Parliament Video: Jenny in the House: In support of M-103

On March 21, 2017, Jenny rose to support M-103:

Jenny Kwan (NDP) Vancouver East, BC

"Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to speak in support of Motion No. 103.

To start my debate, I want to be clear about what the motion says.

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should: (a) recognize the need to quell the increasing public climate of hate and fear; (b) condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination and take note of House of Commons' petition e-411 and the issues raised by it; and (c) request that the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage undertake a study on how the government could (i) develop a whole-of-government approach to reducing or eliminating systemic racism and religious discrimination including Islamophobia, in Canada, while ensuring a community-centered focus with a holistic response through evidence-based policy-making, (ii) collect data to contextualize hate crime reports and to conduct needs assessments for impacted communities, and that the Committee should present its findings and recommendations to the House no later than 240 calendar days from the adoption of this motion, provided that in its report, the Committee should make recommendations that the government may use to better reflect the enshrined rights and freedoms in the Constitution Acts, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Since the introduction of the motion in the House, it is most unfortunate that Motion No. 103 has become controversial due to some intentionally misleading online campaigns. However, instead of our doing what is needed, I was left even more disappointed and dismayed that the division and hate that fuels these misleading campaigns was brought right into this chamber with the politicking that took place between the Liberals and the Conservatives.

I was even approached by a minister who suggested that Motion No. 103 would be nullified, because the Conservatives had decided to put up a similar opposition day motion, when in fact, the information provided to the NDP by the clerk's office indicated otherwise. Frankly, that kind of fearmongering and political gamesmanship served only to feed into the increasingly polarized climate surrounding this conversation instead of setting the example that is so desperately needed. To some, it may feel as though they scored a cheap political point. However, let us be clear. In the long run, it is all of us who want to stamp out discrimination driven by fear and division who will lose.

It is my hope that we can turn the page today and call on both the Liberal and Conservative members to set aside their partisan politics and unite with one voice on this motion. To begin, we have a duty and responsibility as members of Parliament to stand up and challenge the misinformation being spread around Motion No. 103 and to correct the record.

Unlike what is claimed in the misinformation campaigns, Motion No. 103 would in no way suppress any rights of Canadians. The motion would in no way favour one group over another or provide some additional benefit to one while taking away from another. It states quite clearly in the motion that the government should “condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination”. The suggestion that the motion would somehow exclude other forms of discrimination is simply false.

As well, the fear that the motion would somehow restrict people's freedom of speech is also unfounded. Nowhere does it state in the motion that people could not inquire or have opinions about the Islamic faith. In fact, on the contrary, it has been my experience that those who practise the Islamic faith are very open and welcoming to those who do not practise, know, or understand their faith. I, for one, know very little about the Islamic faith. In my capacity as the NDP critic for immigration, refugees, and citizenship, I have had the privilege of being invited by many people who practise the Islamic faith to attend events at mosques as a means to learn and understand their religious teachings and culture. They are open, and they welcome questions. They even welcome criticism. They patiently answered all my inquiries. They were more than welcoming.

It is my strongest belief that through such interactions, we, as members of our community, are building bridges between communities. We are actively practising the promotion of cross-cultural understanding. We are fully embracing and respecting our differences, and in that process, we are breaking down walls of fear and walls of division.

I have no doubt that I am not the only one who has experienced this. I know that many of my colleagues have had similar exchanges. It is my hope that we let such an example be the guiding force, our compass, as we build to strengthen our bond between communities. If we witness the opposite, such as the horrific mosque attack that occurred in Quebec City, then we as parliamentarians from all sides of the House must unite to condemn such despicable actions. I am proud that we did exactly that. There is no question that we have a duty as members of Parliament to set an example and speak out against all forms of discrimination and hate wherever we see it.

If we are to hold true to those principles, then we must be consistent with our efforts. That is to say, we need to call out discrimination wherever we see it, at home and abroad.

Just today, it was reported in the news that a pan-American commission will hold an emergency hearing in Washington to investigate the impact of Trump's executive orders on human rights in the country. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights was requested by advocacy groups in both Canada and the U.S. to review “ongoing and deteriorating” conditions faced by asylum seekers and other migrants under the Trump administration. They are asking the commission to make findings that Trump's travel ban against six Muslim majority countries and his expansion of detention and deportation against migrants violates U.S. human rights obligations.

To quote Efrat Arbel, a UBC law professor who co-authored, with the Harvard immigration and refugee clinical program, a report on Trump's executive orders, “The expedited removals and expansion of detention under the orders are going to have profound implications on the U.S. asylum system”.

As we witness President Trump, our neighbour, our closest ally, fan fear and hate against members of the Muslim community with his executive orders and immigration policies, how is it somehow acceptable that our Prime Minister and Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship have chosen to be willfully blind to this blatant act of discrimination and do nothing about it? This is so distressing to me. In fact, not only is the Canadian government silent about Trump's discriminatory policies, but the minister of immigration would go as far as to say that nothing has changed. This of course is blatantly false, and everyone knows it. I dare say, perhaps even the minister knows it. The question is this. Will he summon enough courage to speak up and speak out against Trump's racist policies? So far he has not.

Perhaps the minister could meet some of the young people whom I recently encountered at a rally at the Peace Arch crossing. It was a rally against Trump's racist executive orders. In the crowd, a young person held a sign that said “If you build a wall, my generation will knock it down”. Another sign said “Make racism wrong again”. I was so encouraged to see the young people's activism. Their strong and direct message is what gives me hope that our collective future is possible.

Bringing their voices and concerns to the House of Commons is a true privilege, one that I take very seriously. New Democrats will stand proudly with these young people to combat the politics of hate and division. The NDP is in favour of any motion that aims to address and combat discrimination, and we will not wallow in political games on these critical issues, especially in the face of rising hate crimes against the Muslim community.

It is the opinion of the NDP and me that this motion and the work to be undertaken by a committee is entirely appropriate and should be welcomed by all parliamentarians. Therefore, the NDP has no hesitation in supporting the motion. As elected officials and representatives of our communities in the House of Commons, I firmly believe that we have a duty to stand up together against lslamophobia, racism, and discrimination in all forms. Let us get together and do this right. On this very day, where we honour an international day against racism, let us all support the motion."

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