House of Commons Hansard #423 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was marijuana.

Topics

Criminal Records ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Criminal Records ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

All those opposed will please say nay.

Criminal Records ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Criminal Records ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

The recorded division on the motion stands deferred.

Normally at this time, the House would proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded divisions at report stage of the bill. However, pursuant to an order made on Tuesday, May 28, 2019, the divisions stand deferred until Monday, June 3, at the expiry of the time provided for Oral Questions.

It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of Private Members' Business, as listed on today's Order Paper.

National Day of Solidarity with Victims of Anti-religious Bigotry and ViolencePrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

moved:

That the House recognize that acts of violence and bigotry directed against religious believers, such as the June 23, 1985, bombing of Air India Flights 182 and 301, the September 15, 2001, firebombing of the Hindu Samaj Temple and the Hamilton Mountain Mosque, the April 5, 2004, firebombing of Montreal’s United Talmud Torah Jewish school, and the January 29, 2017, murder of Muslims at the Quebec City Islamic Cultural Centre, are inimical to a free, peaceful, and plural society and declare January 29 of every year as National Day of Solidarity with Victims of Anti-religious Bigotry and Violence.

Mr. Speaker, the first of my remarks, which will take about 10 of the 15 minutes allocated to me, deal with why I believe Canada needs a national day of solidarity with the victims of anti-religious bigotry and violence, which I intend to be understood as bigotry and violence in both their international and their domestic manifestations.

The remainder of my remarks will present the case for demarcating January 29 as the date on which to annually express this solidarity. January 29, 2017 was, of course, the date of the attack on the Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec. This was the worst act of Islamophobic violence in this country's history, and it was the worst act of anti-religious violence against members of any religious group in over a generation, claiming the lives of six men and leaving 19 others wounded, some severely.

Let me turn now to the first of the two parts into which I have divided my remarks. It is my belief that the greatest human rights challenge of our century is the persecution around the world of religious minorities. The issue of state-sponsored anti-religious bigotry, sometimes rising to the level of ethnic cleansing or genocide, is as great a challenge in our times as were the issue of slavery in the 19th century and the challenge of avoiding global war in the 20th century.

There is also a non-state version of the same problem. It comes in the form of acts of bigotry and violence against persons who have been targeted solely because of their religious identity by organized groups which, when they are tolerated or semi-tolerated by state authorities, can be described as death squads, and when they operate without any such state approval, we call terrorist groups. Finally, there are isolated individuals operating outside of any command structure and without material assistance from any group, who are sometimes characterized as lone wolves. The acts undertaken by these groups and individuals can, in the worst cases, amount to mass murder.

Intolerance and oppression against religious groups take many forms around the world. Here are seven concrete examples with deadly consequences. First, the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar. Second, the ruthless treatment of Christians in North Korea. Third, the murder of thousands of Christians in African countries. Fourth, the rise of anti-Semitism in places where I never thought such a thing would be possible, including the United Kingdom and the United States. Fifth, the egregious and sometimes murderous treatment of small groups like the Yazidi in Syria and the Baha'i in Iran. Sixth, the long-standing oppression of Tibetan Buddhists in China, and now the mass internment and widespread surveillance of Uighur Muslims in northwestern China. Seventh, the ongoing oppression of Falun Gong practitioners in China.

The worst form of intolerance is, of course, murder, and in the past two months alone, we have witnessed terrifying examples of mass murders of peaceful worshippers at prayer in the world beyond our borders, such as the mosque shootings in Christchurch on March 21, the church bombings in Sri Lanka on April 21, and the synagogue shooting in San Diego County on April 27.

These three incidents alone left over 300 Muslims, Christians and Jews dead and over 500 injured.

Please note that I have not broken down the foregoing death toll by the religion of the victims. It should be an article of faith to all Canadians that the adherents of all religions are brothers and sisters, and I think it is our instinct as a nation to feel that an attack that targets the members of any identifiable part of civilian population is, in practice, an attack on society itself.

If we take a closer look at the seven-item list that I have just read aloud, an important fact becomes apparent. The state oppressors and terrorist murderers of course identify and abuse their victims based upon their religious affiliation. However, more often than not, these victims are targeted because, in the eye of the perpetrators, their religion is important primarily as a symbol of something else, something entirely non-religious, such as advocacy of regional autonomy or independence, being unwanted foreigners, being a demographic threat, being manipulators of the law or the financial system and so on.

The victims of the Christchurch shootings, for example, were targeted because their faith was seen as being symbolic of their otherness, of the status of many of the worshippers as immigrants and of being part of a group imagined to be inherently resistant to assimilation.

