The following are Ontario PC Leader’s remarks from the debate surrounding a motion condemning Islamophobia at Queen’s Park:
“Madam Speaker, I’m proud to rise in support of this motion today condemning islamophobia. Simply put, all forms of hate and discrimination against people of any faith, including Muslims, is wrong. Hate is hate.
“This is a serious problem that must be addressed head on. We have seen too many acts of hatred and violence against our friends in the Muslim community. Recently, the world watched in horror and Canadians across the country grieved as we saw that horrible mass shooting in the Quebec Islamic cultural centre, where six Canadians of Muslim faith were killed and 19 were injured. In May, a university student from Iran suffered a concussion after being punched repeatedly and told and to go back to his country—how sickening. In 2015, there was a fire-bombing of a mosque in Peterborough that was declared a hate crime. For all these troubling incidents, there are, unfortunately, others that go unreported.
“All this is completely unacceptable. That’s not Ontario. That’s not Canada. As public servants, we must condemn these acts. The Constitution Act of 1982 guarantees that everyone has the freedom of conscience and religion. It is not simply a Canadian value; it is a fundamental human right. People should be free to worship without fear of violence or persecution.
“We will not be divided by those who preach hate. Our values will always be stronger than the spirit that seeks to divide our home and pit community against community, neighbour against neighbour, family against family, citizens against citizens. Here in Canada, we don’t tolerate this division. We celebrate our unity. We celebrate our multiculturalism. That’s the beautiful story of Canada.
“We recognize that one of our greatest sources of strength is our pluralism; that no matter the colour of your skin, which part of the world you come from, what language you speak, whether you attend a mosque on a Friday, a synagogue on a Saturday or a church on a Sunday, every distinct element of who we are as a people comes together to form this beautiful mosaic that is Canada.
“Our country is made up—one description was—of people who have been on the wrong side of history. That includes United Empire Loyalists, refugees from the American Revolution, the Irish who fled famine, slaves who followed the north star to freedom, Chinese workers willing to work for a dollar a day, Jews who survived the Holocaust, eastern Europeans who escaped the yoke of communism, the Vietnamese boat people who escaped the horrors of war and many, many others. That’s part of our national fabric.
“We are a nation of many backgrounds, brought together to take a chance of finding that dream of Canada together, that dream of freedom and opportunities for everyone regardless of your faith.
“On a more personal note: When I read about the motion from the member from Ottawa–Vanier, it was without reservation that I wanted to support it because this Islamophobia is real, and we have to condemn it unreservedly.
“When that horrible terrorist attack happened, the hate crime in Quebec city, my immediate reaction was to want to go visit some of my friends of Muslim faith. In the south end of Barrie, there’s a gathering where the Muslim community meets in Barrie. I went to go hug friends. I had a friend, Tahir Nawaz, who’s a taxi driver in Barrie, came from Pakistan to Canada. I went to give him a hug, and I said, “You’re surrounded by friends. Don’t let anyone who preaches hate leave you with the impression that anyone in Canada condones that. We will always denounce hate.” I think of Tahir when we see these hate crimes, but I think, there is a wonderful man who has his boys in Barrie–I’ve played ball hockey with them on the street—and why should his boys, growing up in Barrie, ever have to fear that hate? We must denounce that hate.
“I think of a physician, Dr. Abdu Sharkawy, who’s a physician in Mississauga, a friend who faced a hate crime this past week in his home. I called him to say the same thing, that you are surrounded by friends, that our country and our province unreservedly look at those cowards who preach hate and denounce it and will never, ever tolerate that.
“I think of my good friend, Adam Ibrahim in Windsor, who sent me a note. He told me his wife had trouble sleeping when this happened because she was scared as someone being of Muslim faith. Adam sent me a nice note and in his email he said she wasn’t as scared when she saw the responses of everyone, the fact that across the board everyone was condemning this hate, that in our Legislature there was no issue or contention, that everyone in this Legislature condemns it without reservation. That gave hope, that gave a sense of optimism to his wife, and it made me think that I am proud of our Legislature today. I am proud of Queen’s Park.
“I support this motion as a moment to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Muslim community to say, we stand with you against this hate. I say to the member from Ottawa–Vanier that I stand with you, together declaring that this Legislature, unequivocally opposes Islamophobia.
“Mr. Speaker, the great thing about Ontario is that it doesn’t matter whom you love, what you look like, where you worship, you are welcome here. You are welcome in our incredible province of Ontario.
“It was an honour to speak in favour of this motion, and I look forward to voting for it later today.”