Why would any parliamentarian hesitate to support the need to recognize and take action against the anti-Muslim wave that has been steadily gaining strength in Canada?
Our constitution- in particular Subsection 15 (1) of our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms- explicitly guarantees the principle of equality, of non-discrimination against any person or group on the basis of religion, race, ethnicity, culture or country of origin.
Furthermore, our federal House of Commons unanimously approved a motion condemning anti-Semitism in 2015.
And yet, Conservative MP’s have argued against the text of Motion M-103 presented to the House by their Liberal colleague Ms. Iqra Khalid.
They claim that the motion infringes on the constitutional right to freedom of speech and they object to the explicit highlighting of Islamophobia in the motion.
There are none so blind as those who do not wish to see.
The Caribbean Camera insists on pointing out to the federal Conservative caucus that Canada’s constitution does endorse the principle of corrective/preventative action intended to address the vulnerability of individuals or groups who are facing the danger of discrimination.
Here is the relevant provision of the Canadian Charter, Subsection 15 (2):
- “Subsection (1) does not preclude any law, program or activity that has as its object the amelioration of conditions of disadvantaged individuals or groups including those that are disadvantaged because of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.”
In the light of this subsection 15 (2), one is forced to consider the possibility that some Conservative MP’s may have fallen victim to constitutional illiteracy, bias or chronic political pettiness.
The killing of six Muslims in the recent attack on a mosque in Quebec should be sufficient evidence to convince the Conservatives of the seriousness of Islamophobia as a threat to the enjoyment of fundamental human rights for all in Canada.
Their former ringleader, Stephen Harper, with the enthusiastic support of several senior members of his political movement, used all his prime ministerial weight to campaign for re-election on an anti-Muslim policy platform.
Then, in the race to replace him, two reportedly frontline candidates for the leadership of the federal Conservative Party have publicly proposed and endorsed anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim policies. They have publicly recognized their discrimination-based politics as being compatible with the populist dogma of the newly installed President of the United States of America.
This Editorial will not contribute to the racist propaganda of those three politicians, two Canadian and one American, by mentioning their names.
It is indeed a sad day when Canadians feel so emboldened to drink, in the full glare of the public and the media, from the toxic brew of the very worst elements of American politics.
Whether we choose to call it cultural racism or religious discrimination, there is no doubt that Canada is experiencing a wave of Islamophobia.
The wider reality of racism in today’s Canada is nothing new.
Yet, it is comforting to note that, according to Liberal MP Celina Caesar Chavannes, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recognizes that there is systemic racism in our society.
There has also been public acknowledgement of that very unhealthy fact of our national life by several high-level officials, including the Federal Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Ahmed Hussen and the Premier of Ontario, Kathleen Wynne.
In fact, in the context of the ongoing conversation on racism and Islamophobia, the Legislative Assembly of Ontario recently passed its own motion condemning Islamophobia.
And Ontario Minister Michael Coteau, who has responsibility for Anti-Racism, has just this Tuesday announced his government’s three-year strategic plan to combat racism. The plan includes the enacting of anti-racism legislation, an allocation of $47 million for black youth, and a framework for collecting race-based data and for the use of that data in the formulation of policies and programs.
It is imperative that we break out of the cultural, religious, racial, ethnic and country of origin silos into which Canada remains divided.
Our many and very diverse communities should reach out to each other and re-position themselves as the building blocks of inter-communal solidarity.
Most importantly, we as a society will do well to promote pro-active inter-religious cooperation in favour of the principles of national unity and defense of the national interest over sectional interests.
There is a useful model for inter-religious cooperation that may be worth our attention.
It is the Inter-Religious Organization and it has been in existence in Trinidad and Tobago for some decades.