Dear Members of Parliament,
I am a retired veteran of the Royal Canadian Air Force. I have served Canada in both peace and war and consider myself honoured to have been a member of a proud tradition responsible for protecting and projecting Canadian values, rights and freedoms. I see my service in the context of a continuum of citizen soldiers that have paid, and will pay, the ultimate price in defense of the Canadian way of life. It is on behalf of these patriots that I would like to express a profound concern on motions and proposals that seek to curtail fundamental freedom of speech rights in order to address charges of rampant “Islamophobia”. So concerned have I become that I have initiated a nation-wide petition drive to inform the public, and yourselves, of the danger that such motions and proposals entail.
As originator of the petition linked to here and author of the related, detailed occasional paper that underpins it and is found here, I am in a position to review all petition signatures and related comments. These, by the way, are exploding on my petition site with thousands of signatures being registered on a daily basis. I am finding that the public-at-large is at odds with the sentiments expressed by you, your leadership and most of the national media. In general, I see three major themes being articulated that may be of interest to you and your political calculations. These are; a deep sadness and prayerful wishes for those who suffered as a result of the Quebec mosque attacks of 29 January, 2017, a belief that charges of “Islamophobia” are ill-defined and overstated and a near unanimous conviction that you are abandoning the right of individuals to speak freely in favour of appeasing an identifiable interest group. Indeed, they see this last development as a betrayal of a prized birthright.
Petition signatories have also been busy writing letters to all of you and I see many of your responses. You make the point that the attack of 29 January, 2017 is likely due to a hatred that has its genesis in loose and offensive speech aimed at those practicing a specific faith. My signatories disagree in this, however, and rightly note that no specific motivator, as of yet and fully weeks after the event, have been ascribed to the attack. More than this, many postulate that it is more likely that political correctness, and its inhibiting effect on speech, results in the penning up of emotions with knock-on, explosive repercussions. At any rate, more than one signatory noted that Prime Minister Trudeau, in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing attacks, stressed the need to resist rushes to judgment and to “look at the root causes”. It would seem that my sampling of over 15,000, and increasing, Canadians speaks to the need to better understand the motivations behind the Quebec attack before using unsubstantiated assumptions to curtail critical free speech rights.
The use of the term “Islamophobia” is of great concern to petition participants as they thought it might be serving as a “Trojan horse”. From your responses to petition letter-writers I can see how this could be the case as you inevitably call up the right of Canadians to worship their faith freely without undue disturbance or harm. Petitioners agree on this point but understand that Islam is much more than the worship of a deity as it embodies a political project, in the form of a Caliphate, wrapped tightly in an enabling legal code, the Sharia. They fear that restrictions on speech directed at the religion of Islam, which by the way is currently prohibited by in-place constitutional protections, will allow the political and legal aspects of Islam to be piggy-backed into legislative protection. This is of great concern as such protection would prohibit fair comment on aspects of Islam that are antithetical to those resident within the Canadian tradition. Certainly, any support of Motion 103 would be premature until such linkages are better understood.
Finally, petition signatories express a deep sense of being betrayed as M-103 proceedings, along with those associated with its forerunner “e-411” petition, have taken place with no public input and little media attention. They feel that the issue is being ramrodded through the parliamentary process with an end game of enabling legislation intended and well in sight. This overwhelming attitude is of great concern as it speaks to the possibility of fracturing the nation along lines of competing views on how the State and Church/ Mosque relationship should unfold. They can see how such competing views can clash and worry that difficulties demonstrated in the European context can be brought to fruition in Canada absent a full debate in the marketplace of ideas. Safe to say, there is a danger in rushing to embrace “anti-Islamophobic” measures as we stand to lose fundamental rights to free speech while gaining nothing but division and acrimony. Please consider your M-103 vote carefully.
Major (Ret’d) Russ Cooper