5 Things About Canada’s Motion M-103

How should we be thinking about M-103?

Here in Canada, the private member’s motion by Liberal backbencher Iqra Khalid has been causing some consternation. As with most things political and legal, the result has been a great deal of misunderstanding about what is actually said, and where the arguments really lie in the debate over the motion. Unfortunately, this has become a bit of a political Rorschach test (with people seeing their own political boogeymen in the issue regardless of the facts), meaning that fair-minded people can get easily confused as to the issues. So here are some points that we Christians should be considering when thinking and discussing this topic.

1) This is a motion, not a bill. There is a very big difference in parliamentary procedure between a bill (which if passed becomes law), and a motion of Parliament (which if passed can only change the rules in parliament at most, and usually simply records the will of parliament). You can see this in the text of the motion, which instructs a Parliamentary committee to do research on a defined set of terms. You can check out this short backgrounder for more information.

2) Religious Discrimination really is a problem. It’s hard to argue that there aren’t people who have hatreds of Muslims in Canada (even evidenced in the pushback the member bringing the motion has faced). In at least one (possibly deranged) case, it has led to violence. As people who are in favour of religious tolerance (i.e. religious people being allowed to be openly religious in our society), Christians generally should be ready to oppose unjustified religious discrimination, whether it is focussed on us as Christians, or on any other religious group. In this way, the motion makes some good statements about dealing with religious discrimination.

3) There really is racism in Canada, and some of it expresses through the hatred of perceived “foreign” religions. Again, this is not particularly a controversial point. Some people (both in support of Muslims, and those opposed to Muslims) mischaracterize their feelings in terms of race. As we will see in a moment, part of the discussion does have to be about language, and so this is more of a complicating factor than it would first appear. That said, as a people purchased by Christ from every tribe and tongue and nation, and who affirm that all humans carry the image of God, we cannot support racial discrimination either, and indeed need to be openly opposing it. Here again, the motion has much Christians can applaud.

4) The issue is language. Contrary to public opinion at present, Islam is not a race any more than Christianity is. Thus, while we need to oppose unjust religious discrimination, and racism, we need to be careful not to conflate the two. The Muslim teacher I have had the best conversations with happened to be a redhead from Newfoundland, who has a whiter complexion than I do, and I have spent more time in the Middle East than he has. Similarly, as Mark Noll has pointed out, the average Christian globally is a woman living in sub-Saharan Africa. Thus I would point out that the juxtaposition of systematic racism with what is termed “Islamophobia” is going to cause confusion. To oppose the teachings of any religion is not in itself racist. While Christians need to oppose unjust racial and religious discrimination, we need to be careful to keep open the possibility of disagreeing over religious beliefs.

5) The Term Islamophobia is (a large) part of the issue Here the issue is going to depend largely on how you read the word. If Islamophobia refers to the irrational fear and hatred of Muslim people, there is valid reason to oppose it. As with any fear and hatred of people made in the image of God (regardless of what they believe), Christians must be at the forefront of opposing it. However, recent cultural movements have tended to mobilize the term “phobia” as a means of discrediting all criticism of the thing ostensibly feared. While the applicability of the terms in those cases can be debated elsewhere, when it comes to a creed or religion, applying the phobia moniker may chill free discussion of those creeds or religions.Where this may work against free speech, Christians need to be vigilant, since evangelism, and even internal religious debate within Christianity (as well as within Islam) may be chilled.

Online Reading (Feb. 12, 2017)

The articles I’m reading this morning (and some of what I’m thinking about them).

Music: Ajith Fernando on the benefits of music to our Christian devotions (I go acapella since I can’t play the piano)

Prayer: Scotty Smith prays through the difference between condemnation and conviction

Politics: Should we be building a wall on our southern border, and getting the Americans to pay for it?

Law: American border agents with the authority to detain Canadians on Canadian soil? This was probably a bad idea before Trump.

A Quick Case for Christian Civility

It’s a difficult time to be an online conservative Christian with a strong interest in the law and politics (and a strong aversion to populism). Since the ascent of Donald Trump to the presidency, my conservative Evangelical leanings have been considered tacit support of a populist political leader who I see as acting in both immoral and foolish ways. It even leads some to accuse me of the most heinous beliefs and ideas, and attack me as evil, or stupid because I happen to be an evangelical Christian (a demographic that overwhelmingly voted for Donald Trump). Of course, I’m Canadian, so I didn’t vote for Trump, and was frankly thankful for not having to vote in the American election, but it seems most of my American friends on both sides of the electoral divide have decided that an Evangelical faith in Jesus Christ is somehow closely tied with American politics of the Republican brand, making those who are Christian obviously trump supporters, and those who question Trump obviously unChristian.

This is even true for conservative Christians who supported Donald Trump in the previous election. They assume that I am also in support of Trump, and are likely to accuse me of Apostasy for my daring to point out that torture is evil, and refugees should not be limited based on religious background (though to be fair, Trumps executive order doesn’t technically limit Muslim refugees, any more than Obama’s record on accepting Christian refugees from Syria was technically anti-Christian bias). Much less for the fact that a president shouldn’t be running the country via executive orders (something I also opposed when Obama did it).

