After more than a decade in power, the Canadian government has passed a new law to make Islamophobia more difficult to prove.
But what exactly is it and how can Canadians understand its implications?
More specifically, how can we apply it to our own government?
The law, passed by the House of Commons on Thursday and signed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, is the first ever anti-Muslim law in Canada.
It would ban the wearing of face veils, and the wearing and distribution of any clothing that promotes or glorifies the promotion of hatred or discrimination against anyone on the basis of religion, national or ethnic origin, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, marital status, pregnancy, childbirth, military service or veteran status.
It also bans the wearing or distribution of a face veil in public places.
That means the law applies to a broad range of places that could be places where religious minorities congregate, such as a mosque, community center or place of worship.
In theory, the law could be used against people who are wearing the face veil, or even against people in public spaces who display the face veil.
But how does it work?
Under the new law, people convicted of making or distributing a false or misleading statement, as well as people convicted under a federal hate crime law, could be charged under the new legislation.
The bill also includes a provision that would require anyone convicted of “intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly” promoting or promoting hatred against a person or group on the grounds of religion or nationality, race, ethnicity, colour, sex, sexual identity or gender, or sexual orientation or gender identity, to pay a fine of up to $20,000 and be imprisoned for up to two years.
The law does not specify what would happen to people who violate the new rules, though the government has been quick to say that anyone who is convicted under the law would have to register as a hate crime victim and face a fine, up to one year in prison and a ban from public office for up on three years.
So what does the law mean for me?
Under the new anti-Islam law, anyone convicted under this new law will be fined up to a maximum of $20 000 and face up to three years in prison.
In addition, a person convicted under hate crime laws would be required to register and face fines up to up to five years.
In a statement, the prime minister said the bill would “protect Canadians from acts of terrorism, discrimination and violence that are motivated by the spread of extremist ideology.”
It also will help to protect religious minorities, the government said.
While the new laws may seem like a good start, the language of the bill has left many wondering if it really is a step forward.
The new legislation is very vague, said Nadeem Shah, an associate professor of law at the University of Ottawa who specializes in hate crime legislation.
It’s not clear whether the legislation is intended to cover all hate crimes, said Shah.
“I think the wording is very broad, and we’re not sure what it means for religious minorities,” he said.
The legislation, Shah added, is also vague on how it would be applied, as it does not define what constitutes a “hate crime.”
“The bill will be extremely vague and unclear,” he added.
Shah said that while it’s a good starting point, it’s still not clear what would constitute a “violent or hate crime.”
In a previous interview with The Canadian Press, Trudeau acknowledged that the law will not “take away from our rights.”
But he added that “it will protect Canadians from those acts of hate and intolerance that we know are happening all over the world.”
“It’s a step in the right direction, and it’s the beginning of a dialogue,” he told reporters.
“It will make it harder for hate to thrive and spread and grow.”
Shah added that while the bill is a “good start,” there is a significant gap between what the law actually does and what it claims.
“There’s no provision in the legislation to tell you what you’re required to do,” Shah said.
“What is the punishment for a person who says, ‘I’m not Muslim’?
That’s not a crime, and that’s not what the bill says.”