The latest from the Cult of Ignorance deals with what they call “Bill M-103”, in the Canadian Parliament.
There are a few apoplectic posts floating about it around the internet, such as this share to CBC Edmonton’s Facebook page. (You can Google “Bill M-103” to find more. Most of the hits will bring you to paranoid nonsense, because there’s not actually a thing called “Bill M-103”. I make no representations about the safety of any websites that may pop up, though.)
In a nutshell, the claims being made are that M-103 is a bill before Parliament that would classify any (negative?) speech about Islam as “Islamophobia”, subjecting the speaker to criminal prosecution.
The first hint that something is off here is the letter. Federal bills don’t start with “M”. M-103 is, in fact, a private member’s “motion”. And here’s the full text of the motion. It’s short enough, however, to reproduce in full here:
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.
Let’s be clear on a few points here: Motions don’t make laws. They don’t amend laws. They don’t turn speech into an offence. They don’t subject people to criminal prosecution.
This motion, if adopted, basically does two things: (1) It would amount to a statement by the House of Commons that systemic racism and religious discrimination (including but not limited to Islamophobia) is bad (not “criminal” or “illegal” but merely worthy of condemnation); and (2) it would request that the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage undertake a study to collect data and develop approaches relating to systemic racism and religious discrimination.
That’s it. Nobody’s going to jail for saying something negative about Islam; that’s not what the motion does. Full stop.
If anyone tries to convince you that M-103 makes Islamophobia a criminal offence…they’re either ignorant or lying. It does not and cannot do such a thing.
But is the Motion Necessary in the First Place?
The Toronto Sun recently published an opinion piece about it by Anthony Furey. To Furey’s small credit, he appears to recognize that it isn’t actually a bill, and doesn’t actually change the law. But his entire alarm appears to be rooted in a ‘slippery slope’ argument – he’s worried about what legislative reforms might follow the study by the SCCH, because he’s convinced that “there’s a good chance they’ll be dragnet laws that criminalize anyone who dares stand up to the many unsavoury parts of orthodox Islam.” Notwithstanding Furey’s fear of what legislative reform may eventually follow (and remembering that any legislative reform would have to comply with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, including its guarantee of freedom of expression), it bears highlighting that this motion doesn’t actually do any such thing.
Furey also argues that the “increasing climate of hate in Canada” comes “from within Islam”, seeming to dispute the legitimacy of the premise of the bill, that Muslims in Canada face unjustified hatred and persecution from non-Muslims. To be fair to Furey, his column was posted the day before Alexandre Bissonnette murdered six people praying at a mosque (a grocery store owner, a university professor, a pharmacy worker, and three civil servants) and injured 19 others.
But Bissonnette’s crime, while recent and extreme, is not the first evidence of Islamophobia in Canada: In Edmonton, in late 2016, someone was recently spreading anti-Islam pamphlets, calling for the deportation and banning of Islam, with a graphic showing men with nooses around their necks.
When Mississauga was evaluating a zoning application for the construction of a mosque in Meadowvale, a website and pamphlets were proliferated seeking to “stop the mosque” in order to protect “Canadian values” and prevent increases in various forms of criminal activity; a related online publication later made unsupported claims that large numbers of female high school students in Mississauga were being sexually assaulted by Muslims.
In Calgary, in February 2016, somebody spraypainted “Syrians go home and die” on the wall of a Calgary school. Mosques have been vandalized or even set on fire. Women wearing the headscarf have been physically and/or verbally assaulted.
In other words, notwithstanding Furey’s desire to overlook the unwarranted abuse that Canadian Muslims are receiving, there’s clear evidence of the ‘climate of hate and fear’ that M-103 seeks to recognize and condemn.