The shooter at the California synagogue likewise claimed to be motivated by what is being described as white replacement theory or white genocide theory, in which race, religion and place of birth are conflated in such a fashion that being an adherent to any religious tradition other than that of the European-derived majority is seen as marking a person as a perpetual outsider, an outgroup member with no right to be here. In consequence, that person also has no right even to be alive, if killing that person can serve the greater purpose of sending the supposedly important message that others have no place here.

There was another claim made by the California gunman that ought to attract our attention. He asserts that a month prior to the synagogue shooting, he attempted to set fire to a mosque.

In the ideology of white nationalism, being Muslim or Jewish makes a person a perpetual outsider. As Mustafa Farooq observed a few weeks ago in The Guardian, in 2019 it is now true that “Anti-semitism and Islamophobia are two sides of the same coin”.

There was a time not so long ago when this thesis would have seemed preposterous. Today, as the testimony of the California gunman reveals, it is an established protocol in a living, if alarming, ideology.

Now let us take a look at the victims of the Sri Lanka bombings. One of the motivations of the killers seems to have been retaliation for the Christchurch shootings, even though it would have been obvious to even the most deluded individual that none of the Sri Lankan victims were involved in that crime in any way. How could they have been? Another motivation, according to the Sri Lankan government, was to strike back against the western countries that had crushed ISIL in Syria and Iraq, although, again, not even the most delusional person could have imagined that any of the victims bore even the most peripheral responsibility.

The reduction of human life to being merely symbolic of some half-baked group association and the conflation of religious identity with national identity, or with the foreign policy of this or that nation, or with simple otherness, are features of these terrorist acts.

About 10 years ago, I was the co-chair, along with Liberal MP Mario Silva, of a parliamentary coalition to combat domestic and international anti-Semitism. At that time, I thought this kind of fantastical group association was a burden borne uniquely by Jews, who were, and unfortunately still are, held collectively responsible for the transgressions, real and imaginary, of the State of Israel. This collective responsibility extended all the way up to the point that, in the eyes of some extremists, every Jew could be regarded as a legitimate target for deadly retaliation against a state of which, in most cases, they were not even citizens.

However, now I realize that this phenomenon is true for other victim groups as well, and that, unfortunately, it is true in Canada as much as in the rest of the world. For example, this country's worst act of domestic terrorism took place in 1985, when Air India flight 182 exploded in mid-air on its way from Canada to London. We would later learn that the goal of the conspirators had been to kill as many Hindus as possible, because the perpetrators had, simplistically and unfairly, conflated Hindus as a whole with the Indian state. One of the militants said, “The Indian Government is our enemy, the same the Hindu society is our enemy” and, “Until we kill 50,000 Hindus, we will not rest”.

In the event, the Air India bombers killed 329 people. This included 200 Hindus, but also over 30 Sikhs and a number of people of other faiths.

Then there was the attack at the Centre culturel islamique de Québec. People who interacted with the shooter reported that he was both aggressively anti-immigrant and aggressively anti-Muslim. His attitude and his apparent desire to make immigrants feel unwelcome are strikingly similar to the ideology of the New Zealand shooter who came along two years later.

I would urge the House to keep that in mind while I change direction and draw a comparison between January 29 and November 11, which, as we all know, is Remembrance Day.

Exactly a century ago, in 1919, His Majesty King George V instituted a number of measures to express his gratitude to the millions of brave young volunteers from Great Britain, Canada and the whole world who lost their lives in the Great War. Of all the commemorative actions the king initiated, the longest lasting was his decision to designate one symbolic day of the year when we, as a society, take the time to reflect on the sacrifices of our courageous dead.

Accordingly, even though our soldiers perished in battle every day of the year, November 11 was selected because November 11, 1918, was the day the killing ended. Thus was born Remembrance Day, which, over the decades, has become a day for paying tribute not only to those who died during the Great War, but also to those who lost their lives during all the wars that followed, as well as during peacekeeping missions.

While the Great War did not turn out to be, as the leaders at the time had hoped, the “war to end all wars”, the sense of unity that is renewed each year on November 11 in our country is an enduring source of strength and unity for all of us.

The same logic ought to apply to choosing a day on which to express our solidarity as a nation with the victims of anti-religious bigotry and violence. January 29, 2017, was not, of course, the only day on which Canadians faced acts of outrageous bigotry.

The text of the motion cites three other dates: April 5, June 23 and September 15. However, to me, January 29 is an important symbolic date. In part, I see its symbolism as lying in the fact that it happened in Canada. Every MP, regardless of party affiliation, shares the aspiration that our country, of all countries, should be the safe haven, where every person of every religion can feel free to worship in safety and security. In part, January 29 seems to me to have a special symbolism, because the events of 2017 represent such a fresh wound, just as the Great War was still so fresh a wound when King George led the first November 11 commemoration in 1919.

