There are several problems with the House of Commons private members’ motion 103 on “systemic racism and religious discrimination.” It is based on the assertion that there is a “need to quell” an “increasing public climate of hate and fear” and, implicitly, that the Parliament of Canada has the ability to “quell” it. I believe all of these premises are mistaken. I don’t believe that any such climate as the MP who presented the motion, Iqra Khalid (Liberal, Mississauga-Erin Mills) believes, exists. One of the greatest sociological changes in this country in my now rather lengthy recollection is the very pronounced reduction in racial, sectarian, philosophical, gender, and sex-orientation prejudice. Vast numbers of immigrants from all over the world have generally been very whole-heartedly received in Canada and their collective contribution to the maturation and enrichment of the country is almost universally acknowledged. I know of no other country, except possibly Australia, that has accepted such comparatively large numbers of people from the most varied countries of origin so equably.
There is some fear generated by racial violence and several murders in Canada in recent years involving Muslims, as perpetrators or victims. But it is not an irrational fear, and doesn’t afflict the whole system, if the system referred to is more broadly based than small and furtive groups of organized bigots. Nor is it clear to me that Parliament has any ability or right to affect whatever level of fear and hate may exist. Ms. Khalid proposes that this objective be tackled by condemning “Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination … (by taking) note of House of Commons petition e-411,” and by requesting a study from the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage. The principal religious discrimination in Canada is that the almost universal official attitude of atheism effectively considers any reference to God as discriminatory against non-believers and a violation of the absurdly over-worked desire for separation of church and state. That separation is generally considered to be violated by any reference to the existence of religious belief, apart from charitable platitudes. Indeed Islam is almost the only religion in Canada that is not the subject of at least tepid official disdain.