TORONTO – Ontario’s Progressive Conservative Leader will support an anti-Islamophobia motion from a Liberal member and is encouraging his caucus to do the same.
Patrick Brown’s support means the Ontario motion is unlikely to garner the kind of political debate seen over a similar motion in the House of Commons.
The federal motion is opposed by a number of Conservative MPs, including several leadership contenders, who say it could stifle legitimate debate about issues like Shariah law and the niqab.
The Ontario motion, from Liberal backbencher Nathalie Des Rosiers, is to be debated Thursday.
It calls on the legislature to “stand against all forms of hatred, hostility, prejudice, racism and intolerance; rebuke the notable growing tide of anti-Muslim rhetoric and sentiments; denounce hate-attacks, threats of violence and hate crimes against people of the Muslim faith (and) condemn all forms of Islamophobia.”
Des Rosiers’ motion was introduced Dec. 1 in response to crimes directed toward the Muslim community, but she asked the government house leader to move the motion’s debate slot to the earliest opportunity.
“The debate on the federal motion has uprooted a number of troubling comments from the Conservative Party of Canada, which seem designed to divide and detract from the purpose of fighting discrimination,” she wrote in a letter asking all politicians at the legislature to support it.
“It was important, I think, to raise the profile of this issue and make sure that we stand against discrimination – all types of discrimination, but particularly discrimination that affects this particular group at this point,” Des Rosiers said Tuesday.
Brown wouldn’t weigh in on the federal debate, but said he believes support for the bill is “pretty universal” within his caucus.
“Whether it’s hate against any faith, it’s wrong,” he said. “We always will condemn any form of hate. In terms of Islamophobia, it’s real.”
The federal motion was to be put to a vote Tuesday.
Conservative MPs have argued that the Liberal motion singles out one religious group over others and could potentially curtail freedom of speech because it doesn’t define the term Islamophobia.
But a Canadian Muslim leader says they are stoking a wave of anti-Muslim sentiment by raising unfounded fears. Samer Majzoub, president of the Canadian Muslim Forum, says Muslim Canadians are increasingly suffering prejudice and acts of hatred, including a deadly shooting at a Quebec mosque last month that left six worshippers dead.