Don Martin: Anti-Islamophobia motion triggered warped overreaction
When it comes to expressing the will of Parliament, an MP-launched motion is the lowest Commons denominator.
Sponsoring MPs are given a couple hours to generate greenhouse gases, which have no discernable impact on the House environment, which is invariably all but empty during the debate.
But this week, an innocuous-sounding response to the Quebec City mosque massacre unleashed a rare backlash which spilled beyond the Ottawa bubble to rile up real world Canadians.
A motion was put to the floor calling on all MPs to condemn Islamophobia and launch a committee discussion on stamping out racism and all religious intolerance. Gosh, motherhood meet apple pie.
But no, nothing can be that easy when Islam is up for discussion.
It didn’t seem to matter that parliamentary motions carry the weight of a legal feather.
This motion became a Trump-thumping cry of alarm and rage as pockets of intolerance and fear erupted, which included a hefty chunk of the Conservative leadership race.
Freedom of speech will be sacrificed, they screamed. Sharia law immunized from criticism; why it’s almost a green light for honor killings, they shout.
Nonsense, all of it. Fortunately saner minds prevailed in the House of Commons today.
The anti-Islamophobia condemnation wasn’t removed in the Conservative counter motion, just expanded to include all faiths which confront hate and violence. That, by the way, should’ve been in the initial wording.
Even so, the motion serves as an ominous weather vane which shows Canada is being buffeted by anti-Muslim winds from south of the border.
Those thousands of anti-motion petition signatures, hair-on-fire commentaries and rabble-rousing meetings suggest that to debate against Islamophobia is to inflame Islamophobia.
If this was a motion about any other faith, the response would’ve been muted, if not silence.
After all, a motion last November was universally praised for recognizing the special contributions of Italian Canadians. There was no demand from other ethnic backgrounds for equal recognition.
But this debate brought out the worst in Canada’s racial paranoias.
While it heads for a dusty shelf in the parliamentary archives, let’s hope the spirit of religious tolerance it actually represents carries on while the warped overreaction it triggered is written off as motion sickness.
And that’s the Last Word.