I also see the symbolism of January 29 as lying in the fact that it was an attack on people at prayer, the most essential, foundational act of any religion whatsoever. If we want to express our solidarity with the victims of anti-religious bigotry and violence, whether that be in the form of Islamophobic bigotry, anti-Semitic bigotry or any form of anti-religious bigotry and violence whatsoever, then I feel it is best to do so by showing that we stand by our fellow citizens when they are most clearly and completely expressing their religious faith.

Finally, I see the significance of January 29 in the fact that it is possible to hope, to hope at least, that the shootings of January 29, 2017, will turn out to be what November 11, 1918, failed to be, the tipping point toward peace and the event that ends all such tragedies in this country so we can return to the role that ought to be ours in the world: the safest, most welcoming home for every Muslim, every Jew, every Christian, every Hindu, every Buddhist, every Yazidi, every Bahá’i, every atheist and every believer in any other religion or philosophy of life whatever, full stop.

National Day of Solidarity with Victims of Anti-religious Bigotry and ViolencePrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Iqra Khalid Liberal Mississauga—Erin Mills, ON

Mr. Speaker, actions matter; words matter also. I know the member opposite was very seized with the study at the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage with respect to systemic racism and religious discrimination. The report posed a lot of wonderful, very concrete recommendations.

The heritage committee heard from many organizations and individual Canadians. Why does the member's website quote known right-wing extremists as he moves forward on this motion?

National Day of Solidarity with Victims of Anti-religious Bigotry and ViolencePrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

Mr. Speaker, forgive me, but I am not familiar with what the hon. member is referring to. I am genuinely unfamiliar with it. I wish she had made her reference more specific than that, but perhaps we will get the chance afterwards for her to do so.

I would be astonished to discover that anything on my website, in any way, or that was said by anyone, that I would have anything up there that is—

I just do not know what to say to that.

National Day of Solidarity with Victims of Anti-religious Bigotry and ViolencePrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Some hon. member

It was evil Scott Reid.

National Day of Solidarity with Victims of Anti-religious Bigotry and ViolencePrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

There is no way.

National Day of Solidarity with Victims of Anti-religious Bigotry and ViolencePrivate Members' Business

May 30th, 2019 / 5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Frank Baylis Liberal Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am impressed by the work done by my colleague on this important day. January 29, as we now know, has been touched by a major tragedy.

Motion No. 103 brought about a study that took into account taking action against racism and religious discrimination, including Islamophobia. They also made suggestions for wording in their report, not that there is anything wrong with the wording. I preferred the wording there.

I wanted to ask the member why he chose not to use that wording. There was wording specifically for that day.

National Day of Solidarity with Victims of Anti-religious Bigotry and ViolencePrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think the hon. member is referring to the focus on Islamophobia, which is a reasonable question. This was, of course, the date of the worst act of Islamophobia, by a wide margin, in our country's history. It is something we all hope will never happen again but that we all fear could happen again.

I would say two things. First, the problem of Islamophobia is linked to other forms of hatred. That was part of why I emphasized at such length the very dangerous ideology of white nationalism. Another consideration is that this can serve, as I said, simply as a symbol for all of us and for all anti-religious discrimination and violence. To me, a crime against one of this sort is a crime against all.

I will say this as well. Many people have chosen to honour January 29 on their own, taking up actions to symbolize their solidarity with Canada's Muslim community. Some have done so by putting candles in their windows on January 29. When I learned of this last January, I put one in my own window to honour the victims of January 29, 2017. It was in my office here. It was an electric candle.

It is something I meant to mention. If I had had more time in my speech, I would have said that I hope all of us will be able, in the future, to pick that up. If some people choose to say that they want to focus on those victims and on the Muslim community and its rightful concerns about the terrible thing that happened in January 2017 and everything that implies, and all the fears they rightly have, that is entirely appropriate. It is very meritorious. If they choose to say that they see this as something that ought to reflect their fears for practitioners of all religions here and abroad, I think that is also meritorious.

National Day of Solidarity with Victims of Anti-religious Bigotry and ViolencePrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak on the motion.

In listening to the member raise this issue in such a manner, one of the things that came to mind is that this issue, unfortunately, is not new. I was first elected back in 1988, and one of the first reports I recall reviewing was presented by the Manitoba Intercultural Council. At that time, it was an important report for me personally. I have always represented the north end of Winnipeg where there is a great diverse community, and that report was all about the issue of racism, and there were a number of recommendations that came out of the report. The one that was most compelling for me personally was that if we are going to fight racism, we need to incorporate cross-cultural discussions and educational programs that would enlighten people about the benefits of diversity. That may not be the exact wording of the recommendation; it was 30 years ago. However, I think it demonstrates two things very clearly. One is that this is the type of issue that has been with us very for many years. A second is that there are some potential things that government can do to try to minimize the amount of racism, bigotry and violence out there.

