How a Motion Works in the House of Commons

House of Commons

The House of Commons in Ottawa.

After weeks of protests and hostile debate, the House of Commons finally passed Liberal MP Iqra Khalid’s motion condemning Islamophobia on Thursday, March 23.

When it was first introduced back in December of 2016, the house greeted M-103 with little excitement. It was only recently, in the aftermath of the Quebec City mosque shooting, that the motion attracted controversy. With this controversy came a flood of misinformation on both sides of the aisle.

Putting the controversy aside, many Canadians were left wondering what – if anything – a motion actually does. Now that the air is clear, it’s worth taking a closer look at motions in the house of commons and the meaning behind this hotly-debated anti-Islamophobia motion.

What is a Motion?

A motion is a written proposal by a member of parliament (MP) that asks the House of Commons to do something. They are used to draw attention to an issue of public interest.

Motions can ask the government to,

  1. Take action and do something
  2. Order something to be done
  3. Express an opinion

In parliamentary lingo, making a motion in the House of Common is referred to as “moving” the motion. When an MP moves a motion, the members of parliament can debate the proposal and vote on whether they should do what it asks.

Members can also propose changes to the motion, which are called amendments. For example, a member can move an amendment to add new words to the motion or take words out.

In the case of the anti-Islamophobia motion, Conservative MP David Anderson proposed removing the word “Islamophobia” from the motion. The House rejected this amendment.

If a majority of the members present at the time vote to support the motion, the House of Commons adopts it – in other words, it agrees to go through with the proposal.

What Does the Anti-Islamophobia Motion Do?

Iqra Khalid’s motion makes three proposals. It asks the House of Commons to,

  1. Condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and discrimination (asking them to express an opinion)
  2. Quell the increase public climate of hate and fear (asking them to take action, though with no specifics)
  3. Compel the Commons heritage committee to develop an approach to reduce or eliminate systemic racism and discrimination (asking them to make an order)

When the House of Commons voted to adopt the motion, it agreed to do those three things.

The motion does not become a law. It is not binding. However, now that the House has adopted the motion, members may decide to put forward laws that attempt to carry out what it agreed to do in adopting the motion.

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