of all forms. We currently find ourselves in a time of increasing polarization of political debate and, sadly, of a global climate of increasing fear, and in some cases, hate.

Canada's multicultural society can flourish in the context of cultural diversity only if we are united in condemning and remedying issues of racial and religious discrimination, be that overt instances such as the recent and devastating Quebec City mosque attack; or be that systemic, long-standing discrimination, such as that faced by too many members of the indigenous communities, and recently made headlines regarding the Sixties Scoop court ruling. We have a duty as members of Parliament to set an example and speak out against all forms of discrimination wherever we see it, in Canada and abroad.

I note this motion proposes a committee study be undertaken at the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage to determine how the government can develop an approach to reducing and possibly eliminating all types of discrimination in Canada, with a community-centred focus based on evidence. It also calls on the committee to determine how best to collect data to contextualize hate crime reports and conduct needs assessments for impacted communities.

The work to be undertaken by the committee is exactly the same that is being proposed in Motion No. 103. As both of these motions are private members' motions, and in the tradition of each party, private members' bills or motions are generally not whipped and, as such, members are entitled to vote their conscience. I am looking at both of these motions as stand-alone motions, and not around the political gamesmanship that is being played. I am not sure if one or both motions will pass.

I support both Motion No. 103 and this motion. Both are valid. It is my view that both motions aim to achieve the same outcome, and the work to be undertaken by the committee, if these motions pass, is exactly the same. Therefore, in the event that both motions pass, I would expect the committee would have to sort out how best to proceed. To be clear, the work sent off to committee will not be an easy task. Both motions seek to find answers to address difficult long-standing problems. As parliamentarians, our job is not about doing what is easy. Being here is about doing what is right and what will make Canada a better place.

We have all been troubled by recent events of race or religiously motivated hate. I can recall when Canada began its Syrian refugee initiative in the city of Vancouver. After a welcoming reception, an individual pepper sprayed a group of newly arrived Syrian families, including young children, as they were waiting for the bus to take them back to their temporary lodging. I was horrified to learn of the incident, as I had just left the event. The families were just gathering the children together to get on the bus.

In the nearby community of Richmond, there are also deeply troubling reports of the Chinese Canadian community being targeted with racist flyers being distributed in the area. In Abbotsford, a man was filmed hurling abusive and racial slurs. He said. “You [bleeping] Paki. Go back to [bleeping] India. You camel-rider.” The individual then clearly states, “White power” as part of the exchange.

Other incidents include flyers promoting the Ku Klux Klan being found outside homes in British Columbia. Spray painted swastikas were recently found on a rabbi's door at a synagogue in Ottawa. A racist rant was caught on film in transit in Toronto. Racist posters also went up in the University of Alberta targeting the Sikh community.

Jewish Canadians are still the most targeted religious group in Canada though those types of attacks have dropped while attacks on Muslims have increased. Hate crimes against Muslim Canadians have more than doubled in three years, even as the total number of hate crimes has dropped, which is why Motion No. 103 is important and ought to be supported.

No matter in which community hate and discrimination is being targeted, we have a duty to stand up against this kind of despicable behaviour.

We cannot have a conversation about discrimination in our country without acknowledging the systemic and unacceptable discrimination that continues to this day against indigenous, Métis, and Inuit communities.

I had the opportunity to rise in the House on Wednesday to deliver a statement in support of the missing and murdered indigenous women's march, which began 27 years ago in my riding. The memorial march has now since spread across the country, with marches in dozens of communities from coast to coast to coast, yet the horrific problem of missing and murdered indigenous women persists.

Just this week, the Canadian court system declared that while the government had breached its common law duty law of care in the situation of the Sixties Scoop in Ontario, indigenous culture and identity were stolen from children as a result of those actions. This did not happen hundreds of years ago. This happened between 1965 and 1985. Systemic discrimination against indigenous peoples is so deeply pervasive that it has impacted generations of the first peoples.

Hundreds of children came to Ottawa on the “Have A Heart” campaign this week. This campaign calls on the Canadian government to end systemic discrimination against indigenous children on reserves as they do not have the same rights to education as other off-reserve children.

There is no question that much work needs to be done. We need to look long and hard at our own current policies and actions. We absolutely need to collect data on incidents of hate and discrimination. We need to understand what is going on. We need to educate. We need to devise a plan to take all of this on. In my view, it would be worth our effort to examine and track over time if hateful racist incidents reported in Canada have increased since Trump became President. On the face of it, it certainly feels like it to me.

According to Professor Rinaldo Walcott, director of women and gender studies at the University of Toronto, “I think that the election has allowed people who might have been formerly in the shadow to feel emboldened”. In the same article Professor Walcott suggested “ it may be easy to stand by and do nothing, but it is up to everyone to help”.

We must speak clearly and forcefully against racism, discrimination, and bigotry. We teach our children to stand up to racism. We teach them to call it out wherever they see it. On that note, is it not time that our own Prime Minister also spoke up forcefully against Trump's racist immigration policies? The executive director of the National Council of Canadian Muslims Ihsaan Gardee, said, “Unfortunately, the election of Mr. Trump has really galvanized and mobilized many Islamophobic and racist individuals”.

At the heart of both Motion No. 103 and today's motion is that the Canadian government needs to recognize the need to quell the increasing public climate of hate and fear, and condemn all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination. That also means the Prime Minister must muster up the courage and stand up against Donald Trump's racist immigration policies. That would be good for Canada. Let us get the job done and let us put politics aside.

Opposition Motion—Systemic racism and religious discriminationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

Cathay Wagantall Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate what the member had to say. It has resonated with me as an individual who really senses we have a lot of work to do on many fronts to improve human rights and deal with discrimination.

I faced the circumstance, in the midst of a campaign, of having swastikas spray painted all over my signs in my riding. That was personal. Stop signs and whatnot were also defaced in my community.

The member gave all kinds of examples of issues with different groups, different faiths, and different ethnic people. Would our motion not be more appropriate by saying that across Canada, across all ethnic groups, across all religions, we as a country have work to do, that we need to focus on the rights and opportunities of all those people?