I suspect that all 330-plus members who make up the House of Commons would recognize where we, as a society, can take action, and that we should take action to combat this violence, bigotry and racism. However, I would suggest that it is not just Ottawa that should act, and I will provide some thoughts about what Ottawa has done in a very tangible way, but also that we should get different levels of government and society as a whole more engaged on this particular file.

If we want to be effective in fighting bigotry and racism, we need to look at our classrooms and school divisions and the role that provincial and national governments can play. From my perspective, the national government can demonstrate very sound, solid leadership on this file. Provincial and other levels of government can look to Ottawa and see that it is in fact taking action, and they need to do likewise. However, it goes beyond just government institutions. I would suggest that it also includes non-profit organizations, business communities, the private sector, unions, all of which have recognized in the past that they do have a role to play. Indeed, we need to have that strong, more united approach. This is one of the reasons we have, for example, an international day against racism. It goes beyond Canadian borders. We will find many schools, parliamentarians at different levels and private sector companies who recognize that day.

I believe that the vast, overwhelming majority of the people we represent understand and appreciate the value of what makes Canada as great as it, namely our diversity, and we need to treasure and protect it. When we see things that take place here in Canadian society or abroad that go against the value of diversity, we need to speak out, as we have all seen inside and outside the House. Some of us have have experienced it firsthand.

I think of the hon. member for Mississauga—Erin Mills and the fine work she did. When the issue came before us, dealing with racism in the worst way, she stood in her place and took a strong stand. By taking that stand, she subjected herself to a considerable amount of hatred, directed to her personally. I am so proud of my colleague who stood firm. Other caucus members and members from other sides of the House joined her to provide support.

Since I was elected in 1998, I have visited gudwaras all over Canada and in other places of the world. I visited gudwaras, synagogues, churches and mosques. I understand, appreciate and value the places where we practise our faith, the value they add to our society as a whole.

I wish others were given the same opportunities I have had as an elected official to go into these communities and experience first-hand the love and caring attitude toward not only individuals such as me, but facilities, churches, mosques, synagogues or temples all across our land.

I admire the Sikh society gurdwara. I am proud to say that a female is now running the gudwara in her role of president. One of the teachings of Sikhism, which I really appreciate, is that when people enter a gudwara, they take off their shoes and squat to listen to the service. Everyone is an equal and that has stuck with me over the years. Whether it is in Winnipeg, Abbotsford, Toronto or the Punjab, where I visited many gudwaras, including the golden temple, everyone is treated as an equal.

I believe that same principle will be found in all our religious communities where that sort of respect is offered. That is why I will go back to the Manitoba Intercultural Council. It came up with a report many decades ago. It said that if we wanted to combat bigotry and racism, we needed to ensure a better sense of cross-cultural awareness. I believe it recommended that MLAs take a course on cross-cultural awareness. The report was right on. Members of Parliament could become more sensitive to cross-cultural awareness.

The Prime Minister is one of the strongest advocates in our country in talking about the benefits and strength of Canada being our diversity. The Prime Minister is right in his assertion. If we want to get a sense of it, we need to look at the different regions of our country. Will get a far better appreciation of what is meant when say our diversity is our greatest strength.

I would encourage not only members here, but all parliamentarians to take the challenge recommended not only by the Manitoba Intercultural Council, but by many other organizations.

Let us appreciate what we have. Let us become more educated.

National Day of Solidarity with Victims of Anti-religious Bigotry and ViolencePrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Dubé NDP Beloeil—Chambly, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is with a heavy heart that I rise to speak to Motion No. 153. After all, we are discussing violence against people of faith, religious communities and the discrimination they face.

In Canada, there is an important tradition of religious freedom and also of religious diversity. These rights are protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Despite the claims we hear from time to time, we are unfortunately not immune to the forces that exist here and around the world and that, all too often, target these people because of their faith or for all sorts of other reasons that we will examine today.

Some of these acts of discrimination may seem to belong to the past, but several have occurred recently. For example, there are frequent attacks on Muslim women wearing a hijab or niqab. They are victims of violence in our public spaces. We also know that these incidents occur in big cities with diverse populations, places like Montreal, Toronto or Vancouver, where the population's diversity is rightfully celebrated. However, these people are targeted all too often.

I want to point to a variety of incidents, but one in particular I read about in the media. People we know personally have lived these experiences.

I want to mention the experience of Ms. Merriman, who has roots in Canada. She was born in Winnipeg. She was physically attacked in Toronto because she was wearing a niqab. That type of incident makes one's blood run cold. In a city that rightly celebrates its diversity, a woman was attacked for something she had chosen to do. Her life could potentially be in danger.

I would invite colleagues to read that media coverage and the many other stories. It is a sobering reminder that we are not hidden away from these forces, the discrimination, the hatred that can be committed on religious communities, and too often on Muslim women.

