This is awkward.
A national organization opposing Motion 103 and calling for a “Canadian government for Canadians” held rallies across the country today, including in Halifax.
Police separated M103 protesters and counter-protesters at larger rallies in Toronto and Calgary, but if the event's Facebook page is to be believed, not many people showed up locally.
Only four people on the Facebook page were confirmed to attend the event, which was held outside City Hall at noon. One commented that she “didn't see anyone
” there at 11:45am.
Another said he arrived at 1pm
but “it was all over and done
An opposing protest, in comparison, had 180 confirmed on its Facebook. Organizers
called out the Canadian Coalition of Concerned Citizens' “marches for freedom” as “thinly-veiled anti-Muslim rallies.”
At the very least, the protest was overshadowed by a Special Olympics fundraiser
happening in the same place at the same time, where the chief of police and local politicians jumped into an ice-cold dunk tank.
The Canadian Coalition of Concerned Citizens, based out of Montreal, is self-described as “an advocacy group comprised of men and women from all walks of life,” but the very motion its members are protesting is one against “systemic racism and religious discrimination.”
The group states its reservations about the motion stem from a desire to protect freedom of speech. Issac Saney, Transition Year Program director and senior instructor in Black Studies at Dalhousie University, doesn't believe that.
“Words do actually have a concrete impact in the world,” he says.
“Given the events that have unfolded in the United States—also events with people like Kellie Leitch and so forth—that some groups feel they’ve been given license, right? To engage in this so-called reactionary, extremely backward politics.”
M-103 was tabled by Liberal MP Iqra Khalid last fall. In part, the motion asks the government to “develop a whole-of-government approach to reducing or eliminating systemic racism and religious discrimination including Islamophobia.”
In a statement
issued earlier today, Solidarity Halifax says: “The backlash against M-103 that emphasizes
'all religions' is eerily similar to the slogan 'All Lives Matter.' These alternatives attempt to erase the issues of violence at hand.”
The motion was last debated in mid-February, which prompted a protest in Toronto, where politicians such as Leitch spoke along with members of Rebel Media. Vice reported attendees throwing up Nazi salutes. Two days later, a separate rally involved a group of people blocking the entrance to a Toronto mosque, preventing some of those who arrived for Friday morning prayers from getting inside.
“When people try to rehabilitate the Nazi salute or calls of 'sieg heil,' these aren't harmless things,” says Saney. “It's preparation for putting into place those practices that were carried on before. It's a frightening phenomenon.”
Whether it's a protest, such as the ones taking place today, or a violent attack like what happened in Quebec, Saney says it's heartening to see people pushing back.
“Those things are positive,” he says.