The inclusion of the phrase Islamophobia in a hotly debated motion passed by the House of Commons last year was meant as an example of forms of racism, the Liberal MP who sponsored the proposal said Monday.
Iqra Khalid told the House of Commons heritage committee that her motion calling for parliamentarians to condemn Islamophobia and for a study on systematic racism and religious discrimination was about the study itself that began Monday.
"It uses the example of Islamophobia to make a larger point about the problem of all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination — that we have to find ways to tackle that broad problem in Canada as a whole," Khalid said.
Khalid said she was motivated to introduce M-103 after hearing several stories of racist acts against different faiths in the fall of 2016. When she looked into the issue, she found the statistics to provide context to the problem were lacking and something had to be done.
"The objective of the motion was to bring forward this study, it is upon this committee as a whole to take that unified approach to study the issue, to work with each other to find those recommendations to assist us as policy makers," she said.
Khalid's motion passed in a vote of 201-91 last spring. It called on MPs to recognize something had to be down to "quell the increasing public climate of hate and fear," and to that end, the House ought to condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination and direct the heritage committee to study the issue, including how better to gather hate crime data.
The conflict around the motion centered largely around the word Islamophobia, setting off protests on Parliament Hill and arguments across the country over the meaning and implications of the phrase.
Khalid told the committee she defines it as "irrational fear or hatred of Muslims or Islam" that leads to discrimination.
But opponents say the word it is vague and essentially means criticism against Islam of any kind is forbidden, and some saw Khalid's motion as the first step in criminalizing that criticism. Conservative news outlet Rebel Media seized on that issue with gusto, forcing it into the Conservative leadership race as contenders were grilled on their positions.
The Conservatives had sought to remove the phrase and instead broaden the motion to refer to multiple faiths.
They lost over objections from the Liberals that they would be watering down Khalid's effort. Several Conservatives raised their own motion in quizzing Khalid on Monday about her intentions.
"Both of us would have liked to have found ourselves on the same side of the vote in the House on the issue," Conservative David Anderson said.
"We are sir," Khalid replied.
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May said she had never seen as much "fomented anger, concern and misconception" around a House of Commons motion as she heard around Khalid's.
She and other MPs told Khalid they'd received calls that the motion would lead to Islamic religious law, known as Sharia, being introduced in Canada or that it would give Islam a protected status in Canada greater than that of other religions.
Khalid was asked to directly address some of the specific concerns, but didn't tackle them all, saying while there were misconceptions, it was time to move forward.
"The conversation that Canadians had over the past number of months was a very important conversation," Khalid said.
"It is a great way to lead up to this study."