Stand against Islamophobia

After the murders of six men at a Quebec mosque last month, Canadians quickly rallied around our Muslim neighbours.

The voices that spoke publicly, both Muslim and non-Muslim, were measured and rational, emphasizing our values of inclusiveness and diversity.

How quickly we have forgotten what is important.

In the last few days, my colleague Iqra Khalid—the Liberal MP for Mississauga-Erin Mills—has been subjected to a flurry of baseless accusations, hateful spoken attacks and death threats because her motion 103 calls on the House of Commons to “quell the increasing public climate of hate and fear; and condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination.”

Several constituents have expressed their fear and outrage that Parliament would even consider supporting such a motion, seeing it as an affront to their right to speak out about radical Islam and, in their view, paving the way to a permanent curtailment of their rights.

Much of their fear has been fuelled by misinformation and a misunderstanding of parliamentary process.

The fact is that while reported hate crimes across the country are decreasing, the incidents of reported hate crimes against Canadian Muslims have doubled.

Khalid is a Canadian Muslim woman concerned about growing racism and discrimination in our society, especially against Canadian Muslims. 

Yet, in exercising her right to express her concerns, she has been accused of elevating one religion above all others and trying to undermine every Canadian’s right to freedom of speech.

Khalid’s motion does none of that. 

The motion is neither binding on the government nor can it change our laws or take away our rights and freedoms.

Freedom to speak out against rising discrimination is what makes Canada egalitarian.  

Over the 150 years of our history, parliamentarians have tabled motions against racism, anti-Semitism, gender bias and homophobia.  

And each time we have identified the discrimination, we have created a more cohesive and diverse society, not a more divided one.

Words do indeed have power and effect, and debate will continue about the use of the word Islamophobia in motion 103. 

While I have expressed my preference to remove it, I agree with the spirit of the motion, which is that we have a responsibility to address all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination, including anti-Muslim sentiment, in Canada.

By rejecting racism and discrimination, we are bringing this issue to the surface and acknowledging the difficulties some of our communities face. 

If we can make it work here, we will continue to be a beacon for the rest of the world.


A drug law with weight

As Parliament pauses for the holiday season, I want to share with you two important announcements made this past week that will have an impact on our community and country in 2017.

Marijuana task force reports to Parliament and Canadians

Our government has committed to legalizing, strictly regulating and restricting access to cannabis, to help keep it out of the hands of youth and keep profits out of the hands of criminals.

In June, our government established a task force to consult on issues fundamental to the design of a new legislative and regulatory system for restricted access to marijuana.

At the same time, a discussion paper, which included background information and key questions, was provided as a starting point for consultations.

The task force, which was led by Anne McLellan, chancellor of Dalhousie University and former Liberal cabinet minister, travelled across Canada, and to the U.S states where cannabis was legalized.

They met with provincial, territorial and municipal governments and experts in relevant fields, including public health, substance abuse, criminal justice, law enforcement, economics, industry and those with expertise in production, distribution, and sales.

The task force also engaged representatives from Indigenous governments and organizations, as well as Canadian youth.

As of Dec. 13, the task force’s final report has been completed and submitted to our government, and been made available to the public and all parliamentarians at the same time.

The final report is available online in both official languages at http://healthycanadians.gc.ca/task-force-marijuana-groupe-etude/framework-cadre/index-eng.php.

The government will carefully consider the task force’s advice as it develops legislation to be introduced in Parliament in the spring of 2017.

The new legislation would come into force after being passed by Parliament and once the requisite regulations have been developed.

As we move forward with legislation, we will continue to work closely and collaboratively with the provinces and territories as well as with Indigenous communities, our partners and stakeholders. 

I encourage constituents who have an interest in this issue to review the report and share your thoughts with me.

Safe consumption sites

Health Minister Jane Philpott announced the Canadian Drugs and Substances Strategy, which will replace the national anti-drug strategy with a more balanced approach.

A record number of Canadians have died from drug overdoses this year, including those involving fentanyl.

Building on actions taken earlier this year, our government is updating its drug strategy to provide for a comprehensive approach that will reduce the harm being experienced by individuals and communities.

The bill would repeal the previous, burdensome legislative regime for establishing supervised consumption sites by streamlining the application process.

It restores harm reduction as a core pillar of Canada’s drug policy, alongside prevention, treatment, and enforcement and supports all pillars with a strong evidence base.

The legislation also proposes to prohibit the unregistered import of pill presses, and remove the exception currently placed on border officers to only inspect mail weighing more than 30 grams.

The new legislation would allow officers to open international mail of any weight if they suspect the item might contain prohibited, controlled or regulated goods.

The opioid crisis has taken a toll on many communities across Canada. Our renewed, evidence-based approach to Canada's drug strategy will allow the government to better protect Canadians, save lives, and address the root causes of this crisis.

For those looking for more information please go to: http://www.healthycanadians.gc.ca.

I want to wish everyone a safe and peaceful Merry Christmas and holiday season. May you all find time to be with those you love and take time to rest from your busy lives.  

I look forward to serving you in the New Year.

We will remember them

We remembered our veterans Friday — as we should all year not just Nov. 11 — but today, I want to share a letter Geoff Regan, Speaker of the House of Commons, wrote to MPs about the history of the Memorial Chamber in the Peace Tower.  

Speaker Regan wrote: 

"On the morning of Nov. 3 when the original Centre Block was destroyed in the fire of 1916, Canada was in the midst of the First World War. 

