What you need to know about the anti-Islamophobia motion making waves in Ottawa

Men pray at a mosque in Calgary, Alta., Sunday, June 5, 2016.
Men pray at a mosque in Calgary, Alta., Sunday, June 5, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Motion 103 has been making lots of headlines this week, with the Liberals and Conservatives repeatedly butting heads over the text, the intention behind it, and what it could mean moving forward.

The motion was tabled by a Liberal MP, Iqra Khalid, and is just one of several similar motions that have passed without much fanfare in the House.

READ MORE: Islamophobia bill: Irqa Khalid, Irwin Cotler offer conflicting takes on their conversation 

So why is this particular one so controversial? And what does it actually propose? Here’s a primer:

What is M-103?

M-103 is a motion currently before the House of Commons.

Here’s what it proposes (read the original text here):

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  • The government should recognize the need to “quell the increasing public climate of hate and fear.”
  • The government should “condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination.”
  • The Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage should look at how the government could develop an “approach to reducing or eliminating systemic racism and religious discrimination including Islamophobia” and collect data to “contextualize hate crime reports.”
  • The committee should present its findings and recommendations to Parliament within 240 days.

So basically, if the motion passes, a committee will study how to better tackle religious discrimination in Canada. That’s it.

What is M-103 NOT?

Motion 103 is not a bill, and it will never become law.

READ MORE: Conservatives supported ‘condemning all forms of Islamophobia’ in October

There is no requirement for the prime minister or his cabinet to take any action based on M-103, even if it passes and the Heritage committee issues recommendations.

The motion will not place any new legal restrictions on freedom of speech. It has no power to change Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms or any other law. Anyone who wishes to denounce Islam or Muslims publicly can still do so if this motion passes.

WATCH: “We will burn down your mosques” MP reads threats following motion

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Click to play video: '“We will burn down your mosques”: Liberal MP reads threats following anti-Islamophobia motion'
“We will burn down your mosques”: Liberal MP reads threats following anti-Islamophobia motion

Hate speech is still a crime in Canada, however. M-103 has no affect whatsoever on the Criminal Code’s provisions related to hate speech and inciting hatred, which remain in effect with or without it.

Why is it so controversial?

One word: Islamophobia. Critics of the motion point out that M-103 asks the House to “condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination” without defining what “Islamophobia” actually means.

Conservative MPs have argued that condemning “Islamophobia” without providing that context could stifle legitimate debate about controversial issues like sharia law and the niqab.

WATCH: Conservatives politicizing motion to tackle Islamophobia: Liberals

Click to play video: 'Conservatives politicizing motion to tackle Islamophobia: Liberals'
Conservatives politicizing motion to tackle Islamophobia: Liberals

In addition, by pulling one religion out of the list and mentioning it by name, then simply lumping the rest under “religious discrimination,” critics like Conservative leadership candidate Kellie Leitch have suggested that the motion is singling out  Islam for “special treatment.” (Previous motions before the House have singled out individual religions in a similar manner, for instance by asking MPs to condemn anti-Semitism.)

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It’s not just Conservatives crying foul. Even former Liberal minister Irwin Cotler has said the wording should be tweaked to ensure broad support.

The government argues that critics are playing politics with what should be an easy motion to get through the House.

Now what?

The House debated the motion on Wednesday this week. The Conservatives tried tabling a similar motion on Thursday, taking out the reference to Islamophobia, to no avail.

It could be April before the motion actually moves to a vote.

When it happens, it is expected to be a free vote, meaning each MP can vote for or against it according to their personal preference.

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