House of Commons Hansard #154 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was tax.


Interim SupplyGovernment Orders

6:35 p.m.

Some hon. members


(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #232

Interim SupplyGovernment Orders

6:35 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

I declare the motion carried.

(Bill read the third time and passed)

Interim SupplyGovernment Orders

6:40 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

It being 6:40 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's Order Paper.

The House resumed from February 15, 2017, consideration of the motion.

Systemic Racism and Religious DiscriminationPrivate Members’ Business

6:40 p.m.


Frank Baylis Liberal Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is particularly fitting that we are debating Motion No. 103 today, on International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Motion No. 103 seeks to eliminate racism and religious discrimination, including Islamophobia.

When we speak about the tragedy that occurred in Quebec City, an unthinkable act of terrorism, we could blame a young man with mental health problems, the media, some of our own fellow citizens who spread intolerance, or a global narrative that accuses a single group of causing all our problems, but we would be wrong.

Each one of us must bear a small part of that blame, because we have all been caught in the trap of describing a human being as the other, distinct from ourselves. We have all heard intolerant speech without saying a word. We have all stood silent when a fellow citizen’s identity—gay, Black, Jewish or Muslim—was used as a weapon against them.

By staying silent, we contributed to a climate that made this hate crime that occurred here possible. We cannot remain silent in the face of discrimination.

Motion 103 asks the government to undertake a study to combat systemic racism and religious discrimination including lslamophobia.

According to Statistics Canada, Jews are the people most targeted for their religion when it comes to hate crimes. Sadly, I have seen this first hand in my own riding of Pierrefonds—Dollard. A local synagogue, the Gutnick Mazal Jewish Centre, was defaced with hateful graffiti last summer. When that happened, I reached out to Rabbi Yarmush to let him know that our government and the whole of our community stood with him in condemning this cowardly act.

The year before, during my election campaign, as I was driving home at the end of a night I passed one of my posters that was defaced with a swastika. I did not have any clippers with me to take that poster down, so I called my campaign manager and asked him to take it down first thing the next morning. However, when he got there, the poster was already removed. That is when I first learned about this incredible young man, Corey Fleischer. Corey has made it part of his life's work to take down hateful graffiti in any form, whenever and wherever it shows up, in Montreal. Whether it is a synagogue, a mosque, or a church, people know they can call Corey Fleischer and he will show up and deal with it. My heart is warmed to know that this young man is out there.

However, there is much more work to be done.

When it comes to hate crimes, the rate of crimes against Muslims has more than doubled over the last three years. As we saw with the tragic events that took place in Quebec City, Islamophobia can have horrific consequences.

However, growing Islamophobia did not rise up in a bubble. There are extremists who commit hateful crimes, terrorist crimes in the name of Islam and their actions always make the news. This in turn is seized on by certain individuals who demonize an entire people, and who sow the seeds of fear all in an effort to gain political power.

After the massacre in Quebec City, I attended a number of vigils that were held in solidarity with the victims, the families, and the Muslim community at large. At one of those vigils, I met the widow of one of the murdered men. That lady was completely deflated, crushed, and could not look me in the face. She has a baby and a toddler, two young boys who will never know their father. She was surrounded but she was alone, because she will carry the full weight of that hateful crime for the rest of her life.

There were no words I could say that would make a difference. However, words do make a difference. Words of hate have an impact. Hateful words were said over and over again until they incarnated themselves in the weak mind of a young man with hate in his heart, and that young man went to a mosque and murdered six men who were guilty simply of praying.

There are those who will not support the motion because it contains a word they do not like, Islamophobia. There are those who will not support the motion because it does not contain a word they want, or a phrase, or a comma or a sentence. There are those who say the motion will introduce sharia law or will curtail free speech. This is completely untrue.

We can argue about a word or a comma. We can give ourselves any number of reasons for not speaking out, for not taking action, or for voting against this motion. If we do nothing, we do not have to worry because we will not feel the burden of this crime. That young widowed lady will carry all that weight for the rest of her life, and that of her children's. She carries the load of that hateful crime.

Therefore, I ask all members in the House to stand together as leaders of our nation and support this important motion. More important, I ask all Canadians to stand shoulder to shoulder with each other. I ask that we do not allow ourselves to be divided along racial or religious lines. I ask that we all stand together as one nation.

Systemic Racism and Religious DiscriminationPrivate Members’ Business

6:45 p.m.


David Sweet Conservative Flamborough—Glanbrook, ON

Mr. Speaker, the citizens of Flamborough--Glanbrook, and every member of a faith community in Canada, needs to know that their right to religious freedom is at the forefront of our concerns here in the House. Canadians of all faiths should know this: every member of the official opposition is dedicated to protecting their right to worship who and how they choose without fear of persecution.

The motion we are debating this evening, Motion No. 103, touches on this sacred right and has generated significant public discussion and concern, and rightly so. I have heard arguments in favour of and against the motion from within the Muslim community and from the broader public.

In my comments I will try to cut through the political spin of the Prime Minister's Office and the amped-up rhetoric on all sides of this debate.

For context, the motion asks members of the House to agree to three main points: first, to recognize the need to quell the increasing public climate of hate and fear; second, to condemn Islamophobia; and third, to commission a parliamentary study that would recommend ways to reduce systemic racism and religious discrimination, with particular attention paid to Islamophobia. I wholeheartedly agree with the first point but have serious concerns about the second and third points.

In light of the recent attack on the Quebec City mosque, this debate is timely and of the utmost importance. It is imperative that we get it right. For this reason, I would like to draw the attention of my colleagues to the words the Prime Minister spoke in the House not more than two weeks ago to the Daughters of the Vote delegates. He passionately said:

Do we have a problem with lslamophobia in this country? Yes we do. Do we have a problem with anti-Semitism in this country? Yes we do. Do we have a problem in this country with discrimination and hatred? Yes we do and we need to talk about this and we need to challenge each other to be better on this.

