Opposing protestors clashed outside Regina’s city hall on Saturday over an anti-Islamophobia motion.
Protesters on one side, largely organized by the Canadian Coalition of Concerned Citizens, are demanding an end to M-103, which calls for the Canadian government to condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination. They say they are worried the motion will limit free speech.
“It’s important for every religion, everybody to be able to express freedom of speech,” Canadian Coalition of Concerned Citizens supporter Robert Johnsen said.
A counter-protest was organized in response to those concerned about M-103, citing worries about the increase in violence against the Canadian Muslim community.
“We’re worried that this rally represents the tip of that iceberg in Regina, that there’s anti-Muslim sentiment in the city that’s feeling emboldened by the current political climate and testing that by having a first rally,” counter-protester Simon Granovsky-Larsen said.
“We found it really important to come out in large numbers to give a counter message that we support Muslim people,” he said.
“It sure warms the cockles of my heart to see so many people coming out and saying, ‘hey, we stand for you. We will protect you, and we want to make sure you understand we are for you and for peace and justice and fairness for everyone,’” counter-protester Zarqa Nawaz said.
Dozens of people advocating for the Muslim community outnumbered a handful of protesters worried about losing free speech. They circled around the smaller group and some heated arguments erupted.
M-103 isn’t a bill, so it won’t become a law. If it passes in April, a committee will study how to tackle religious discrimination in Canada. It won’t place any new restrictions on freedom of speech.
But many are still worried.
“I’m here to support women’s rights in Canada. And not just women’s rights, anybody who doesn’t want sharia law controlling their lives,” protester Laurie Donovan said.
“We’re not trying to impose sharia law … we’re peaceful, you know, we pay our taxes, we pay our mortgages, we go to work and we’re neighbours side by side,” Nawaz said.