What strikes me as most damaging of all of this is not the fact that it shows disagreement between people in the free world, but that both sides seem intent on simply demonizing their opposition, even when the person speaking claims to trust in Jesus Christ.

This is very likely to increase strife, not limit it…

Sadly, at least in my reading, my concern has most clearly been expressed by a legal scholar I generally disagree with:

Because if America is to avoid slipping into civil war, the people we need to keep in focus are the people who elected Donald Trump. I get that the easy way to think and talk about those Americans is to call them racists, or sexists or idiots. No doubt there are some who are those (as there are some on the other side who are each of those things too). But it is neither true nor helpful to simplify this story into good versus evil. The citizens who elected Trump are not evil. And if America is going to survive this crisis, we need to convince them first that their President should not be President. We need to show them that their own values are consistent with ours, in this respect at least.

This is good advice from a practical perspective, but much more so for Christians, whether we like Donald Trump as president or not. We are called by our Lord and Saviour to love others as we love ourselves (quoting laws from God in the Old Testament, recorded in Leviticus, no less), and very few people go out of their way to assume that their own motives are impure, so it is pointedly unChristian to assume evil on behalf of others, even when we vehemently disagree with the conclusions they’ve drawn.

Instead, we need to be the kinds of people who lovingly, but truthfully make our cases, assuming that the other person is open to reason.

When explaining what love looks like, the Apostle Paul goes out of his way to explain how love is patient and kind, and how it rejoices in truth (see 1 Corinthians 13). All of this means that it doesn’t behoove Christians of either side of this particular debate to assume the worst of people who disagree with you politically.

I would also say, given my own opinions on how the Trump presidency is shaping up so far, it might be possible for left leaning people to find allies on the other side of the political divide on the issue of this president, if only the case can be made without demonizing your perceived opponents.

Online Reading (November 9, 2010)

Welcome to reading some of the things I’m finding interesting today:

November 11: While in my present home of Korea, November 11 is “Peppero Day”, back home in Canada, it’s Remembrance day, and there is a debate this year about the white poppy as opposed to the red poppy.

Abortion and Slavery: Thabiti Anyabwile gives some ideas about making the link to abortion while not being disrespectful about one of the millennium’s (other) greatest evils.

Gay Rights and Freedom of Religion: The Daily Mail reports on a case where the two are coming into direct conflict. I have passionate opinions on this one, but it’s a difficult dilemma to say the least.

How to Listen to a Sermon: For those of you who listen to me on the itunes feed, here are some ideas on how to get something out of the preaching of a very fallible human.

Wow, just…. wow. (off topic)

I’ve been reading a book I got at the local Chapters Bookstore today (Ezra Levant, Shakedown: How Our Government Is Undermining Democracy in the Name of Human Rights, McClelland & Stewart, 2009), and came to learn some interesting things about my own province. At first, I thought the author had to be making it up, so I went to the House of Assembly Website to check on the Human Rights Code for my homeland, and found that Mr. Levant was in fact correct.

Below is section 22.1 of said Human Rights Code, as listed today on the House of Assembly website:

Powers of investigation

22. (1) The executive director and a person appointed or designated by the executive director may, at all reasonable times, so long as it is reasonably necessary to determine compliance with this Act, enter a building, factory, workshop or other premises or place in the province

(a) to inspect, audit and examine books of account, records and documents; or

(b) to inspect and view a work, material, machinery, an appliance or article found there,

and the persons occupying or in charge of that building, factory, workshop, premises or place shall

(c) answer all questions concerning those matters put to them; and

(d) produce for inspection the books of account, records, documents, material, machinery, appliance or article requested

by the executive director or a person appointed or designated by the executive director.

Now,  I readily admit that I am not a practicing lawyer, but my foggy memory of law school said that a police officer doesn’t have the right to enter a premises for investigation unless they can produce a warrant (something that the HRC at least notes for the copying of documentation in section 22.3 &4). That’s even if the question is one of criminal law. The only exception I remember is just cause based on the reasonable belief that a crime is in the process of being committed.

So why do the human rights people in my province apparently have the right to perform warrantless investigations, demanding even the ability to compel response without the presence of a lawyer,  on private property for the sake of a quasi-judicial complaint, when the police can’t even do that when investigating (one would assume more egregious) criminal activity?

I may need to write a letter to my MHA.

Online Reading (Nov. 26, 2008)

Charity: Carleton’s student union decides that cistic fibrosis isn’t an “inclusive” enough disease, and so pulls support for Shinorama.

Culture: In a stunning victory for freedom and tolerance, an American film festival director is forced to resign because he had the audacity to give money to support California’s proposition 8.

Gift giving: Not sure what to give a loved one this holiday season? How about Planned Parenthood gift certificates? Question: How could you give this appropriately?

Technology: Microsoft looks into the scourge of cyberchondria (deciding you have the worst disease listed on a search engine).