It is not only individuals who get attacked both physically and otherwise for their faith. It is also places of worship. As the NDP's public safety critic, I know a lot of work needs to be done, and that is unfortunate. It is unfortunate that the government needs to provide protection for these places of worship.

We can think of things ranging from vandalism to firebombings and other forms of heinous damage that is caused, sometimes with the risk to people in those areas.

I think of February 1981, in Merritt, BC. Around 3 a.m., an explosion occurred at an East Indian church. Firefighters speculated that someone had thrown dynamite through the window. Obviously, given the time, no one was in the building. One can only imagine what that represents to the community and it people, seeing their place of worship attacked.

In 1985, the Temple Shalom in Vancouver was firebombed. The damage was significant, $400,000. It also threatened a Jewish funeral chapel.

Communities too often feel under attack by individuals who put forward bigotry and hatred. That fear is certainly exacerbated by these types of attacks.

There have been firebombings in Mosques in Calgary and Hamilton and in synagogues in Edmonton. A Hindu temple in Hamilton suffered an arson attack. That attack was mentioned earlier in debate today. There were attacks on a synagogue in Saskatoon and a Mosque in Edson. A Sikh temple in Vancouver suffered an arson attack. Someone who douses gasoline on temples creates a climate of fear and hatred.

These acts obviously create a climate of fear and hatred and cause physical harm. They can lead to the kind of physical attacks we have seen committed against people.

This brings me to the next example, the attack at the Centre culturel islamique de Québec on January 29, 2017, which we are unfortunately all too familiar with. Six people were killed, and nearly two dozen were seriously injured. As we know all too well, it was an important and tragic reminder that such acts can be committed here in Canada.

An individual had been radicalized by far-right values and white supremacy. He was anti-Muslim and had been radicalized by politics that are more common among our neighbours to the south and by certain ideas that have been put forward by President Trump. These ideas can fuel a fear of the other, which is too often behind these acts.

Since then, people within the Muslim community, along with many Canadians, have shown their support for and solidarity with their grieving neighbours. This solidarity in the face of all the hatred and violence is an important reminder that we have the power to make a positive change when it comes to these kinds of acts. When we list all these heinous acts, all the attacks against places of worship and people of faith, the list is unfortunately far from exhaustive. However, these examples show that there has been an increase in religiously motivated hate crimes in Canada.

According to Statistics Canada, police reported that hate crimes increased by 47% from 2016 to 2017. In 2017, just two years ago, there were 2,073 incidents, 664 more than in the previous year.

Jewish Canadians, as we unfortunately know, continue to be the most targeted community for religiously motivated hate crimes, and incidents increased from 221 in 2016 to 360 the following year.

Muslim Canadians see a growing trend of hate crimes committed against them, with incidents increasing by over 150% in that same span from 2016 to 2017, for a total of 349 police reported hate crimes. That is an important distinction. We can only imagine the unreported crimes that are also committed. Additionally, there were also 142 racially or ethnically motived hate crimes against Arab or West Asian Canadians. Given the overlap between these groups, we would definitely see the statistics as being interrelated.

The New Democrats understand the role we also need to play as politicians when we see outlets like Rebel Media and associations between party leaders that take the same platforms as individuals like Faith Goldy, for example. Even though social media has been a laggard in dealing with this type of hate, even they know this hate has no place on their platforms.

We have a responsibility. The New Democrats are proud to work with anyone who believes, as I think all Canadians do, that this type of bigotry and hatred toward religious communities and, quite frankly, any Canadian who is part of any part of any minority group who can be discriminated against for any reason whatsoever deserves our full and unequivocal support.

Before I propose an amendment to the motion, we should to look to New Zealand and its Prime Minister and the example she showed. It was so important for her to remind her constituents, and particularly the Muslim members of her community, that it was not an us and them thing that too often fuelled this hate.

We are all one together in this fight against this form of bigotry and hatred. That is our core responsibility as parliamentarians.

In closing, I would like to move an amendment seconded by my colleague from Drummond. Considering all the groups targeted by hate, I think this amendment gives the motion a broader scope.

I move that the motion be amended by replacing the words “January 29 of every year as National Day” with the words “the entire last week of January of every year as National Week”.

National Day of Solidarity with Victims of Anti-religious Bigotry and ViolencePrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

I must inform the hon. members that, pursuant to Standing Order 93(3), amendments to private members' motions and to the motion for the second reading of a private member's bill may only be moved with the consent of the sponsor of the item.

Therefore, I ask the hon. member for Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston if he consents to the amendment being moved.

National Day of Solidarity with Victims of Anti-religious Bigotry and ViolencePrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

Mr. Speaker, for the same reason I think remembrance week would be much less effective than Remembrance Day is, I think expanding to a week at the end of January would be less effective than a single day. I do want to say that I know that this is offered in a most open spirit, and I very much appreciate the thoughtfulness of the member, but I think it would actually lead to a less effective commemoration than sticking with the original motion.

