The federal Conservative government is facing criticism from several former Liberal MPs who say they were mischaracterized by the government’s “extreme anti-Muslim bias” during the height of the so-called Islamic State threat in 2015.
The House of Commons will hold a hearing next week on the issue of “Islamophobia,” where former MPs have been raising concerns that the government is ignoring their calls for more transparency and better accountability.
A former federal minister, who asked not to be identified because of his role in the Liberal Party, says the government has “an absolute obsession” with the extremist group ISIS.
“We’ve seen in the past few years the government, as a result of the terrorist attacks on our Parliament and Parliament Hill, the government in Canada, in terms of what we’re talking about now in terms the radicalization of our population and the extremism of ISIS,” the former MP told CBC News.
“And so the problem is not the government.
The problem is the extremist groups, who are using the media to distort and misrepresent what is happening.”
Former Liberal MP Marc Garneau has been urging the government to take a closer look at the anti-Islamic propaganda that the federal government is airing on social media and by other groups.
He said his calls for the government “to take a more proactive approach” have gone unanswered.
“I was a member of Parliament and I had a role in that,” he said.
“I had a direct responsibility to keep our community safe, and to make sure that the community was informed and engaged with the government.”
The federal government was quick to distance itself from the “Islamophobic” rhetoric that Garneau said the government was “attempting to use as a tool” against Muslims.
“Our government has an absolute obsession with ISIS,” a spokesperson for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told CBCNews.
“It’s an extremist group.
And it’s an extreme anti-Islam group.
It’s a group that wants to kill, it wants to destroy.
So the idea that we would be equating it with ISIS and trying to say it’s not is a little bit silly.”
The spokesperson added that Trudeau and his ministers have been in contact with Garneau about the “extremist and divisive rhetoric” he has been hearing from his colleagues.
“That is not how the Canadian public views Canadians,” the spokesperson said.
“The Canadian public is more diverse than ever before.
They have an absolute passion for their communities, they want to be part of our community and they want their voices to be heard.
And we want to engage with them and listen to them and get to know them.”
The Canadian Council on Muslim Women (CCMW) has also called for greater transparency in the way the government handles hate speech, but a spokesperson told CBC news that the organization would “continue to engage” with Trudeau and government to see if there is a “way to work together.”
In response to Garneau’s comments, the Liberals released a statement that said the prime minister’s focus on the “fringe” has “distorted and misrepresented” the situation and has “no place” in Canadian society.
“Prime Minister Trudeau has always stood by his government’s strong commitment to ensure the safety and security of Canadians and their communities.
He has always supported the efforts of the Canadian police forces and the RCMP in fighting terrorism, including against ISIS, and has made it clear that the Canadian government will continue to work with them to fight terrorism,” the statement read.”
He has also made it very clear that he believes the safety of all Canadians is paramount and that the threat of radicalization in our country and our communities is real and serious.
The Liberal government will remain committed to countering the violent extremism and radicalization that is undermining our society and its values.”
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