Canada passes anti-Islamophobia motion
Canada has passed a motion condemning Islamophobia and all other forms of systemic racism, after months of heated public debate and protests across the country.
The non-binding motion, M103, states that the government recognises "the need to quell the increasing public climate of hate and fear".
It calls on a government committee to study how to combat and eliminate systemic racism and religious discrimination, including Islamophobia, and to collect data on hate crimes.
The motion passed by a margin of more than 2:1, with 201 MPs voting in favour, and 91 against, on Thursday in Canada's parliament.
"I'm really happy that the vote today has shown positive support for this motion and I'm really looking forward to the committee taking on this study," said Iqra Khalid, the Liberal party MP who tabled the motion last December.
Conservative politicians in Canada had come out strongly against M-103, which they argued did not adequately define "Islamophobia".
Many alleged the motion would infringe on free speech, or the freedom to criticise a religion, while others went so far as to say it would bring Sharia (Islamic law) to Canada.
Proponents of the motion rejected those claims as baseless.
|The non-binding motion, M103, states that the government recognises 'the need to quell the increasing public climate of hate and fear'
The National Council of Canadian Muslims said in a statement that Khalid had been the victim of "an organised smear campaign" which saw opponents "spread false information about what the motion could potentially do".
Khalid also reported being inundated with hate mail and death threats after the motion was debated in the House of Commons.
"This motion will not prevent legitimate and genuine criticism, which is a cornerstone of our cherished democratic rights and freedoms," said Amira Elghawaby, NCCM's communications director.
But the rhetoric seems to have had an effect on Canadians' perceptions of the motion.
Forty-two percent of Canadians said they would not pass M-103 if they were members of parliament, while three-in-ten Canadians said the motion is a threat to freedom of speech, according to a recent Angus Reid poll.
But NCCM Executive Director Ihsaan Gardee welcomed the motion's approval as "a win for all Canadians in affirming our collective well-being".
|A government committee will study how to combat and eliminate systemic racism and religious discrimination, including Islamophobia
"We continue to hear from fellow Canadians that we all must work together to promote inclusive communities where everyone feels welcome. The passage of Motion 103 is a critical piece in that puzzle," Gardee said.
In January, six Muslim men were killed in an attack on a Quebec City mosque.
A series of anti-Muslim and anti-Jewish incidents have also been reported across Canada since that time, including several cases of vandalism at mosques, and threats to a Jewish community centre in downtown Toronto.Hate crimes were down overall between 2012 and 2014, the last period for which the data is available. But hate crimes targeting Muslim-Canadians more than doubled in that same period, according to Statistics Canada.
Jillian Kestler D'Amours is a journalist based in Canada. Follow her on Twitter: @jkdamours