National Day of Solidarity with Victims of Anti-religious Bigotry and ViolencePrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

There is no consent.

Resuming debate. The hon. member for Edmonton Manning.

National Day of Solidarity with Victims of Anti-religious Bigotry and ViolencePrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Conservative

Ziad Aboultaif Conservative Edmonton Manning, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to speak in support of my colleague from Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston's motion on such an important topic. For seven months in 2017, I had the pleasure of being the seatmate of my esteemed colleague, and I was privileged to benefit from his unique insights and wisdom on a wide variety of topics.

Motion No. 153 deals with a very important issue that I know all members of this House take very seriously. The plight of religious bigotry has no place in Canadian society. It is especially important to my constituents in Edmonton Manning. I am very proud to represent such an incredibly diverse riding.

When travelling the short distance across my riding, one can experience the culture and religion of dozens and dozens of different countries. In Edmonton Manning we have churches of all different denominations, mosques, gurdwaras and temples. We have several community leagues, where people come together and interact with their neighbours, regardless of their faith, ethnicity or cultural background. We have hard-working cultural associations to help newcomers, to celebrate the cultures and histories of the wide array of people in Edmonton and to teach others from the community that despite coming from different places and having different cultures or religions, we are, in fact, not so very different after all. That is one of the beautiful things about Edmonton Manning and, in many ways, about all of Canada: our unity throughout our diversity.

I am incredibly proud of my constituency, its diversity and the peaceful co-existence of mutual respect and co-operation. Together we lift each other up to heights that we otherwise would not be able to achieve. This is a beautiful thing, but sadly, these are not universal values. Bigotry, racism, extremism and hate are all real. These traits are not owned by any one culture, faith, identity or group, and that is why I believe this motion is so important.

We must recognize that there are problems in the world and in Canada that we must tackle head on, and religious bigotry is one of them. Around the world, we have seen a backslide in accountable government and human rights. The space for human rights champions to operate is shrinking in the areas where they are needed most. Governments and regimes around the world have had great success in “othering” groups of people, usually ethnic and religious minority groups, to try to legitimize their systematic dehumanization of these people. We have seen it all over the world and against a whole range of different faith communities.

In my capacity as the official opposition shadow minister of international development, I have had the opportunity to travel and speak with people who have been subjected to these campaigns of discrimination. Almost without exception, these draconian government policies turn into horrible human rights abuses, such as the genocide against the Rohingya in Myanmar. This is perhaps one of the most pronounced examples of where the denial of recognition and citizenship for the Rohingya turned into incitement, assaults on villages, the systematic use of rape of women and girls, torture, genocide, the razing of settlements and forcing the Rohingya out of the country.

I have met with Christians in Africa who have been targeted for their faith, whose children have been taken by Boko Haram, and with people who are routinely harassed, terrorized and subjected to horrors largely because of their religious beliefs.

While there are major protracted crises around the world that are driven by bigotry based on faith, there are also horrendous attacks with the same motivating factors, some of the most severe of which are named in Motion No. 153. We have seen attacks on religious institutions and the faithful who were attending them here in Canada and around the world. People should never have to fear persecution or attack while they attend their places of worship.

We all have a duty to speak out and condemn religious bigotry in all of its forms, regardless of which religious group is being targeted. I often say, when it comes to helping those in need, that Canadians all have the same DNA. It is a part of who we are as people. Whether here at home or around the world, Canadians have always answered the call to help those in need, to stand up for those who are unable to stand up for themselves and to call out bigotry and discrimination wherever it is found. Whether it is discrimination against Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, any other religious group, or those who do not have a religious belief, as Motion No. 153 makes clear, faith-based violence and bigotry is not compatible with our shared vision of a free, peaceful and pluralistic Canada.

I believe it is important that we recognize this by naming January 29 of each year the national day of solidarity with victims of anti-religious bigotry and violence. When it comes to such an important issue, creating a day of solidarity seems like a small gesture, but I would suggest that it is an important one. It is important because of the word “solidarity”. Violence, hate and persecution toward a religious group is not only a problem for the community that is targeted, but also a problem for all of us, because these deplorable acts run counter to Canadian values and the vision that all of us in the House are fighting to achieve. Together we are stronger than when we are divided. Those who seek to spread violence and hate will virtually always seek to do one thing to the other group they are targeting. They do not want people to see their would-be victims as they see themselves and their loved ones. They try to spread their hatred like a cancer to trick people into taking their side. They try to convince people to buy into their heinous ideology.

