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Why this London, Ont., MP voted against a 2017 motion to condemn Islamophobia | CBC News

In the wake of the fatal attack Sunday on a Muslim family in London, Ont., politicians of every stripe have come out to condemn hate and violence in this province and across Canada.

Salman Afzaal, 46, his wife Madiha Salman, 44, their daughter Yumna Afzaal, 15, and Salman’s mother, Talat Afzaal, 74, were killed. The youngest member of the family, nine-year-old Fayez, survived and remains in hospital.

Following Tuesday night’s vigil, Karen Vecchio, the Conservative MP for Elgin-Middlesex-London, is among those who took to social media, and said, “Last night I stood amongst 10,000 Canadians who came together to grieve, commemorate and address the issues of Islamophobia.”

But in 2017, after six people were killed in an attack on a Quebec City mosque, Vecchio voted against M-103, a motion first introduced in 2016, to condemn Islamophobia.

In the recent attack, police say they believe it was premeditated and motivated by anti-Muslim hate. Community groups and politicians have also spoken out about Islamophobia.

Vecchio spoke to Rebecca Zandbergen of CBC’s London Morning on Thursday morning about why and how she may have done things differently:

Zandbergen: You were at Tuesday’s vigil along with many other politicians. What was that like for you? 

Vecchio: Standing among over 10,000 people who were there to commemorate the family and address Islamophobia: it was a very powerful evening. I think since the tragedy on Sunday, this has been a time in which many people throughout London and the region are reflecting because this is just a family, a family like I have. The bottom line is no family is free until all families are free. No family should ever worry about walking down the street and be targeted because of their religion and how they look. 

Zandbergen: You’ve been talking a lot about ending racism and Islamophobia this week, but you did have a chance to support a motion in the House of Commons in 2017 to condemn Islamophobia. You voted against it. Tell us why. 

Vecchio: I recognize the importance to the community and the importance to push this forward to understand racism and hate. So M-103 today would look very different in my eyes. But back at that time when this was put forward in 2016, there was also another motion in the House that I had supported. It was much broader. I have spoken to Iqra Khalid [the Ontario Liberal MP who sponsored the motion] and I have respect for her and worked with her on the women’s caucus for some time. We had put forward a motion that was a bit different and much broader. It expanded to different religions … that included Sikh, Jewish, Islam. It expanded everything. 

Zandbergen: Would voting for M-103 preclude you from also voting for the Conservative motion?

Vecchio: No. When I voted, I personally thought we need to include other communities, including the Sikhs and Hindus. 

Zandbergen: Could you not vote for both? 

Vecchio: You’re absolutely right. I recognize that, yes, I could have voted for both, and would I today? Absolutely. But what I’m saying is at that time when I was looking at those bills, I wanted to expand it. 

Zandbergen: But do you regret not voting for it then in 2017? 

Vecchio: Yes, absolutely. I absolutely do.

Zandbergen: Your leader [Erin O’Toole] campaigned on a message of ‘Take Back Canada.’ Many have pointed to how language like that allows Islamophobia to take root. Do you agree with that? 

Vecchio: Once again, it’s the messaging.We’re looking at our economy right now and so I want to ensure when we’re talking about it, we’re looking at the security of Canadian families and security includes the economy, it includes safety, includes it all. So I would not take what he has indicated there in our motto, to have anything to do with Islamophobia. It is not the intention whatsoever and people can try to take any phrase like that and move it. It is absolutely genuine and wanting to ensure that we have a secure Canada for all Canadians. And that includes our new immigrants to Canada, and to our brothers and sisters who are of Muslim faith. 

Zandbergen: So would you recommend campaigning on a ‘Take Back Canada’ slogan again? 

Vecchio: I understand where you’re coming from, but we’re referring to the economy. I see where you’re going on this. And I think every single time you have a slogan, we have to be very cautious because there’s going to be lots of individuals that are going to take that and that they’re going to twist it. Let’s not kid ourselves. When we have political foes, they like to take anything and twist it. 

Zandbergen: How have you been reaching out to your Muslim constituents during this time? 

Vecchio: Lots of phone calls. Lots of people have tried to put things on my Facebook. I find that we’re at a time of great hate. And so I’ve been trying to reach out to all of those people individually. I don’t believe the social media platforms are the best way to have discussions. I’ve been on the phone with many individuals in our own community, including going to the vigil just last night here in St. Thomas with the St. Thomas Islamic Centre. I think we have to do lots of great work in our smaller communities and that’s the kind of work I’ll continue to do.

The interview has been edited for length and clarity

London Morning8:32Should denouncing Islamophobia be contentious?

London Morning speaks with Elgin-Middlesex-London Conservative MP Karen Vecchio and asks what it will take to end racism and Islamophobia in Canada. 8:32



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