I fully agree with these words, and, this will be a rare occasion, I promise I am going to follow the Prime Minister's advice. I challenge him and his Liberal team across the aisle to, as he said, be better on this.

Motion No. 103 could have been better in the following ways. It could have been amended to be inclusive of all faith communities rather than singling out one group over the others. Additionally, the motion could have clarified the definition of lslamophobia so it could not be used to shut down legitimate debate. Finally, Motion No. 103 could have affirmed the right to freedom of speech so Canadians can respectfully criticize any religious practice they believe to be wrong, including the one I adhere to and cherish myself.

Instead of pursuing these changes in an effort to have a meaningful, inclusive, and non-partisan study on the matters of racism and religious discrimination, a debate that should unify us, the Liberals have decided that there are more political points to win by ramming this motion through, regardless of the legitimate concerns I have articulated.

When it became clear that the PMO would not permit these reasonable amendments, the Conservative opposition used one of its valuable opposition days to bring forward its own motion to formally offer the government an opportunity to climb down from its political position.

During the full day of debate, the government dug in its heels and doubled down on its position, once again choosing politics over good policy. As they defeated the sensible Conservative motion, several Liberal members argued that we were trying to water down the language in Motion No. 103 by replacing the word “lslamophobia”. This argument is nothing more than shameful political spin and outright balderdash.

Not one member on the Liberal bench argued that Motion No. 103 is watered down because it does not include anti-Semitism. Do the Liberals really expect anyone to believe that a study would have been watered down because the study would have included anti-Semitism? Would it be watered down because the study included Christophobia?

Is the infringement of the rights of one faith group greater in some way than another's? Are not the rights of Muslims, Jews, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Hindus equally important? Why do the Liberals view the inclusion of all religious groups in the parliamentary study as diluting the discussion on religious freedom?

Up until this debate, the Prime Minister had been talking a good game on Canada's diversity. Countless times he has stood in his place proclaiming that our nation "is strong not in spite of our differences, but because of them". That is why Canadians should rightly be outraged by his decision to pit neighbour against neighbour in this debate, choosing division over bringing people together.

Mere platitudes are not enough on the important issues facing our country, especially, when it comes to religious freedom and racial discrimination.

My concerns with the motion are not limited to the disgraceful actions of the Prime Minister's Office, but also with the use of the word “Islamophobia”, and I am not alone. Many within the Muslim community have expressed their concerns as well.

Raheel Raza, a Canadian Muslim journalist, explained her opposition to the term in an op ed. She said:

The term Islamophobia was created in the 1990s, when groups affiliated to the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood decided to play victim for the purpose of beating down critics. It is also in sync with a constant push by the OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation) to turn any criticism of Islam or Muslims into blasphemy.

Further to the questionable origins of the term, Raheel Raza also articulated how the term was counterproductive for those who would like to offer criticism of the religion as part of public discourse. She said:

I believe that...M-103 will only increase the frustration of ordinary Canadian who...(... have the right) to ask uncomfortable but necessary questions. Being concerned about creeping sharia is not phobic; questioning honour-based violence and FGM in Muslim-majority societies is not phobic.

Another writer, Farzana Hassan, in her article entitled “I am a liberal Muslim and I reject M-103”, reiterated this point when she wrote:

[The] Prime Minister...has talked about finding the right balance between protecting a religious minority and also protecting our Charter rights. The answer to his dilemma is simple: Do not put the slightest dent in our right to free speech.

Consider that the Canadian Muslim community is debating the use, definition, and application of this term and consider further that it has been used in various forums to quell legitimate and respectful criticism of Islam, it is therefore incumbent upon us as members of Parliament to say what we mean with respect to Islamophobia, rather than leave this motion open to interpretation.

For generations, members of Parliament have stood in the House to put Canadian sentiments, priorities, aspirations, and concerns into words for the purpose of meaningful debate. This is a responsibility and a tradition we ought to be careful to uphold.

To that end, I personally met with the sponsor of the motion to replace the divisive language and offered to champion the motion within the Conservative caucus if she would agree. I suggested that we could have replaced the word “Islamophobia” with the phrase “hatred toward Muslims”. Alternatively, we could have worked together to draft an amendment that would have included all-faith communities.

Instead, the long arm of the Prime Minister's Office inappropriately reached into private members' business to politicize the debate and denied my request.

In a debate that features questions surrounding free speech, religious freedom, and racial discrimination, it is unacceptable that the government would not work with us to find common ground. Canada has long been a nation where a member of one faith can live peacefully beside members of other faiths. That is the way it should stay. That is the way it shall remain.

Unless the government engages in an inclusive, comprehensive, and unifying discussion on religious freedom, racial discrimination, and free speech, I am compelled to vote against this divisive motion.

Systemic Racism and Religious DiscriminationPrivate Members’ Business

6:55 p.m.


Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to speak in support of Motion No. 103.

To start my debate, I want to be clear about what the motion says.

That, 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 the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage undertake a study on how the government could (i) develop a whole-of-government approach to reducing or eliminating systemic racism and religious discrimination including Islamophobia, in Canada, while ensuring a community-centered focus with a holistic response through evidence-based policy-making, (ii) collect data to contextualize hate crime reports and to conduct needs assessments for impacted communities, and that the Committee should present its findings and recommendations to the House no later than 240 calendar days from the adoption of this motion, provided that in its report, the Committee should make recommendations that the government may use to better reflect the enshrined rights and freedoms in the Constitution Acts, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Since the introduction of the motion in the House, it is most unfortunate that Motion No. 103 has become controversial due to some intentionally misleading online campaigns. However, instead of our doing what is needed, I was left even more disappointed and dismayed that the division and hate that fuels these misleading campaigns was brought right into this chamber with the politicking that took place between the Liberals and the Conservatives.