While it may seem unimaginable for it to happen in a place like Canada, it does happen around the world. I very much doubt that any society believes it can happen to it, until it starts to take hold. That is why I believe we must respond with solidarity to those who would persecute people for their faith by making it clear that we are one people. When challenges arise, we must look at them through the lens of equality, disregard the differences, stand shoulder to shoulder against those who would seek to tear us apart and say no. This person is my sister, this person is my brother and what they believe is important, but when it comes to standing up for them, it does not matter, because it is simply the right thing to do. In a free, peaceful and multicultural society like Canada, I would argue that it is the only thing to do.

One of the reasons Canada works so well, even though it is so diverse, is that we are inclusive. Therefore, despite the efforts of those who seek to target other people in our own society, we as Canadians will not let them succeed, because we stand together in solidarity, regardless of our different faiths or any other factor.

Several months ago, there was an article in the news about the possibility of terrorists coming to Canada from Syria. Members of ISIS were using the confusion of the humanitarian crisis to try to mix in with legitimate refugees to escape accountability for the horrendous acts they had committed.

I had a couple come into my office for a meeting. We sat down over coffee and discussed this issue. One of the things they said to me is one of the most impactful things I have heard as the member of Parliament for Edmonton Manning. They said something along the lines of, “You folks have to get this right. I know they are only a few people and don't represent their whole community, but I am afraid. I am afraid of an attack. Mostly I am afraid that, because of this handful of bad people, society will start to fear and hate everyone from their community.”

I know these people. They do not harbour bigotry and racism in their hearts, but they see what those who seek to divide us are trying to do and are rightfully concerned about it. That is why I believe it is important to establish a national day of solidarity with victims of anti-religious bigotry and violence. It is as much about a single day as about declaring to those who do not share our values that we are united, that we reject their hate and violence and that we will not be divided despite their efforts.

National Day of Solidarity with Victims of Anti-religious Bigotry and ViolencePrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Pierrefonds—Dollard. I will let him know that there are just shy of 10 minutes available to him. If he does need the full 10 minutes, the remaining time will be available to him the next time this bill comes up for debate in the House.

National Day of Solidarity with Victims of Anti-religious Bigotry and ViolencePrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Liberal

Frank Baylis Liberal Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to talk about the fact that words matter. We stand here today to talk about recognizing January 29, and there is a reason we are doing this, as was mentioned by my previous colleagues: the atrocity of the massacre. Words matter.

I was sitting around having a coffee with members of the Muslim community in my riding in early January 2016 and they were worried about the rise in the amount of Islamophobia, the words they were hearing in the press and certain leadership around the world attacking Muslims. They asked me what I could do about it and said that since I am now in government, I should do something. We came up with the idea of asking for a debate on Islamophobia. I thought it sounded like a good idea, keeping in mind that I was and still am a new member of Parliament, so I did not exactly know the rules. I spoke to the House leaders, who said there would not be an entire day's debate on Islamophobia since it is a no-brainer, that of course everybody is against Islamophobia. They said thanks, but no thanks, that the government had only so many days and that it had to use them to move its agenda forward.

That all made sense to me, so I went back to my riding and talked further with the same people. They said that if that could not happen, could something else be done. At that point, I spoke to other members of Parliament, in particular, a friend of mine who knows the rules very well, and he said there is something called unanimous consent. He said I could move a motion for unanimous consent with no debate to condemn Islamophobia. I thought it was a really good idea.

I went to the House leadership and was told that while these rules do exist, there was an agreement among the parties not to use that provision, so I could not do it. I went back to my riding again for a third time, had another coffee and talked about what to do. It is at that point I learned that an ex-member of the House had brought to Parliament something called e-petitions, so we decided to make a petition condemning Islamophobia that I could present in Parliament. It sounded like a good idea and we went about doing it. The House leadership also said it was a fine idea and that we should knock ourselves out, so we did. We did not knock ourselves out here; we knocked ourselves out working to get signatures. It is an expression.

I am very happy to say that the petition got the most signatures of any electronic petition to that date. We set a record. People across the country signed up. We started slowly because we did not know how to get it going. Petitions can only go for so long, but had it been allowed to go longer, we could have had even more people signing it. It was accelerating and exploding, nonetheless. I was very proud to present that petition in the House.

At that point, the member for Mississauga—Erin Mills came to see me with an idea. She said she had a motion for Private Members' Business coming up and it would be good to put it out there that we should do a study on racism and discrimination, including Islamophobia. I said that would be fantastic. I could not think of anything better to do: it led right into the petition, so the member put it forward.

I have to say that I was shocked. I was just not ready for the vitriol and attacks that the member for Mississauga—Erin Mills was subject to. I was really taken aback. At one point, I started to feel bad because I thought I was partially responsible for getting her into this. I did not know the member that well at that point, since we were new members. We sat down in her office and I told her that I would understand if she wanted to pull out because it was not worth it. This young lady really impressed me when she put her fist down and said that we would knock ourselves out again and do this, and she did it. She took a tremendous amount of personal attacks, up to and including death threats, and I never saw her flinch. I take my hat off to her for doing that and bringing it forward.

