My thoughts on Motion M-103

I know Motion M-103 has been top of mind for many Canadians. It’s a motion introduced by Liberal MP Iqra Khalid.

Here’s how I see it.

To be clear, this is not a “bill” nor a “law”. It does not “introduce Sharia law” as some people have suggested nor would it “ban freedom of speech”. In fact, the motion simply requests that the House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage undertake a study on how the government could reduce racism and religious discrimination. However, M-103 is also focused on a controversial term – “Islamophobia” – which some believe may be used to shut down legitimate debate rather than to encourage it; to intimidate rather than to inform.

Through our critics, MPs David Anderson, Cypress Hills – Grasslands and David Sweet, M.P., our Conservative Caucus has tried to work constructively with Ms. Khalid to introduce amendments to her motion that would recognize the need to fight racism, religious intolerance and discrimination of all religious communities. However, Ms. Khalid has told a number of our Members of Parliament that she would need to “check with Cabinet” or “check with the Prime Minister’s Office”, which demonstrates to us that this motion is simply being used by the Liberal Party and the Prime Minister to play partisan politics. Furthermore, Ms. Khalid has now said she is not willing to entertain amendments to her motion.

Conservatives are fully committed to freedom of religion and freedom of speech. We condemn, in the strongest of terms, all acts committed against religious communities, including at places of worship. In addition, there are over 1 million Muslims in Canada. They are an integral part of this country. They need to feel safe and free to speak about their faith. At the same time, we do not support restrictions on legitimate freedom of speech. As Interim Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada – Parti conservateur du Canada, I feel strongly about these points, which is why I have instructed my Caucus colleagues that we will be holding a free vote on this motion.

As for my personal position on how I will vote on M-103, let me say this. I have spent a good part of my career trying to empower women and girls in Canada and around the world in order that they may reach their full potential. In 2011, as Minister of Status of Women, I worked with Plan International around the world to establish International Day of the Girl in order to fight for girls rights internationally. I do worry that some of my work trying to empower women and girls in Muslim communities could be branded as “Islamophobic” if I criticize practices that I believe are oppressive.

I realize that M-103 is a divisive motion, and I have indicated that I would be open to supporting this motion if amendments were introduced. If not, I will be voting no to M-103 as it is currently worded.
I would note that my Conservative colleagues have introduced another much more inclusive motion in the House of Commons which will be voted on next Tuesday, February 21. This motion condemns “systemic racism, religious intolerance and discrimination of Muslims, Jews, Christians, Sikhs, Hindus, and other religious communities” as well as acknowledges the “enshrined rights and freedoms in the Constitution Acts, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.” I will be proudly supporting our Conservative motion when it comes to a vote.