Members of Parliament spent most of Thursday debating racism and discrimination in Canada as the Liberals and Conservatives battled over a private member’s motion that condemns Islamophobia.

The Tories introduced their own anti-racism motion in response to Liberal MP Iqra Khalid’s motion 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.

Conservative MP David Anderson’s motion doesn’t specifically mention Islamophobia, a term the Tories say is not well-defined and could stifle freedom of speech. The House of Commons, including Conservatives, has already unanimously condemned “all forms of Islamophobia” in an NDP motion last fall, although it wasn’t a recorded vote and it’s unclear how many MPs were in the chamber.

The Conservative motion condemns all forms of systemic racism and discrimination against Muslims, Jews, Christians, Sikhs, Hindus and other religious communities, which Mr. Anderson said is more inclusive. For procedural reasons, the Conservative motion will be voted upon in the coming days, while the Liberal motion will be dealt with in April.

Heritage Minister Melanie Joly called the Tory version “weakened and watered down” and said the government would not support it.

“The Conservatives have brought this motion forward in a cynical attempt to serve their political purposes and avoid addressing the real issue concerning Islamophobia,” she told reporters even before the debate began.

In a speech in the Commons, Ms. Khalid read out some of the 50,000 hate-filled responses she said she’s received about her motion, and said she’s not backing down on the language used.

“I have asked my staff to lock the office behind me, as I now fear for their safety. I have asked them not to answer all phone calls, so they do not hear the insults, threats and unbelievable amounts of hate shouted at them and myself,” she said. “lslamophobia is real.”

Conservative MP Marilyn Gladu told the House she was also the subject of online attacks during the election campaign for being a Christian.

“My point is that hate crimes and these attacks are happening across different faiths,” she said.

She added that MPs need clarity on the definition of Islamophobia, which she said is different around the world. “If I think of myself, I am afraid that if ISIS jihadists came over, they might cut my head off and rape me. Is that Islamophobia? I do not know.”

Most Tory leadership hopefuls, including Kellie Leitch, Maxime Bernier, Andrew Scheer, Brad Trost, Chris Alexander, Kevin O’Leary and Erin O’Toole, say they disagree with the wording of Ms. Khalid’s motion. Michael Chong is the only candidate who said he will support it.

Ms. Leitch, who started a website called “Stop M-103,” told The Globe and Mail on Wednesday that many Canadians are worried their freedom of speech will be stifled.

Ms. Joly told the Commons it “boggles the mind” that “members who have put their names forward to lead political parties, would try to capitalize on fear and division for their own benefit.”

Former Liberal MP and justice minister Irwin Cotler, who put forward an anti-Semitism motion in 2015 using an agreed-upon definition, said the Liberals could change the term “Islamophobia” to anti-Muslim bigotry in order to get all sides on board.

“Has anybody spoken with them about the use of the terminology of ‘anti-Muslim bigotry,’ which amounts to the same thing but is more specific and does not have what for some is seen to be a confusing term?” he told reporters.

Ms. Khalid said Wednesday Islamophobia is “the irrational hate of Muslims that leads to discrimination.”

The NDP have signaled they would support both motions, but NDP MP Jenny Kwan told the Commons the party also wants Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to denounce U.S. President Donald Trump’s immigration ban.

Ottawa — The Globe and Mail
Published Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017 10:40AM EST
Last updated Friday, Feb. 17, 2017 5:52AM EST