Parliamentary Motion M-103 Incites ‘Freedom of Speech’ Protest and an ‘Anti-Racism’ Counter-Protest in Calgary

alphabet-word-images-1294992_1280

On February 15, 2017 Iqra Khalid put forth a Parliamentary motion (M-103) that is non-binding and states:

“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…”

The language used in M-103 has been criticized. The term ‘Islamophobia’ is ill-defined and could cause different interest groups to impose their own definitions on the word, beyond the mainstream definition: “anti-Muslim Hatred.”  M-103 has also been critiqued for using the term “systemic racism.” Considering racism systemically blames our societal structures for generating and perpetuating racism in our society, implying that great societal change must be taken in order to combat it. In part from this unclear language, M-103 has been interpreted in different ways and caused protests occurring in Calgary, and across Canada.

For example, two protests filled the space outside Calgary City Hall last weekend—one protest that championed ‘free speech’ and a counter-protest that espoused ‘anti-racism.’ The man who led the protest for freedom of speech named, Stephen Garvey, explained that in his view M-103, “has the potential to infringe on the free speech rights of every Canadian.” Although, it is unclear how M-103 could infringe on freedom of speech (more so than it already is infringed by pre-existing laws) it is notable that many people across Canada have similarly interpreted M-103 and have also protested it.

Rob Breakenridge, for the Calgary Herald explains that the Criminal Code (in section 296) already contains a blasphemy law that infringes on freedom of speech in the exact way that protestors are worried that M-103 would, if it were a law.

Moreover, it is important to remember that M-103 is a non-binding Parliamentary motion, and not a law. The language used to write the motion is politically loaded and could have been constructed to be more specific, in order to avoid this fear and lack of clarity. But, perhaps it did succeed in highlighting that these two “opposing” camps need not be opposed– because free speech and anti-racism can be goals progressed alongside each other.