Sadly, while all this work was starting and going on, the attack of January 29 happened. The massacre happened when words infected some young man's mind and he went in and killed and maimed a bunch of people.

I know Imam Hassan Guillet, who gave a moving eulogy that was played around the world. In that speech he said everyone was a victim, and he included even the shooter. He said the shooter was a victim of people who put hatred and ignorance in his head that led him to this. His life was destroyed. His friend's life was destroyed. Everyone was a loser in this situation.

That brought us to the report that came out. I thought the report was an excellent document. It covered a lot of things, and one of the important things it said was that we should take the time to commemorate January 29 as a day of remembrance and action on Islamophobia and other forms of religious discrimination.

The member has put forward that exact idea. Let us commemorate January 29. He has not used the words from the report, but he has used similar words. There is a bit of a debate as to whether the words should include Islamophobia or not, and that is something to be debated. I like the words in the report, with or without the word Islamophobia. I actually prefer them to the words that are proposed now. In general, the concept and the idea of recognizing this day is a very good one.

In that vein, I want to congratulate the member for putting forth the idea. I want to congratulate the member for Mississauga—Erin Mills for doing the hard work. I want all of us as legislators and politicians to learn a bigger lesson. This did not start a day before or a week before. It built up. The words of politicians and the words of political leaders led to this. I am not saying any particular person is to blame, but we should all keep in mind that when we start to hear this, we stand up faster, stronger and more together, so that this does not happen again.

National Day of Solidarity with Victims of Anti-religious Bigotry and ViolencePrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

If he wishes and should he have the opportunity, the hon. member for Pierrefonds—Dollard will have an additional two and a half minutes remaining in his time should the House take up debate on this question at some point in the future.

The time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

National Day of Solidarity with Victims of Anti-religious Bigotry and ViolencePrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I suspect that if you were to canvass the House, you would find unanimous consent at this time to call it 12 midnight so that the House will adjourn.

National Day of Solidarity with Victims of Anti-religious Bigotry and ViolencePrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Is that agreed?

National Day of Solidarity with Victims of Anti-religious Bigotry and ViolencePrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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

Foreign AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.

Conservative

Richard Martel Conservative Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, during today's adjournment debate, I will be talking about a human case that transcends partisanship. I am obviously talking about the case of André Gauthier, a Canadian citizen from Chicoutimi—Le Fjord who is currently being detained in the United Arab Emirates, a country with a poor human rights record.

We have been working with Mr. Gauthier's family for over two months now. The family has been working on this case for more than four agonizing years. Over the past four years, the family has knocked on many doors. It has spoken to various stakeholders and consular authorities. In four years, very little progress has been made. Does that mean that the usual non-political channels are not proactive enough? It seems clear now that unless a case gets media attention, the government is not really interested.

I will recap the events of the past few days. The media broke the news of Mr. Gauthier's detention on May 25, last Saturday. The office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs did not inform us until the evening of Tuesday, May 28, that it was trying to intervene with the Omani government before Mr. Gauthier was deported to the United Arab Emirates. However, we had known since Saturday about the urgent need to intervene before Mr. Gauthier was deported to the UAE. Why did this take so long?

Yesterday, Wednesday, we learned that the office no longer had any idea where Mr. Gauthier was, and yet it is Canada's right to know where its citizens are. We have an ambassador in the region. It is his duty to do the necessary research in a timely manner so as not to leave the family anxious and in the dark.

In my opinion, the office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs did not take the situation seriously and Canada has been negligent. Nothing has changed since we began working with the family. However, once the media got wind of what was going on, suddenly there was more of an interest. Some progress has now been made, but not much. The government keeps telling us, in the media and during question period, that the Minister of Foreign Affairs is aware of the situation and that she is monitoring it closely to see if there are any developments. Is the government really trying to bring Mr. Gauthier home to Canada or it is simply trying to ensure that he has a telephone and access to the care he needs while he is in prison? There is a big difference between the two.

I am familiar with international law as it relates to these issues. I understand that the United Arab Emirates is not required to send André Gauthier back to Canada. This is where diplomacy and negotiation come in. The United Arab Emirates is the largest importer of Canadian goods in the Middle East. We have emerging trade relations with this country, which is trying to get closer to the west. The United Arab Emirates wants to attract foreign investors as well as tourists. Now is a good time for Canada to bring our citizen back.

The family are in complete bewilderment over the level of support they have received so far. Nevertheless, we are not here to put anyone on trial. At this stage, we would all be very happy for André Gauthier to come home.

I have some questions for my colleagues in the government this evening. Why has it taken so long to move this case forward? What kind of support will be offered to the family? Where do things stand right now? What concrete action will the government take to bring Mr. Gauthier back home? Has the government set a timeline for bringing Mr. Gauthier back to Canada?