KAMLOOPS — Debate in Ottawa reached a fever pitch as the week drew to a close. It's bound to do that on wedge issues, as this one is, but rarely when it comes to issues that will have no measurable impact. Liberal MP Iqra Khalid has proposed motion that would see MPs recognize that Islamophobia is increasing, and would condemn racism and discrimination. That seems to most to be well-meaning and inclusive, in a way government should be in 2017.
And yet opposition MPs, influenced by fringe elements within the Conservative base, have used this relatively innocuous gesture as a stump on which to grandstand. Some of those fringe elements say this is the first step toward Sharia law, and restricting free speech. Conservative leadership candidate Kellie Leitch, of course, has even started a petition calling on Canadians to show that no particular religion should be given exceptional treatment.
This is a complete and utter overreaction that has no basis in the wording of the motion, or the reality of Canadian society. It is a motion, not a bill, meaning this will not have any impact on Canadian law. The statement is just that: a statement. It does ask the parliamentary heritage committee to examine religious and racial discrimination, but that is completely non-binding.
The motion responds to a climate that has become all too real in Canada and other Western nations. And yet, it falls well short of a sanction against free speech.
To certain elements in the Conservative base, Islam has become nothing more than a dog-whistle buzz word. Muslims aren't real people; they're an issue to be batted around like a badminton shuttlecock. Have the motion's opponents ever met a Muslim? Do they regard Muslims as human?
This motion may seek to be a statement from all MPs, but says the most about its opponents.