Now that the federal gun registry is no more, Canada is suffering from a large, gaping registry deficit. But be of good cheer, because salvation is at hand! The Senate committee on national security and defence, deftly leaping into the vacuum, has a plan to make Canada a safer place. It is calling for the creation of a Muslim imam registry.
The committee's majority, all of them Conservatives, think it's time to get the state in the business of deciding who is allowed to preach and teach which religion, and implicitly what they get to say while preaching and teaching. But just for Muslims.
In true Canadian fashion, the senators want The Department of Imam Approval and Oversight, or whatever a future body doing this important work might be called, to be a joint federal-provincial partnership. The idea is to "investigate the options that are available for the training and certification of imams in Canada." The timing of the senators' report, during the holy month of Ramadan, is particularly ideal.
More sweepingly, the committee recommends a protocol with CSIS "to require mandatory screening of citizens involved in public outreach." On the other hand, Canadians "who are participating in the public discourse" should be "protected from vexatious litigation" – presumably, libel and slander actions by Muslims.
The certification of acceptable, or at least tolerable, Muslim religious teachers would presumably be accompanied by permits. Would clerics have to wear a cresent symbol on their lapel? Would police be empowered to demand a permit from anyone who appeared to be wearing certain types of headgear – defined of course by regulation?
Earlier this year, in Shawinigan, Que., in the same patriotic spirit as the Senate committee's report, local authorities denied a minor zoning variance, to prevent Muslims from building a mosque in an industrial park. François Legault, Leader of the opposition Coalition Avenir Québec, called for the regulation of mosques in the province, with municipalities empowered to deny operating permits to mosques whose imams have engaged in "consistent denigration of Quebec values," whatever that means. And now a group of federal Senators in Ottawa are picking up on the idea. Shame.