I was even approached by a minister who suggested that Motion No. 103 would be nullified, because the Conservatives had decided to put up a similar opposition day motion, when in fact, the information provided to the NDP by the clerk's office indicated otherwise. Frankly, that kind of fearmongering and political gamesmanship served only to feed into the increasingly polarized climate surrounding this conversation instead of setting the example that is so desperately needed. To some, it may feel as though they scored a cheap political point. However, let us be clear. In the long run, it is all of us who want to stamp out discrimination driven by fear and division who will lose.

It is my hope that we can turn the page today and call on both the Liberal and Conservative members to set aside their partisan politics and unite with one voice on this motion. To begin, we have a duty and responsibility as members of Parliament to stand up and challenge the misinformation being spread around Motion No. 103 and to correct the record.

Unlike what is claimed in the misinformation campaigns, Motion No. 103 would in no way suppress any rights of Canadians. The motion would in no way favour one group over another or provide some additional benefit to one while taking away from another. It states quite clearly in the motion that the government should “condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination”. The suggestion that the motion would somehow exclude other forms of discrimination is simply false.

As well, the fear that the motion would somehow restrict people's freedom of speech is also unfounded. Nowhere does it state in the motion that people could not inquire or have opinions about the Islamic faith. In fact, on the contrary, it has been my experience that those who practise the Islamic faith are very open and welcoming to those who do not practise, know, or understand their faith. I, for one, know very little about the Islamic faith. In my capacity as the NDP critic for immigration, refugees, and citizenship, I have had the privilege of being invited by many people who practise the Islamic faith to attend events at mosques as a means to learn and understand their religious teachings and culture. They are open, and they welcome questions. They even welcome criticism. They patiently answered all my inquiries. They were more than welcoming.

It is my strongest belief that through such interactions, we, as members of our community, are building bridges between communities. We are actively practising the promotion of cross-cultural understanding. We are fully embracing and respecting our differences, and in that process, we are breaking down walls of fear and walls of division.

I have no doubt that I am not the only one who has experienced this. I know that many of my colleagues have had similar exchanges. It is my hope that we let such an example be the guiding force, our compass, as we build to strengthen our bond between communities. If we witness the opposite, such as the horrific mosque attack that occurred in Quebec City, then we as parliamentarians from all sides of the House must unite to condemn such despicable actions. I am proud that we did exactly that. There is no question that we have a duty as members of Parliament to set an example and speak out against all forms of discrimination and hate wherever we see it.

If we are to hold true to those principles, then we must be consistent with our efforts. That is to say, we need to call out discrimination wherever we see it, at home and abroad.

Just today, it was reported in the news that a pan-American commission will hold an emergency hearing in Washington to investigate the impact of Trump's executive orders on human rights in the country. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights was requested by advocacy groups in both Canada and the U.S. to review “ongoing and deteriorating” conditions faced by asylum seekers and other migrants under the Trump administration. They are asking the commission to make findings that Trump's travel ban against six Muslim majority countries and his expansion of detention and deportation against migrants violates U.S. human rights obligations.

To quote Efrat Arbel, a UBC law professor who co-authored, with the Harvard immigration and refugee clinical program, a report on Trump's executive orders, “The expedited removals and expansion of detention under the orders are going to have profound implications on the U.S. asylum system”.

As we witness President Trump, our neighbour, our closest ally, fan fear and hate against members of the Muslim community with his executive orders and immigration policies, how is it somehow acceptable that our Prime Minister and Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship have chosen to be willfully blind to this blatant act of discrimination and do nothing about it? This is so distressing to me. In fact, not only is the Canadian government silent about Trump's discriminatory policies, but the minister of immigration would go as far as to say that nothing has changed. This of course is blatantly false, and everyone knows it. I dare say, perhaps even the minister knows it. The question is this. Will he summon enough courage to speak up and speak out against Trump's racist policies? So far he has not.

Perhaps the minister could meet some of the young people whom I recently encountered at a rally at the Peace Arch crossing. It was a rally against Trump's racist executive orders. In the crowd, a young person held a sign that said “If you build a wall, my generation will knock it down”. Another sign said “Make racism wrong again”. I was so encouraged to see the young people's activism. Their strong and direct message is what gives me hope that our collective future is possible.

Bringing their voices and concerns to the House of Commons is a true privilege, one that I take very seriously. New Democrats will stand proudly with these young people to combat the politics of hate and division. The NDP is in favour of any motion that aims to address and combat discrimination, and we will not wallow in political games on these critical issues, especially in the face of rising hate crimes against the Muslim community.

It is the opinion of the NDP and me that this motion and the work to be undertaken by a committee is entirely appropriate and should be welcomed by all parliamentarians. Therefore, the NDP has no hesitation in supporting the motion. As elected officials and representatives of our communities in the House of Commons, I firmly believe that we have a duty to stand up together against lslamophobia, racism, and discrimination in all forms. Let us get together and do this right. On this very day, where we honour an international day against racism, let us all support the motion.

Systemic Racism and Religious DiscriminationPrivate Members’ Business

7:05 p.m.

Vaudreuil—Soulanges Québec


Peter Schiefke LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister (Youth)

Mr. Speaker, today I am going to talk about Motion No. 103 on systemic racism and religious discrimination.

I am expressing my thoughts and beliefs in support of this motion as the member for Vaudreuil—Soulanges, as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister for Youth, and, above all, as the father of two young children who will have to live with the decisions we make here in the House.

