Arif Virani

Your member of parliament for

Parkdale-High Park

Arif Virani

Your member of parliament for

Parkdale-High Park


Statement on Motion-103 and Islamophobia

Thank you to everyone who has reached out to my office via phone, email and social media to express your views about Motion 103. Since my Liberal colleague Iqra Khalid – a fellow Muslim Canadian and the Member of Parliament for Mississauga—Erin Mills – introduced this motion in the House of Commons, there has been an unfortunate spread of misinformation and fear about Motion 103.

I personally feel very strongly about the issues this Motion seeks to address. I am proud to support Motion 103, and I strongly reject the Conservative Party’s efforts to remove the word “Islamophobia” from the Motion.

This Motion calls on Parliament to recognize the climate of hate and fear we are now witnessing, work to address all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination, and condemn Islamophobia.

In the wake of the horrific terror attack on the mosque in Quebec where six Muslim Canadian men were slaughtered while worshiping, it is undeniable that we need to address the rise in hatred we are observing.  In order to overcome this type of anti-Muslim discrimination we must call it out by name: Islamophobia. This is why I reject the Conservative Party’s suggestion to modify the language of Motion 103, language that was clear to the Opposition on October 26, 2016, when the Conservatives consented to a similar motion using the exact same term, Islamophobia.

Second, there is precedent in Parliament for passing motions that reference particular religions when they have been targeted.  In recent years the House of Commons has passed motions singling out people of Jewish faith (in 2015), Yazidis (in 2016) and Egyptian Coptic Christians (in 2011).

Third, there is nothing in Motion 103 which would limit Canadians constitutionally protected right to free speech.  The motion targets hatred and abuse, not legitimate and respectful questions about a religion or faith.  The text of the motion, which I’ve included below for your reference, simply calls for a committee study of systemic racism, religious discrimination and Islamophobia — a Parliamentary study fosters discussion, it does not limit speech.

As a former Constitutional Litigator, I understand how important it is to protect our rights, as enshrined  in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I fought to defend those rights during my 14-year legal career and I will continue to do so vigilantly as your Member of Parliament.

But I also understand that people should not have to feel targeted, unsafe or fearful for their lives simply because they choose to practice a particular faith. Our Charter protects not only freedom of speech, it also protects freedom of religion and the right to be free from discrimination.

The rising tide of discrimination we are witnessing is precisely what Motion 103 seeks to address. I know many of you in Parkdale-High Park share my concerns — the Town Hall I held on the rise of racism and extremism was well-attended and residents spoke with one voice about the pressing need for governments at every level to take action; to defend the values of tolerance, inclusion and diversity we all hold dear.  In my new role as Parliamentary Secretary for Multiculturalism to the Minister of Canadian Heritage, and as your MP for Parkdale-High Park, I am committed to do just that.

I spoke in favour of Motion 103 in the House of Commons on Wednesday February 15th and you can view my speech here.  The next day, when the Conservative Party argued against using the word Islamophobia, I vigorously challenged their position and addressed the spread of misinformation and myths about Motion 103.  Below are excerpts from my interventions in the House on that day.

I am committed, as your elected representative, to hear from you on how together we can ensure that our shared values of tolerance, inclusion and diversity can triumph over bigotry, hatred and discrimination. I have spent my entire adult life defending these values, and I will continue to do so with your input and support.  Motion 103 is a critical step in the right direction.

Yours truly,

Arif Virani
Member of Parliament for Parkdale–High Park
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Heritage (Multiculturalism)


Text of Motion 103:

Systemic racism and religious discrimination: That, in the opinion of the House, the government should: (a) recognize the need to quell the increasing public climate of hate an… 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.

House of Commons Interventions:

February 17, 10:19 a.m.

“Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Cypress Hills—Grasslands for commencing this debate today. It is an important one.

As he knows very well, as he participated in the debate yesterday on Motion No. 103, the only significant and salient difference between the motion of the member for Mississauga—Erin Mills and today’s motion is the term “Islamophobia”. We on this side of the House believe it is fundamentally important to name Islamophobia for what it is.

I want to read something to the member and ask him a question.

Some have suggested Motion 103 signals out Canadian Muslims for special treatment. This is not true. The House of Commons has long had a tradition of passing motions denouncing discrimination and hatred against particular groups, especially religious minorities. For example, in recent years the House of Commons has adopted similar motions regarding Jews (February 22, 2015), Yazidis (October 25, 2016) and Egyptian Coptic Christians (October 17, 2011).

That is a statement from the member for Wellington—Halton Hills. I want to ask my friend opposite about those comments, whether he agrees with the statement by the member for Wellington—Halton Hills, and why Islamophobia is not contained in today’s motion.”

11:29 a.m.

“Mr. Speaker, when we see the more than doubling of hate crimes against Muslims in this country over the past three-year period and when we see a climate of hatred in this country which has now culminated in the massacre of six men in a mosque simply because they were worshipping, I have one simple question for the member opposite, whom I respect a great deal. Is it not incumbent upon this Parliament now in the context of this motion we are debating today to call out that discrimination by the name Islamophobia?”

1:51 p.m.

“Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for her comments and her passion on this issue.

I will confess that we on this side of the House find it a bit confusing that the term, “Islamophobia” can have such extensive semantic debate in this chamber and cause such confusion to our friends opposite when our friends opposite themselves consented unanimously to a motion that reads:

That this House join the more than 69,742 Canadian supporters of the House of Commons e-petition (e-411) in condemning all forms of Islamophobia.

The term was clear to the Conservatives on October 26 last year. Why is it no longer clear now?”

3:37 p.m.

“Mr. Speaker, I want to ask my colleague a bit about something that exists in both the opposition motion and in Motion No. 103, which is the climate of hate and fear. Could he comment on policies that we have seen in the past: two-tiered citizenship, barbaric cultural practices hotlines, niqab bans? Could the member comment even on the rally yesterday, where further fear and disinformation were spread in Toronto and which two members of the Conservative Party leadership race attended, and how that fuels the climate of fear and hatred that we are trying to address with these motions?”

4:03 p.m.

“Mr. Speaker, we have heard a lot of debate today about the term “Islamophobia”, and, obviously, that is the significant difference between the motion debated yesterday, Motion No. 103, and today’s opposition day motion. For a person like me on this side of the House, I do not think Islamophobia is difficult to grasp. It is not respectful of questions or criticisms of a faith, it is hatred and abuse that targets somebody because of one’s faith.

My question to the member opposite is as follows. If six women had died on January 29, I think we would all call that event misogyny. If six Jews had died in a synagogue on January 29, we would all clearly have called that anti-Semitism. When six Muslims die in a place of worship because they are worshipping, we believe that should be called Islamophobia. I would like to hear the member’s comments as to why his opposition motion does not include that term.”