Saying no to the politics of fear

Intolerance must be opposed in all its forms

Canada has a tradition of separating church and state, so I’m surprised sometimes how often issues related to religion come before me on Parliament Hill.

I believe it’s important to apply the same principles to all of these issues: respect each other’s beliefs; promote fairness and equality; and oppose intolerance and fearmongering.

Last fall, I was approached by members of several churches here in Kootenay-Columbia. They were concerned about proposed legislation that would amend the Criminal Code of Canada, removing a section to prohibit obstructing a clergyman or minister from “celebrating divine service or performing any other function in connecting with his calling” or disturbing “an assemblage of persons met for religious worship”.

This amendment was part of a larger bill, C-51, to “clean up” the Criminal Code by removing superfluous laws. The liberal minister who proposed the bill felt that there were other laws that already prohibited interfering with religious rights. Many clergy across Canada disagreed and I believed that having this special protection in the Criminal Code is beneficial. I wrote the minister to share the churches’ concerns and I presented a petition in Parliament on behalf of my constituents.

I’m happy to say the government has dropped this amendment from its bill!

On another matter, Canadians were shocked last year when a gunman invaded a mosque in Québec City, killing six people and wounding nineteen more. In the face of increasing hate crimes in Canada, motion M-103 was moved by a government member. The intent of the motion was for the Canadian Heritage Committee to study the issue and to take a “whole-of-government” approach on recommendations to government to reduce or eliminate systemic racism and religious discrimination. I was saddened to see the motion misrepresented by radical right-wing web sites, which falsely claimed that the motion enacted “Sharia Law”. Nothing could be further from the truth, and I encourage everyone to read the actual motion for themselves.

More recently, those same websites – and some Conservative politicians – are claiming that “ISIS fighters” are being welcomed to immigrate to Canada. Again, this is entirely false. Those ISIS participants who are returning to Canada were Canadian citizens when they left.

They are being investigated for their role and charges have already been laid against at least one ISIS wannabe. It is illegal for Canadians to join terrorist groups like ISIS and any Canadian who leaves our country to join a terrorist organization should be criminally charged!

Canada has long been a nation of rational and reasonable thought. Too often lately, I find that people are coming to me with concerns they’ve read on websites or heard about in coffee shops that are deliberately misleading, and create fear and hate.

These are old tricks – the politics of division have been used since ancient times. We need to be particularly vigilant in seeking truth these days when social media is regularly used by extremists and the ill-informed to spread fear and division.

Before we accept, blindly, everything we read on a website or a Facebook meme; before we listen to a politician who uses fear as an argument; and before we attack our neighbours for being different, we owe it to ourselves to seek out accurate information, understand first-hand what is being said, and champion a politics of love to fight the growing politics of hate.

Let’s work hard, together, to oppose intolerance in all its forms.

Wayne Stetski is the MP for Kootenay-Columbia

 

File photo

Just Posted

Campbell scores in OT as Leafs outlast Nitehawks 7-6

Nelson gave up three leads against rival Beaver Valley

Tommy Chong says cannabis legalization makes him proud to be a Canadian

Legendary marijuana advocate and comedian celebrates cultural milestone at Kelowna event

Applications sought for annual Nelson heritage award

Deadline for submissions is Oct. 30.

Playmor Junction daycare expansion faces opposition

Neighbours upset with rezoning application, citing traffic, noise and concerns about future uses

Trafalgar Thunder take gold in Oliver

The Thunder knocked out the top seed in the semis en route to gold

Singer k.d. lang receives Alberta’s highest honour

Celebrated singer-songwriter k.d. lang received the Alberta Order of Excellence in Edmonton

B.C. tickets win big in Lotto Max draw

Jackpot carried over; B.C. tickets share Max Millions prizes

‘Mom, I’m in trouble:’ Canadian faces 10 years for alleged graffiti

Brittney Schneider, another tourist caught spraying message on walls of Tha Pae Gate in Thailand

Feds consulting on national anti-racism strategy behind closed doors

Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez says people still face systemic racism in some communities

Enbridge aims for mid-November to finish B.C. pipeline repair after blast

A natural gas pipeline that ruptured and burned near Prince George caused an explosion and fireball

How to get government cheques if Canada Post staff go on strike

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers said members could go on rotating strikes as early as Monday

Anti-SOGI school trustee files defamation lawsuit against BCTF president

Barry Neufeld says Glen Hansman’s words caused him “indignity,” “personal harassment,” and “anxiety”

Ocean ‘blob’ returns to B.C.’s North Coast

A 2,000 kilometre patch of warm ocean water could signal a warm winter in Prince Rupert

Most Read