There was a lot of emotion around February's debate on Motion No. 103 both here in Ottawa and elsewhere in Canada, and Canadians expressed both their strong support and their concerns. Some of the discussions were informed by the personal experiences of new immigrants fleeing religious persecution and of people who have encountered racism here in Canada. Racism, sadly, is fuelled by misinformation. Because of racism, some Canadians, Muslim Canadians in particular, have been subjected to verbal, emotional, and physical attacks.

Today I hope to enrich the discussion and the work undertaken by my esteemed colleague from Mississauga—Erin Mills. I would also like to clarify what this motion would do and what it would not do.

Mr. Speaker, let us begin with what Motion No. 103 is and what it is not. First and foremost, unequivocally and without hesitation, I can state that this motion is not an attempt to control or limit free speech, one of the most fundamental pillars of our freedom, as many critics, many of whom sit across the aisle, have unfortunately come to suggest. Some have argued that this motion allows this government to prevent Canadians from expressing their opinions. I reject that claim.

Motion No. 103 is a motion, not a proposed law. The difference between the two is important to note, as one would have the full force of the federal government and its resources if passed, and one is, among other aspects, a strong symbolic gesture of solidarity and a means by which we as a government can bring about awareness and a discussion on an injustice plaguing millions of Canadians.

The reality is that Motion No. 103 seeks to strengthen the rights and freedoms guaranteed to Canadians by the charter, emphasizing that we must do more to defend Muslim Canadians and others facing discrimination, whose privileges to life, liberty, and security of person are threatened by religious discrimination.

I foresee no Canadian, from any corner of this great country, who wishes to see the rights of any infringed because of the hateful speech of others. Motion No. 103 does not limit rights; it is a motion that seeks to promote and protect the rights of all of us. Some have asked if there is even a need for this motion, as some critics say that Muslim communities in Canada are simply not discriminated against. I think it's time to set the record straight.

In April 2016, Statistics Canada released a report demonstrating that from 2012 to 2014, hate crimes against Muslims have more than doubled. The results say that Muslims in Canada, the United States, and across the globe have seen increased attacks on their mosques, their homes, and their persons. These are not abstract statistics, these are the lives of Canadian women, children, and men. They are our constituents, our neighbours, our families, our friends, and our fellow citizens. This cannot stand.

In my own community of Vaudreuil—Soulanges, two faith leaders, of the Muslim faith and the Jewish faith respectively, whom I respect dearly, have shared with me their concerns about keeping their followers and institutions safe after receiving threats. In some cases, I am sad to report that these led to actual instances of vandalism. Nobody should feel threatened, insecure, or worried because of who they are, not today, not tomorrow, not ever.

In 1971, prime minister Pierre Trudeau said that the freedom to be ourselves “must be fostered and pursued actively. If freedom of choice is in danger for is in danger for all.” I wish only to humbly add that, if the will to defend and protect those who are most vulnerable and who are so often victims of discrimination is in danger, then we must do all we can to remind one another that Canada is a community of nations. That is a fixed fact. Therefore, to defend one community is a duty to defend them all. That idea is not new to either this chamber or this country.

In the past, I proudly rose and voted for similar motions condemning discrimination against the Jewish and Yazidi peoples. In February of last year, this House stood for a motion condemning anti-Semitism in Canada, as Jewish communities did face and continue to face ugly and un-Canadian hatred. A similar condemnation was passed by the House in 2011 on the attacks on Coptic Christian communities.

This government and the House did their parts then. It is time to rise once again and stand in solidarity with our fellow Canadians as we did in 2011, twice more in 2016, and so many times in our storied history.

We have a duty at this time to support those in need, and this duty also extends to the next generation, that is, young Canadians. We must pass on a legacy that future generations will be proud of. This legacy begins with motions like this one, since the House is united in what is fair and what is needed.

If the House does not adopt this motion, it will be sending a clear message that Islamophobia and other forms of religious discrimination are not a real problem in Canada, and this lie will affect millions of Canadians.

As Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister for Youth, I work with young people because I am convinced that they can make Canada a better place to live for everyone. They are watching us right now. Young people want us to do what is needed and what is fair.

As a father, I want to leave a legacy that my children will be proud of, knowing that their Muslim friends and their families will have the support of the House, as was the case for Jews, Yazidis, and Coptic Christians last year.

When Shrosh Hassana recently took her seat as part of the daughters of the vote initiative on International Women's Day, she spoke out as a woman, as a Muslim, and as a young Canadian. She spoke passionately and without hesitation on the importance of condemning language that sought to divide us. “Islamophobia”, she said, “is a heavy word, but it is heaviest for those who are on the receiving end of it.”

Her words in the House resonated and reinforced that we were a proud nation, one that was strong because of our differences, not in spite of them.

Motion No. 103 is a step in the right direction, and I hope to help make Canada a safer place for potential victims of racism and religious discrimination. I want to give the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage a chance to study how we can face the challenges that lie ahead for at-risk communities.

This motion is both symbolic and powerful. It is symbolic because it is this chamber's way of standing side by side with our fellow Canadians facing the challenges of discrimination. Furthermore, Motion No. 103 will be effective because it asks the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage to work on using the elements of our laws and the information it will be tasked with collecting to better protect both Muslims and others who might face racism and religious discrimination.

In conclusion, we have a duty to our constituents to protect them, but also to stand with them. For all those who face racism and religious discrimination, I am proud to support this motion and to let them know they are not alone.

Systemic Racism and Religious DiscriminationPrivate Members’ Business

7:15 p.m.


Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, there is something quite perverse about the discussion of Motion No. 103. Effectively, Canadians have been divided on a motion when there seems to me to be very little substantive disagreement on the underlying topic.

