Letter to the editor from Stephen Fuhr

Fuhr: How quickly we have forgotten

Fear has been fuelled by misinformation and a misunderstanding of parliamentary process

To the editor:

After the murders of six Canadians at the Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec on Jan. 29, 2017, Canadians quickly rallied around our Muslim communities.

The voices that spoke publicly, both Muslim and non-Muslim, were measured and rational emphasizing our values of inclusiveness and diversity.

How quickly we have forgotten what is important.

In the last few days, my colleague Iqra Khalid has been subjected to a flurry of baseless accusations, hateful verbal attacks and death threats because her private members’ motion 103 calls on the House of Commons to “quell the increasing public climate of hate and fear; and condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination.”

A number of constituents have expressed their fear and outrage that Parliament would even consider supporting such a motion, seeing it as an affront to their right to speak out about radical Islam and in their view, paving the way to a permanent curtailment of their rights.

Much of their fear has been fuelled by misinformation and a misunderstanding of parliamentary process.

The fact is that while reported hate crimes across the country are decreasing, the incidents of reported hate crimes against Canadian Muslims have doubled.

Iqra Khalid, the Member of Parliament for Mississauga — Erin Mills, Ontario is a Canadian Muslim woman concerned about growing racism and discrimination in our society, especially against Canadian Muslims. Yet, in exercising her right to express her concerns, she has been accused of elevating one religion above all others and trying to undermine every Canadian’s right to freedom of speech.

Ms. Khalid’s motion does none of that. The motion is neither binding on the government nor can it change our laws or take away our rights and freedoms.

Freedom to speak out against rising discrimination is what makes Canada egalitarian. Over the 150 years of our history, parliamentarians have tabled motions against racism, anti-Semitism, gender bias, and homophobia. And each time we have identified the discrimination, we have created a more cohesive and diverse society, not a more divided one.

Words do indeed have power and effect, and debate will continue about the use of the word Islamophobia in Motion 103. While I have expressed my preference to remove it, I agree with the spirit of the motion, which is that we have a responsibility to address all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination, including anti-Muslim sentiment, in Canada.

By rejecting racism and discrimination we are bringing this issue to the surface and acknowledging the difficulties some of our communities face. If we can make it work here, we will continue to be a beacon for the rest of the world.

Stephen Fuhr, MP Kelowna-Lake Country

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