Opposing protests over Islamophobia gather in Old Montreal

There were some tense moments in the streets of Montreal on Saturday with clashes between supporters and opponents of a Parliamentary motion condemning Islamophobia.

There was a heavy police presence outside city hall keeping the two sides apart as a demonstration by critics of the motion was met by an equally large counter-protest.

On one side, some protesters carried signs calling for free speech and waved the flags of right wing groups that have sprung up in Quebec recently, while their opponents chanted anti-fascist slogans and expressed support for immigrants and Muslims.

"Motion 103 is the first step toward taking our rights away," said Ricky Caya, member of far-right group La Meute. "Globalist government and the media are together and try to make people that love their country, their freedoms, their people, their values, they try to paint them as racist and that's not what we are," he said. 

The counter-protesters denounced La Meute as racists "I'm here because white supremacy is unacceptable and we have to actively fight it every day. That includes fighting the white supremacists that show up in the streets," said Maria Summer, who held a sign that read 'Open the borders.'

The two groups, which each appeared to be between 100 and 200 people, then held parallel marches through the streets of Montreal.

Despite police efforts to keep the two sides apart, some isolated scuffles occurred between the two sides as tempers flared.

Police say there were no arrests or injuries.

An Ontario Liberal backbencher, Iqra Khalid, brought forward the motion in Parliament last year, and since then she has received numerous racist and sexually derogatory emails that were laced with expletives.

Heritage Minister Melanie Joly, who prominently backed the motion, also found herself on the receiving end of similar kinds of messages.

The Opposition tried to pass an amendment last month removing the word ``Islamophobia'' from the motion, saying it singles out one religious group over others.

But the Liberals used their majority to block the effort.

Protests against the motion were expected to take place in several Canadian cities including Calgary, Vancouver, and Toronto.