Canadians and all parliamentarians agree that discrimination against anyone is unacceptable. We agree, in particular, that there is a problem of discrimination against the Muslim community in certain quarters. This is not to deny, of course, the existence of other kinds of discrimination and that it can range in type and form. For myself at least, I would quite happily vote in favour of a motion condemning discrimination against Muslims, even if Muslims were the only faith community mentioned.

Why, then, are we divided? It is because the word “Islamophobia” can be used to mean both discrimination against Muslims and criticism of Islamic doctrine or practice. It is important that we not conflate the two. Religious people deserve legal protection, but religions do not. People should not discriminate against individuals, but should feel quite free to criticize the doctrine, history, or practice of any religion. This distinction between discrimination against religious people and criticism of religion is not at all a trivial point. It is the point that separates societies like Canada, which seek to protect people from bigotry, from other societies that impose violent sentences on people who blaspheme or apostatize in the name of protecting religion itself.

The Liberals and some in the media want us to simply shrug off this point and vote in favour of this motion because it is just symbolic anyway, but even a symbolic motion should have clear definitions and say what it means. As members of Parliament, our principal tool is the words we use. The suggestion that we should shrug about the meanings of words, about the definitions of things we are being asked to condemn, is clearly wrong. We are in the words business here. We should not, therefore, shrug about the meanings of words. This is my sole basis for objecting to the text of the current motion. This is a problem that should have been easy to solve.

I have spoken to many people about Motion No. 103, both supporters and opponents. Those who support this motion, though, almost uniformly agree with me that the government should entertain amendments that strengthen the motion by providing definition and clarity. Why not simply define Islamophobia? Members have provided definitions of lslamophobia verbally in their speeches. Why not take the verbal clarifications and add them to the text of the motion itself?

I asked the mover of the motion this direct question during debate on February 16. I said the following:

I have a very specific question that would be worth the member answering. Why does she insist on characterizing the ask for clarity as a watering down? It is not a watering down to amend a motion to provide a definition. It is not a watering down for Canadians with legitimate concerns about knowing what we mean when we use this word to ask the member to provide a clear definition, not just verbally but in the context of the motion.

The member responded:

Mr. Speaker, this has been a great debate on issues that the Muslim community really tackles on a daily basis, and has tackled for a number of years. However, it is not just about the Muslim community; it is about all Canadians.

In October of last year, I was happy to see the House unanimously condemn Islamophobia. Since then, nothing has shifted to what “Islamophobia” means. I find it very interesting that the members across the way are now using the definition of Islamophobia as the reason why they cannot stand up for the Muslim community, recognize the issue as it is today, and do the right thing.

However true or false any of that may be, it is quite obviously not an answer to the question posed. Why are Liberals so allergic to a clear definition? Why will they not answer that question?

What is perplexing about all this is that, if the government or the member were serious about their stated objectives, then they would have every reason to work with us on amendments. The rules of the House do not even allow me to move an amendment without the member's permission, but an amendment that provides a definition would cut off all this unnecessary disagreement and would strengthen the motion.

Liberals might claim that Conservatives are failing to stand up for the Muslim community when we oppose this motion, but the fact is that they failed to stand up for the Muslim community a month ago when we presented a motion that explicitly condemned discrimination against Muslims and that they voted against. When they voted against our motion, they put politics ahead of the fight against bigotry. When they refuse amendments today, they are again putting politics ahead of the fight against bigotry. I sincerely hope that this will be the last time they do that.

Following these points about the motion in front of us, I would like to take a step back and talk about the global climate in which we find ourselves and how we as legislators ought to respond to it. Specifically, I believe we can understand the western political environment in which we find ourselves as being characterized by different kinds of anxieties, anxieties that are real and legitimate and need to be responded to as opposed to dismissed. We see the emergence of economic anxieties, security anxieties, and political anxieties.

On the economic front, many middle and low-income workers, especially in certain sectors, feel they have been left behind and are being ignored by economic and policy change. In Canada, this anxiety is being driven by dramatic tax increases across the board and by the disdain with which ordinary workers are being treated, particularly in the natural resources sector. It is all well and good to talk about the jobs of the future, but nobody today is putting food on the table with jobs of the future. The erosion of present natural resource and manufacturing sectors with policies that are supposed to lead to jobs of the future is a recipe for present discord and discontent, and we have seen the effects of that elsewhere. Policies of higher taxes and increased regulation and other changes are contributing to broader economic anxiety.

An increase in terrorist attacks in the western world as well as the increasing accessibility of information and images about terrible violence in other parts of the world are contributing to anxiety about our security situation. Anxiety is increased by fears of uncontrolled migration. Western societies have been built and strengthened by the entry of legal immigrants who come to contribute to our countries, but fears about uncontrolled, unregulated migration are legitimate and sensible. Societies with successful immigration systems do not have open borders. Societies with open borders invariably invoke a backlash. They cannot even sustain the policies they intend to have in place.

Finally, political anxieties emerge when the public feels that politicians are focused on symbolic issues as opposed to on their substantive and legitimate concerns. When people with real economic and security concerns are called deplorables, sewer rats, racist, and whatever it is, they are unlikely to respond well to political elites, and they should not.

Anxieties about the economy, about security, and about disconnected political elitism are all legitimate, but these anxieties can also lead to dark, dangerous, and even violent responses. Recognizing these anxieties and their potential sequelae, we need to do two things. We certainly need to call out and condemn bigotry and violence in clear terms. However, we cannot treat all of those people with legitimate anxieties like they are violent bigots. Instead, we need to recognize and respond to the legitimate anxieties of the wider public.

What is the relationship between this and Motion No. 103? Motion No. 103 would not in any way advance toward its supposed objectives. What genuine bigot was ever dissuaded in his or her bigotry by a motion of the House of Commons? Does the government really think that there is even one person who will repent of his or her bigotry as a result of the outcome of this vote?