"Construction of the new Centre Block began almost immediately, and its architect John A. Pearson designed it to be a call to parliamentarians to remember that, in a time of war, they had been chosen to represent Canadians, and that they were duty-bound to live up to that honour.

"Four years later, the House of Commons would meet again on Parliament Hill, in a building still not completely finished, and by the end of the war, a plan was put in place for the construction of the Peace Tower, dedicated to the fallen of the First World War. 

"At its heart, the Peace Tower houses the Memorial Chamber, a space of remembrance and reverence that pays tribute to the sacrifices of Canadians, the cost of peace and a legacy of hope.

"It is unlike any other space in Centre Block, as the stone used for its floor and walls comes directly from Belgium and France. The stone for the altar upon which the First World War Book of Remembrance is displayed comes as a gift from Great Britain. 

"In the Books of Remembrance are set down the names of all those that we have lost. Their pages are turned every morning at eleven o'clock in a solemn ceremony, which allows for each page in each Book to appear at least once in the course of the year.”

As a veteran, it is a deeply moving experience to visit the Memorial Chamber to reflect, remember and to honour those who never returned.   

The seven Books of Remembrance commemorate the lives of more than 118,000 Canadians who, since Confederation, have made the ultimate sacrifice while serving our country in uniform.

For those unable to travel to Ottawa, the names inscribed in the Books of Remembrance can also be found in the Canadian Virtual War Memorial at www.veterans.gc.ca and family members are welcome to contribute digital files that will help tell the story of each of the deceased.

The passing of remembrance to younger generations is a sign of “keeping the faith with all who died.”

Whether we pin a red poppy to our lapels, or light a candle for a Canadian soldier, our acts of remembrance and our commitment to remember is our ongoing tribute. 

On Nov. 11, I hope you remembered the 1.5 million brave Canadians who served and continue to serve our country at home and abroad and the more than 118,000 men and women who died so that we may live in peace and freedom.

They were young, as we are young,

They served, giving freely of themselves.

To them, we pledge, amid the winds of time,

To carry their torch and never forget.

We will remember them.

Stephen Fuhr is the member of Parliament for Kelowna-Lake Country.

Anti-cruelty laws need bite

I've received many e-mails recently from constituents who want me to support Bill C-246.

The private member’s bill tabled by Nathaniel Erskine-Smith seeks to modernize Canada’s animal-cruelty laws.

Despite recognizing its good intentions, our federal cannot support this bill due to a number of concerns, which I will outline. Caucus members however are free to vote as they see fit.

By the time you read this column, I will have voted for C-246 to send it to committee for review.  Even if it does not pass, the opportunity to examine the bill’s objectives will inform the debate about the best way forward on tougher animal cruelty laws.

As in previous attempts in Parliament to strengthen the law, legitimate concerns remain that such changes to the Criminal Code could negatively impact legitimate animal uses, such as animal husbandry, hunting or fishing.  

For instance, a new offence of “brutally or viciously killing an animal” could capture normal hunting or fishing activities, or animal food industry practice.

The creation of a new part in the Criminal Code for animal cruelty offences could also compromise property rights associated with animals. 

Other measures contained in the bill, such as shark-finning, are already prohibited.

In this regard, the government, through Justice Minister Judy Wilson-Raybould, believes that such a large-scale change to the Criminal Code warrants a broader consultation with affected Canadians.

Tougher laws regarding animal cruelty are a necessity, but in order for such legislation to pass it will be imperative that lawful hunting, fishing and gaming activities are explicitly protected and that broad terms like negligence are clearly defined.

By consulting with affected Canadians, and by striking the right balance between the protection of animals and activities that legitimately support local and regional economies, we will be able to modernize our animal cruelty laws and establish an effective animal protection regime.

Pipelines and pricing carbon pollution

From the beginning, our government has recognized a need to balance the economy with our climate-change obligations. 

British Columbia is already doing its part by recognizing the economic potential of LNG and tackling carbon emissions by setting a price on carbon pollution, the revenues of which are being returned back to our citizens.

With the federal government’s decision to approve the Pacific Northwest LNG project and its proposal to work with the provinces and territories to set a Canadian price on carbon pollution, more Canadians are set to realize the same economic and environmental dividends as British Columbians.

The days of pitting the economy against the environment are over. 

The government’s proposal for a pan-Canadian approach to pricing carbon pollution sets a benchmark that will help Canada meet its greenhouse gas emission targets, while providing greater certainty to Canadian businesses.

It is also part of a broader strategy to be energy smart through innovative technologies and practices.  

That includes:

  • how we build our towns, cities and transportation corridors
  • how we give back to consumers, support workers and their families
  • working with indigenous communities and helping the vulnerable – including those in the North
  • supporting businesses that innovate and create good jobs for the middle class.

Together, these announcements support our government’s promise to Canadians to create a clean-growth economy necessary for our collective health and prosperity now and in the future.

More MP Report articles

About the Author

Stephen Fuhr was born in Edmonton, AB and grew up in Kamloops, BC. He is a former CF-18 fighter pilot with the Canadian Air Force.

After serving with distinction for 20 years, Stephen retired from the Canadian Forces in 2009 with the rank of Major. He joined his family’s Kelowna-based company, SkyTrac Systems, which develops aviation communication and tracking equipment. As CEO and Director of Business Development, he led the company to financial success in a challenging economic climate.

In 2012, Stephen left the company to pursue his first love of flying.

With growing interest in politics and a desire to serve his country again, Stephen ran for office in the 2015 election.

Today, he proudly serves as the Member of Parliament for the Kelowna-Lake Country riding. 

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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