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Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly (left) and Liberal MP Iqra Khalid announce M-103 on Parliament Hill on Feb. 15. (PATRICK DOYLE/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly (left) and Liberal MP Iqra Khalid announce M-103 on Parliament Hill on Feb. 15. (PATRICK DOYLE/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Liberals vote down Conservative anti-racism motion Add to ...

The federal Liberals have defeated a Conservative anti-racism motion so they can pass their own version, which condemns Islamophobia.

Conservative MP David Anderson’s motion to condemn “all forms of systemic racism, religious intolerance, and discrimination” failed in a vote of 165-126 in the House of Commons, after Liberal MPs, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, voted against it.

The Tories introduced their own anti-racism motion in response to Liberal MP Iqra Khalid’s M-103, which calls on the government to “condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination” and to study the issue at the heritage committee and make recommendations. For procedural reasons, the Liberal motion will not be voted on until April.

Read more: Muslim leaders urge governments to fight Islamophobia after mosque attack

Konrad Yakabuski: Quebec can’t keep politics out of the identity debate

Campbell Clark: Conservative MPs are afraid of Motion 103, and things it can’t do

Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly said Tuesday that hate crimes against Muslims have more than doubled since 2012 and reiterated the government’s support for Ms. Khalid’s motion.

“The term Islamophobia is extremely important as it is discrimination against the Muslim community,” Ms. Joly told reporters after the vote.

The Conservatives have expressed concerns that Islamophobia is not defined in Ms. Khalid’s motion and said it could stifle freedom of speech, including criticisms of Islam. They also say it’s more inclusive to treat all religions equally, despite the fact that the House of Commons already unanimously condemned “all forms of Islamophobia” in an NDP motion last fall, although it wasn’t a recorded vote.

Mr. Anderson’s motion, which mirrors in large part that of the Liberals, condemns “all forms of systemic racism, religious intolerance, and discrimination of Muslims, Jews, Christians, Sikhs, Hindus, and other religious communities,” but does not specifically mention Islamophobia.

It also states that “Canadian society is not immune to the climate of hate and fear exemplified by the recent and senseless violent acts at a Quebec City mosque,” referring to last month’s deadly attack on a Quebec City mosque that left six men dead.

Liberal MP Frank Baylis, who introduced an e-petition last year on which Ms. Khalid’s motion is based, said if the Conservative version passed, the Liberal one would be considered moot. Both motions make similar recommendations, including that the heritage committee study the issue and develop a “whole-of-government” approach to reducing or eliminating discrimination, collect data to contextualize hate-crime reports and report back to the Commons within eight months.

The NDP, Bloc Québécois and the Green Party’s Elizabeth May supported the Conservative motion, although the New Democrats and Ms. May say they’ll also support the Liberal one. Of the nine sitting Conservative MPs running for leader, only Michael Chong has said he will support M-103.

Representatives from the Canadian Muslim Forum, a non-profit organization established in 1993 to represent the Muslim community on public policy issues, urged parliamentarians to pass the Liberal version of the motion, calling it “very courageous.”

“We are a community under siege,” said Samer Majzoub, the forum’s president.

He said the Conservatives’ reaction has, directly or indirectly, “created waves of Islamophobia all over the country.”

“This motion, unfortunately … came as trying to delegitimize the M-103, and trying really to degrade this motion,” Mr. Majzoub told reporters Tuesday before the vote.

Conservative MP Gérard Deltell said he disagrees with the characterization that the Conservative motion would have delegitimized M-103.

But, he said, “We respect their liberty of speaking, and we respect also the liberty of religion. This is what our motion was all about. And unfortunately, the Liberals decided to vote against.”

On Thursday, the Ontario legislature will vote on Liberal MPP Nathalie Des Rosiers’s motion, which denounces attacks, threats of violence and hate crimes against Muslims and condemns “all forms of Islamophobia.”

Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown’s office said he will vote in favour of the motion and has instructed his caucus to do the same.

With a report from Les Perreaux

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