The failure of the government to work collaboratively on this has clearly had the effect of accentuating public anxiety among those who fear that the government or people who support it have some dark and hidden agenda, which is their reason for not seeking an amendment. I do not think this motion is the result of any kind of secret conspiracy. It is really just cynical politics. However, surely the experience of this motion should by now have taught them the lesson about the need to have a clearer and more serious response to bigotry that actually deals with the underlying anxieties that give rise to it.

To conclude, I would like to share with the House some words written by Shimon Fogel, CEO of CIJA. He has some good advice for all of us as we go forward. He recently wrote:

I was pleased to engage with the sponsor of advance of her motion being debated on the floor of the House of Commons. We had an open and frank conversation at her invitation, which included discussion of the need to define Islamophobia.

We support the motion's intended objective of combating anti-Muslim hate in Canada, which should be unanimously endorsed. However, we are concerned with the potential validation of any restriction placed on criticizing those manifestations of Islam that drive hatred and violence against Jews, Muslims and other Canadians...

Following the anticipated adoption of the motion, critics and proponents alike must set their disagreement aside and ensure that any parliamentary initiative that follows is unifying.

It is not too late for the mover of the motion to do the right thing and amend it so we can have unanimous support. However, regardless of the outcome of the vote, I hope that going forward, the government will be willing to work with us in good faith on these issues. They are simply too important to do otherwise.

Systemic Racism and Religious DiscriminationPrivate Members’ Business

7:25 p.m.


Greg Fergus Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate having this opportunity to speak to Motion No. 103, a motion I am really pleased to support.

Let us back up and go to first principles and understand what the motion is about. The motion calls for Parliament to express itself on three issues. Let me remind the House what these issues are.

The first one is to recognize the need to quell the increasing public climate of hate and fear. Second, the motion requests that the heritage committee study how the government can develop a government-wide approach to reducing or eliminating systemic racism and religious discrimination, including Islamophobia. Third, the motion calls for us to collect data and contextualize hate crime reports, to conduct needs assessments for impacted communities, and to present these findings within 240 calendar days. It is very simple and easy to understand, and probably very easy to support.

I would like to talk about the first issue the motion asks us to do, and that is to recognize the need to quell the increasing public climate of hate and fear. I have been involved in politics since the age of 14, coming up on 44 years. I have been actively involved in federal politics since I came to Ottawa in 1988, and there is something that has developed over the last almost 30 years that has really concerned me. It is something that became so clear to me when we had those terrible, awful, tragic shootings in Quebec City at the beginning of the year. It is the way we speak to each other. It is the way we engage in conversation. It is the way we refer to each other and how we disagree sometimes.

I am not saying that we all have to hold hands and sing together and get along all the time. I am talking about the way we disagree. I have seen a real deterioration in the way we engage in conversation and the way we tend to disagree. I see this in coffee shops. I see this in conversations. I see that when people disagree about a small item, they tend to demonize the other. That would be fine if that just happened in personal conversations, but that has extended into the public realm of debate, even sometimes in our Parliament. We have certainly seen this in newspapers or heard it on radio or TV. The current route of demonizing, for the last 15 years or so, certainly the Muslim community, I find very distasteful, and I will tell members why.

It is clear that I am a member of a visible minority. When I grew up in Montreal, I was one of two black families in our neighbourhood. It was a predominantly Jewish neighbourhood in Montreal. It was an anglophone Jewish neighbourhood, and we were one of two black families. I felt that I grew up in a minority within a minority within a minority within the larger minority of Quebec in North America. That afforded me an interesting perspective. I was able to see what the majority was like and understand the point of view of the majority, yet not be part of it. I was able to step back and have a different perspective and hear a different point of view. To me, that has always been a source of strength.

It is curious to me when I hear people make discriminatory statements against another group I am not a part of, such as anti-Semitic remarks. I have heard a lot of that in my lifetime. I always thought it was funny, because I wondered who people thought they were telling this to. All they would have to do is remove the word “Jew” and replace it with “black” and I would feel terrible.

I know the sting of that, and no one should ever feel that. Over the last 15 years, I have been hearing a lot of hateful words towards the Muslim community, and that hurts me as much as it hurts anybody else. I am a Roman Catholic, but how can people not see that the minority is not us? All of us should feel that. Although women might be demographically a majority in this country, socio-economically it is clear that women are in the minority in terms of the power structures we have.

When we hear these comments and this kind of discrimination, it worries me. I have been hearing more and more of it. It seems that people try to pick on a group that is probably the least powerful group of our times, and they keep on doing that. Over the last 30 years, I have noticed how this has progressed along.

This is one of the reasons why I have no problem supporting the motion or saying that we should take a step back and look at the way we speak to each other. We should ask ourselves if we are engaging in conversation or in actions which speak to a climate of fear and hate towards a particular group.

To me, the most important thing we could do with this motion is to have the study. I know there are people who might disagree in good faith on some aspects of it. Perhaps it is not as well defined as they would like it to be, or perhaps they want to include in the motion a whole bunch of other groups that have been discriminated against. That may be fine. However, we have done this before. As a Parliament, as a body, in the short time that I have been here, we have spoken out and taken a unanimous stance against Islamophobia. There was no argument at that time for us to change the motion or define it another way. We know what we meant. We understood what it was trying to convey, and that was a motion we could support.

We are doing nothing more than that in Motion No. 103. I have said in this House before that words and symbols matter. We have seen that in a climate of hate, in a climate of anger, of a phobia of the Muslim community that we have heard on trash radio or that we have seen on disreputable news sources. We have seen this language happen.

I hate to say it, and I know a number of people are going to disagree with me on this, but those statements have consequences. It is not that the person hearing them for the first time will go out and commit a heinous crime like what happened in Quebec City two short months ago, but it is the fact that we have legitimized that kind of debate when we brought it into the public realm.

We need to bring it back. We need to study this. We need to find some way to try to combat this, to change the way that we talk to each other. Words and symbols do matter, and we do need to have a new way of speaking.

Systemic Racism and Religious DiscriminationPrivate Members’ Business

7:35 p.m.


Iqra Khalid Liberal Mississauga—Erin Mills, ON

Mr. Speaker, we can either let our differences of race, creed, and religion that speak of discrimination or hatred, exclusion, and suspicion divide us as Canadians, or we can work with our differences to make us stronger and help us progress as a multicultural, secular, strong nation. The choice is ours.

I am honoured to rise today to conclude the debate in Parliament on Motion No. 103. The motion has indeed forced us to re-evaluate our social contract with each other as Canadians. We have had passionate and somewhat uncomfortable discussions about what rights our charter grants us. Where does one person's right end and another's begin? This Liberal government is the party of the charter, and I am honoured to stand in this place to defend the rights of all Canadians.

I would like to thank my colleagues in this House, those who seconded the motion and those who stood by me when we faced the very issue that this motion tries to tackle. I would like to thank our Prime Minister, whose leadership is a beacon of hope, and our Minister of Canadian Heritage, who has tirelessly worked to build bridges among Canadians.

I would like to thank the many civil society and grassroots organizations that stepped up to address the issue of racism and discrimination: NCCM, Solel Congregation, The Meadows Church, Erin Mills United Church, Student Christian Movement, Christian Peacemaker Teams, ISNA Canada, Islamic Shia Ithna Asheri Jamaat, Montreal City Mission, Muslim Neighbour Nexus, ICNA Sisters Canada, Mississauga Tamil Association, Centre for Social Innovation, FCM, and so many more.

I would like to thank especially my family and friends for their unwavering support. I will name a few: Ali Qamar, Sam Forrest, Hashim Tanvir, Qasir Dar, Faisal Javaid, Reema Zuberi, lrfan Siddiqui, Linda Casselman, my parents, and my siblings.

I would like to thank community activists for their efforts in raising awareness: Asif, Aman, Fasih, Tahir, Justin, Shehzad, lrfan, Jeff, Nadine, Rizwan, Rashdi, Anne, Shafqat, Farina Siddiqui, Cassandra, Hussain Hamdani, Joe, Graham, Owais, Eva, Hifza, Essam, Karen, Muhammad Hussain, Kashif Hassan, lhsan, Osama Zaid, Waleed, Ameera, Asma, Moe, Ashfaq, Moazzam, Badar, Domenic, Mike, Nauman, Jeewan, Rob, and so many more.

I thank lmran Mian and Omar Raza, whose leadership and effort in the community has been tireless.

I thank the mayor of Mississauga, Bonnie Crombie, and members of council for owning this issue and for their resolution to support Motion No. 103.

Lastly, I thank my staff, Anas, Lana, Sana, and Sukhi, for their hard work and dedication.

It is only fitting to mention that today marks the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Motion No. 103 is simply another tiny step in this major challenge. It is a continuation effort to reiterate that diversity, inclusion, and acceptance are all strengths in our Canada.

In concluding the debate, I find it fitting to address some misconceptions surrounding the motion and to clarify, on the record, what Motion No. 103 is and what it is not.

First, Motion No. 103 does not give one religion or community special privilege over another. In fact, it is an attempt to study all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination in Canada. Similar motions have been passed in this House highlighting many issues and many communities.

Second, Motion No. 103 will not restrict free speech. This motion is not legally binding. In fact, Motion No. 103 serves as a catalyst for Canadians to speak out against discrimination and be heard where they may not have been heard before.

Some other outrageous claims were made about Motion No. 103, and to them I say, in simple and clear words, that Motion No. 103 is not an attempt to create sharia law. I vow to be the first person to oppose any motion or law that negatively impacts our multicultural secular society. I assure members that Motion No. 103 does not.

I would like to thank everyone, the supporters and the critics, for inspiring me and holding me to account. I am humbled and grateful.

I look forward to the vote, to the study, and to the support of everyone in this chamber of democracy.

Systemic Racism and Religious DiscriminationPrivate Members’ Business

7:40 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Systemic Racism and Religious DiscriminationPrivate Members’ Business

7:40 p.m.

Some hon. members



Systemic Racism and Religious DiscriminationPrivate Members’ Business

7:40 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Systemic Racism and Religious DiscriminationPrivate Members’ Business

7:40 p.m.

Some hon. members


Systemic Racism and Religious DiscriminationPrivate Members’ Business

7:40 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

All those opposed will please say nay.

Systemic Racism and Religious DiscriminationPrivate Members’ Business

7:40 p.m.

Some hon. members


Systemic Racism and Religious DiscriminationPrivate Members’ Business

7:40 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to the order made Friday, March 10, the recorded division stands deferred until Thursday, March 23, at the expiry of the time provided for oral questions.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Canadian HeritageAdjournment ProceedingsPrivate Members’ Business

7:40 p.m.


Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, today we have an adjournment debate on a question posed about four months ago, on November 21, 2016. The question was the following:

Mr. Speaker, although the Minister of Canadian Heritage is free to make major changes to the rules governing our distinct culture, she has the responsibility to be open and transparent about what she is calling her “public consultations”. In the interest of transparency, when will the minister make public the briefs submitted as part of these consultations? One thing is certain; they contain important information. Can our ecosystem count on the minister to do what everyone thinks is the right thing and ask foreign companies such as Google, Facebook, and Netflix to pay their fair share?

This is the answer I received four months ago:

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his important question. I would like to remind him that we are indeed holding an open and transparent consultation process and that we are going to make public the briefs submitted by the various stakeholders.

That was done. Thank you and congratulations.

I thank the member. I know that he specifically asked me to make this information public. Of course, I agree with him. This is a good example of co-operation.

I agree that there was a lot of consultation, but the question was about the consensus emerging from every sector in the minister's portfolio that the playing field is not level. Foreign providers do not collect sales tax. Their revenues may not be taxed either.

Yesterday, four months later, I asked her the following question:

Mr. Speaker, last week, the closure of the HMV stores led to the bankruptcy of the distributor DEP, which has put an abrupt stop to the marketing of Quebec artists. From Vincent Vallières to the Montreal Symphony Orchestra and Florence K, DEP's bankruptcy seems to be the latest sign of the collapse of Quebec's recording industry and a new source of worry about Canadian content. Canada must move swiftly to regulate all the new online providers, whether they are based in Montreal, Los Angeles, or some other tax haven. Can the minister tell us what she has done to ensure that these new players contribute to our ecosystem and to the same tax system as everyone else?

I will read her response:

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his important question and his interest in this file. Of course, we launched public consultations last year to consider all the repercussions that digital services have on the entire Canadian cultural ecosystem. In 2017, I will have the opportunity to introduce some major changes in order to address some of the issues that were raised by my colleague.

I have been asking this question for four months. Some might say I sound like a broken record. Well, yes, that is because it is obvious to everyone. Everyone knows full well that we must ensure that our merchants, our retailers, and our service providers have access to a tax system that is consistent and equal, or at least equal to that of foreign providers.

Of course, when we are in this situation we scratch our head and say it cannot be so. This is a serious problem. Retailers think that online competition makes no sense because they can sell the same product tax free, no GST and no HST. They are right. The same is true for all our cultural providers.

The only thing that is tax exempt is culture from abroad. It is rather pathetic. The question is simple:

Has the Minister of Canadian Heritage asked the Minister of Finance to resolve this situation and ensure that transactional taxes are applied to foreign suppliers?

Canadian HeritageAdjournment ProceedingsPrivate Members’ Business

7:45 p.m.

Charlottetown P.E.I.


Sean Casey LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, on Tuesday, September 13, 2016, the Minister of Canadian Heritage was very proud to launch a public consultation on how to support Canadian content creation, discovery, and export in the digital world.

As the minister clearly explained at the time and many times since, our cultural and creative industries are important drivers of innovation and a vibrant part of our economy. The intersection of culture and technology holds tremendous potential for our country's growth and prosperity.

As we adjust to the realities of rapid technological advances and changing consumer behaviour, the minister launched consultations to better understand the challenges and opportunities brought on by this transformation. These consultations provided an opportunity to listen to and learn from Canadians and examine the federal government's current cultural policy toolkit.

We have been very pleased with the response to our consultation, and all Canadians can find material related to that response at our web portal at Approximately 26,000 individuals and organizations expressed an interest in the consultations by visiting the portal. Over 800 of them contributed directly to the discussions, including more than 300 who attended the in-person discussions. The department received more than 200 submissions from creators, citizens, entrepreneurs, intellectuals, and companies. Finally, approximately 20,000 people mentioned the consultations and shared ideas on the subject in various social media.

We are committed to this being an open and transparent public consultation. That is why all of the submissions we received are posted and publicly available on the consultation web portal.

On February 21, 2017, the independent firm Ipsos released a report entitled “What We Heard Across Canada: Canadian Culture in a Digital World”, which summarized the ideas and recommendations heard during those consultations.

We invite Canadians to read that report. Our government will pay close attention to the results of those consultations.

The consultations will help us develop a cultural tool kit that is better suited for today's digital realities.

Back in November, my friend posed two questions. One was to make the briefs public. That has been done. The second was to ask the government to put a price on Google, Facebook, Netflix, etc., to pay the taxes. The work related to the consultations is not complete. He is asking for us to prejudge the outcome. He is possibly asking for us to prejudge what might be in tomorrow's budget or a future budget. We are not in a position to do that. We were not four months ago. We were not yesterday, and we are not today.

Canadian HeritageAdjournment ProceedingsPrivate Members’ Business

7:50 p.m.


Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his ad lib and frank answer. He says that we cannot rush them in this situation.

In the past four months, HMV and DEP declared bankruptcy, which affects the arts community. I would like to cite another striking example.

Experts on sales taxes, the people who collect taxes, for example the excise tax, were called to appear before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage. I use the iTunes app and so I asked them why some songs and apps were subject to the GST and QST in the Apple Store, while others were not. There is no tax on the monthly subscription. They told me that the app that was taxed was probably a Canadian app.

Canadian HeritageAdjournment ProceedingsPrivate Members’ Business

7:50 p.m.


Sean Casey Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, we are proud of the results of our consultations.

Tens of thousands of Canadians visited our web portal, or joined in by social media. Hundreds answered questions and made detailed submissions through our web portal. Hundreds more participated in live consultation events, as well as thousands who joined by Facebook Live or social media.

Our government wanted to foster dialogue and we can say “mission accomplished”.

Across Canada, our creators, entrepreneurs, cultural industries, and intellectuals all appreciated having the opportunity to contribute to the discussion.

The department is carefully reviewing the report that summarizes what we have heard, and all Canadians are invited to do the same. The consultations will help the Department of Canadian Heritage develop a cultural tool kit that is better suited to today's digital realities.

The Government of Canada thanks all Canadians and stakeholders for their participation and—

Canadian HeritageAdjournment ProceedingsPrivate Members’ Business

7:50 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

The hon. member for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman.