An Act to amend the Criminal Code (hate propaganda)

This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2002.

Sponsor

Svend Robinson  NDP

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Not active, as of May 29, 2002
(This bill did not become law.)

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

October 18th, 2016 / 11:30 a.m.
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Thunder Bay—Superior North Ontario

Liberal

Patty Hajdu LiberalMinister of Status of Women

Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Edmonton Centre.

I am pleased to participate in the debate on Bill C-16, an act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code.

The bill is designed to support and facilitate the inclusion of transgender and other gender diverse people in Canadian society. Diversity and inclusion are values that are important to us as Canadians, yet we have heard repeatedly from trans and gender diverse Canadians that they still do not feel safe or fully included in Canadian society. Social science research also shows that many transgender and other gender diverse Canadians are not yet able to fully participate in our society. They face negative stereotypes, harassment, discrimination, and sometimes violence.

We know that discrimination and violence have significant impacts on social participation and an individual's sense of safety in the public sphere. Research conducted by the Trans Pulse survey found that approximately two-thirds of trans people in Ontario had avoided public spaces or situations because they feared being harassed or being perceived or outed as trans. The survey also indicated that the majority of trans Ontarians had avoided public washrooms because of these fears. Trans Ontarians also avoided travelling abroad, going to the gym, shopping at the mall, and eating out in restaurants, all commonplace everyday activities and pleasures that many of us are able to enjoy comfortably. However, for many trans people, these activities can be fearful because of their previous experiences of harassment and discrimination.

The research also shows that transgender or other gender diverse people face significant obstacles in obtaining employment. This is not due to a lack of qualifications. The Trans Pulse survey results I mentioned earlier showed that 44% have a post-secondary degree, but trans people are significantly underemployed, with many having been fired or turned down for a job because they are trans. Others felt that they had to turn down a job that they were offered because of a lack of a trans-positive or safe work environment.

It is clear that too many transgender and gender diverse people are being deprived of the opportunity to contribute to and flourish in our society. This is important not just for trans people but for us all. When a person loses an opportunity to work or is too fearful to go out shopping or eat in a restaurant, we all lose a potential contribution to the workplace, to the economy, and to our collective social life. Discrimination is a matter of concern to us all. It both undermines the freedom of those individuals to make the life they are able and wish to have, and it deprives us all of their participation in our society.

The bill would be just the beginning but is an important beginning. It is another step toward greater acceptance and inclusion. By adding the grounds of gender identity and gender expression to the prohibited grounds of discrimination listed in sections 2 and 3 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, we would protect the freedom to live openly.

The amendments proposed by the bill would make it clear that discrimination in employment against trans people is unacceptable and a violation of the Canadian Human Rights Act. An employer cannot refuse to hire or promote a qualified individual simply because that person is trans or gender diverse. These amendments will make it clear that federally regulated employers and service providers will need to provide accommodation for transgender and other gender diverse individuals when required and treat them in a manner that corresponds with their lived gender. Explicit recognition will also serve to promote understanding and awareness about trans people and their rights.

I now want to address one of the amendments that the bill proposes to make to the Criminal Code, which is to expand the hate propaganda offences in the Criminal Code to protect those who are targeted because of their gender identity or gender expression. To put this proposal in context, it is useful to give some of the history of these offences.

There are three crimes of hate propaganda. They were created in 1970. These are now found in sections 318 and 319 of the Criminal Code. These offences are advocating or promoting genocide against an identifiable group, inciting hatred against an identifiable group in a public place that is likely to lead to a breach of the peace, and willfully promoting hatred, other than in private conversation, against an identifiable group.

As we can see, a key element for all of these offences is the term “identifiable group”. When the hate propaganda offences were first created and for many years afterward, the definition of identifiable group was very limited in scope. It was defined in the Criminal Code to mean a section of the public that was identifiable on the basis of race, colour, religion, and ethnic origin.

In 2001, the then member of Parliament for Burnaby—Douglas introduced in the House Bill C-415, later reinstated as Bill C-250, and entitled “An Act to amend the Criminal Code (hate propaganda)”. This bill proposed to add sexual orientation to the definition of identifiable group in the Criminal Code. The member quoted in support of his bill a statement made by the Supreme Court of Canada in the 1990 case of R. v. Keegstra, which upheld the constitutionality of the hate propaganda offence of wilfully promoting hatred against an identifiable group. The Supreme Court said:

The harms caused by [hate propaganda] run directly counter to the values central to a free and democratic society, and in restricting the promotion of hatred Parliament is therefore seeking to bolster the notion of mutual respect necessary in a nation which venerates the equality of all persons.

In 2004, Bill C-250 became law. As a result, the definition of identifiable group was expanded to include sexual orientation as an identifiable group for the crimes of hate propaganda.

I will now fast-track to 2014, when Bill C-13, the Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act, received royal assent. One section of that bill amended the definition of identifiable group for the hate propaganda offences by adding more groups to that definition, specifically the criteria of national origin, sex, age, and mental or physical disability. As we have seen, the definition of identifiable group has been expanded considerably since 1970. This expansion reflects a commitment to equality and the desire of Canadians to protect more and more vulnerable groups in our society from the serious harms to human dignity that flow from the type of vicious hate speech prohibited by these Criminal Code provisions.

Bill C-16 proposes to add two new terms to the definition of identifiable group: gender identity and gender expression. Such an expansion is eminently justifiable on two grounds.

First, this expansion would extend to those in our society who are identifiable on the basis of gender identity and gender expression the same protections already afforded to other groups in Canadian society, such as those identifiable on the basis of their sex and sexual orientation. This would help to promote equality before the law and throughout Canadian society for trans people.

Second, this expansion would explicitly recognize that those who are identifiable on the basis of their gender identity and gender expression are in need of protection by the criminal law. For example, the Trans Pulse survey I mentioned earlier indicates that trans people are the targets of specifically directed violence; 20% had been physically or sexually assaulted for being trans, and another 34% had been verbally threatened or harassed but not assaulted.

Here in Canada, we criminalize hate propaganda, in part because it undermines the dignity and respect of the targeted group. It undermines their sense of belonging and inclusion in society. Adding gender identity and gender expression to the list would send a clear message that hate propaganda against trans and other gender diverse individuals is not acceptable.

I encourage all members of the House to support this bill.

Code of ConductGovernment Orders

June 20th, 2002 / 1:55 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds Canadian Alliance West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order regarding the records of our publications of May 29.

Private Members' Bill C-415 was adopted on division yet the journals recorded it as being “agreed to”.

The members for Elk Island and Dewdney—Alouette were on duty and clearly said “no”. As well, Mr. Speaker, if you review the speech of the critic, the member for Provencher, you will see that we clearly opposed the bill. I bring this point up today to ensure that the record is clear.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

May 29th, 2002 / 6:05 p.m.
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Mississauga South Ontario

Liberal

Paul Szabo LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Madam Speaker, I would like to add a couple of comments on Bill C-415 which is a bill to amend the criminal code with regard to hate propaganda. It also seeks to expand the definition of what is called an identifiable group, in the area of hate propaganda in the criminal code, to include any sector of the public distinguished by sexual orientation.

This bill makes me ask the question: How are our laws made and conformed? We went through the debate some time ago on the matter of amending the charter to include sexual orientation as prohibitive grounds for discrimination. One of the discussion points dealt with a list. If we make a list then someone must be left out. It is an interesting point for me because I would have thought that charter amendments to the human rights code, or whatever, would automatically be conformed in legislation. I am not sure about the legal point of whether all legislation which emulates a list would have or should have been conformed. I am not sure why that is the case. Therefore, I wanted to identify that question and get the answer.

Many groups within our society could be identifiable. Currently the criminal code specifies colour, race, religion, and ethnic origin. Bill C-415 seeks to add the identifiable group sexual orientation. I do not think there is any question with regard to the principle matter of hate propaganda. I have often thought that to have a list, if it tends to leave an identifiable group out, is perhaps not as inclusive as it should be. I would have thought the criminal code would identify hate propaganda as a criminal offence, period.

Regardless, Canadians, citizens or not, would be covered by the charter provisions, the provisions of the human rights code and by the laws of Canada. We should seek to be more inclusive in the legislation by not creating lists which somehow seek to be more inclusive when the existence of the list itself presumes that someone is left out.

As time goes on other groups will say to include them too. All of a sudden we would get into a situation where we would have to balance the relative priority. Have we done legislation a service by somehow continuing to change it? Provisions such as this appear in a number of pieces of legislation. I am not sure whether or not we have the formula for making changes to the extent that the intent is to make a parallel. That parallel should be consequential to the main change that was made and all other related references, in whatever pieces of legislation, would consequentially be made.

I wanted to raise that point not so much with regard to the specific bill and what it is seeking to do but rather to identify that it seems to be a long way around to do something that should be done automatically. The member should not have to have a bill before this place to do something which this House has already dealt with.

It is an unusual situation. I hope that in the future as we come to similar matters, whether they be government bills or any other bills, they be more omnibus in nature and seek to make consequential conforming changes which would reflect the decisions of this place. In this way the same debates would not happen over and over again.

I thank the member for raising the bill. I congratulate him on being selected in the lottery and having his bill become votable. Obviously he has sought and obtained substantial support for his bill.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

May 29th, 2002 / 6:05 p.m.
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Progressive Conservative

John Herron Progressive Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

Mr. Speaker, it is my intention to speak for only a few moments to the initiative brought forth by the hon. member for Burnaby--Douglas.

I want to state categorically for the record that both the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada and I as a private member for the riding of Fundy--Royal are in wholehearted support of Bill C-415. The bill would amend subsection 318(4) of the criminal code and replace it with the following:

In this section, “identifiable group” means any section of the public distinguished by colour, race, religion, ethnic origin or sexual orientation.

To illustrate the issue I will being members back to Fredericton, New Brunswick on the evening of November 7, 1999. A young man named Robert Peterson was walking home on Regent Street after a night out with his friends. His only crime that evening was walking home. He was heinously attacked in a brutal and severe fashion. As a result Robert Peterson, a law student at the University of New Brunswick, ended up with his eyes blackened. He required stitches on both sides of his face. The motivation for the crime was clearly established as a gay bashing. He was attacked merely because of his sexual orientation.

Moments ago a reference was made to the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights in terms of how it distinguishes discrimination if not racism and does not include sexual orientation in its list. The declaration was written by a man named John Peters Humphrey who came from my riding of Fundy--Royal.

Things change in society. We learn to add where appropriate. Also in my riding of Fundy--Royal is Gordon Fairweather who was Canada's first human rights commissioner and the hon. member for Fundy--Royal from 1962-78. He believes sexual orientation must be added to the code.

The hon. member for Burnaby--Douglas said he wanted to dedicate his initiative to the memory of Aaron Webster. I want to send a signal on behalf of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada that the heinous beating of Robert Peterson will not be forgotten. In his name we support the initiative of the hon. member for Burnaby--Douglas. I thank him for the opportunity to contribute to the debate.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

May 29th, 2002 / 5:55 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Vic Toews Canadian Alliance Provencher, MB

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to the matter. While I cannot speak for the Canadian Alliance on the issue I can speak for myself and my constituents.

I have no doubt that every member of the House is firmly opposed to all forms of genocide and the public incitement of hatred against others. At the same time it is our duty as parliamentarians to ensure that any legislation to censure these acts is consistent with both the principle of fundamental justice and our Canadian ideal of a free and democratic society. I prefer to deal with the issue on a principled and rational basis than on the emotional basis that has sometimes accompanied the debate.

In 1995 the Reform Party put forward a persuasive argument against adding section 718.2 to the criminal code. The section instructs sentencing judges to take into consideration whether offences are motivated by hate based on race, national or ethnic origin, language, colour, religion, sex, age, mental of physical disability, sexual orientation or any similar factor.

Reform Party members opposed the addition of the section on the basis that all criminals should receive appropriate sentences regardless of their reasons for committing a crime. The Alliance continues to maintain that political and social ideas that may motivate an offender to commit a crime are irrelevant. What is relevant are the facts of the crime and how to deal appropriately with the offender. Similarly, victims who suffer from crimes motivated by greed should never be treated with less dignity than victims of crime based on hatred.

For similar reasons members of the Canadian Alliance opposed the definition of terrorist activity in the first anti-terrorism legislation, Bill C-36, which referred to the religious, political or philosophical motivations of a person committing a terrorist act. People's political or religious thoughts at the time should have no bearing on whether they are convicted of a terrorist offence or on the severity of the sentence they receive if convicted.

The issues we are dealing with in the hate propaganda laws are somewhat more nuanced and complex. Some speakers glossed over the distinctions between hate propaganda and advocating genocide. These are very different issues and considerations, yet they seem to lump them all together.

I do not intend to wade into the convoluted and intricate arguments that surround the discussion of how freedom of speech can or cannot be applied to hate literature. However I would point to two specific concerns in the bill which must be addressed and which form the grounds of my opposition to the legislation.

First, the legislation would extend protection from hate propaganda to some groups while excluding others. While the bill would add sexual orientation to the list of groups who may claim protection from hate literature, a number of other Canadians who may be targeted for reasons of age, health, disability, social status or a number of other characteristics would not be afforded the same protection.

What concerns me is not only the piecemeal way we are approaching the law but the exclusion of a number of vulnerable groups in our society that are routinely subject to discrimination and inequality. Discrimination based on age will present an increasingly difficult moral dilemma in the ongoing public debate surrounding euthanasia and how we treat elderly members of our society. Promoting hatred or genocide against those perceived by some to be a drain or to no longer be contributing members of society is a real concern. It will undoubtedly present a challenge for us in the future, particularly in the contemporary climate of modern technology.

A more broadly based approach would assist in addressing the challenges the mentally or physically infirm may face from those who advocate eugenics or euthanasia. The unfortunate case of Robert Latimer, a father who took the life of his severely disabled daughter in the hopes of relieving her pain and suffering, has brought the issue to the forefront of moral and ethical debate in Canada.

Groups representing disabled Canadians have voiced concerns that they may become targets without their consent. To address the issue there are two possible solutions. First, the definition of identifiable group could be expanded along the lines of our current standard in the charter of rights and freedoms. The charter currently extends protection from discrimination on the basis of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age, or mental or physical disability.

Amending the definition in this manner has been suggested in the past. In April, 1985 the Special Committee on Pornography and Prostitution recommended the definition be broadened to include sex, age, and mental or physical disability. The Law Reform Commission of Canada recommended the same so the provisions would be consistent with the charter of rights and freedoms. A broader definition would be consistent with international standards such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which guarantees that everyone is entitled to rights and freedoms:

--without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

Second, I would prefer to remove the definition that applies to the offence of advocating genocide, since genocide in itself is self-defining. This way any group which found itself subject to abuse could seek and receive the necessary legal protection.

It is second reading and I am not entitled to move an amendment. It will therefore have to wait. At the same time, given the shortcomings of the bill I cannot support it either.

Another concern about the legislation relates to the issue of legal defences. Section 319 of the criminal code proscribes public incitement of hatred. One of the four defences set out in the section would likely preclude prosecution in the context of the expression of a religious opinion. Subsection 319(3) reads:

No person shall be convicted of an offence under subsection (2)

(b) if, in good faith, he expressed or attempted to establish by argument an opinion on a religious subject--

These defences do not currently apply to section 318. There is a substantive difference between section 319 and section 318. However problems immediately arise that need to be addressed, and Bill C-415 ignores the difficulty in a simplistic way.

The absence of defences in section 318 could pose a problem for a number of common publications including the Bible, the most widely read and widely published book in Canada and across the globe. This would affect both Christians and Jews. In addition, many Muslims do not believe homosexuality should be permitted. Specific books of Islamic law dictate that homosexuals should be punished harshly. Under a broad definition of the law this could arguably fit into the definition of advocating genocide based on sexual orientation.

Is this the intention of the amendment? If it is, or if this is its effect, we cannot support it. I do not believe this kind of material was intended to be prohibited under these laws. However without specific defences in place individuals could be subject to costly prosecutions. Religious publications of many varieties could be subject to censorship or even prohibition. If Bill C-415 passes second reading we must require the committee to consider which legal defences would be appropriate in this context.

The Canadian Alliance has always promoted equal treatment of all Canadians under the law. However we are not in favour of preferential treatment of any group, something the legislation in its current form would do. We must be mindful that one man's or woman's freedom is not arbitrarily exchanged for another's based on what happens to be the current political flavour.

I will continue to work to extend equality and freedom from discrimination to all Canadians. Although I will not be supporting his bill I thank the hon. member for Burnaby--Douglas for bringing the matter forward for debate.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

May 29th, 2002 / 5:40 p.m.
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Beauharnois—Salaberry Québec

Liberal

Serge Marcil LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Madam Speaker, I am most pleased to speak today to Bill C-415, an act to amend the Criminal Code, which deals with hate propaganda, introduced by the hon. member for Burnaby—Douglas.

This bill would amend the definition of “identifiable group” outlined in the criminal code provisions on hate propaganda. It would add “sexual orientation” to the criteria used to establish that a group comes under the definition of “identifiable group”. By ensuring that a group is considered as an “identifiable group” under the terms of the definition, the provisions on hate propaganda would apply to this group.

For more than 30 years, the criminal code has targeted the promotion of hate. Provisions on hate propaganda were added to the criminal code to avoid the difficulties associated with using libel provisions to take legal action with respect to a group as opposed to individuals.

The provisions that were added to the criminal code in 1970 were based on the recommendations of the special committee on hate propaganda in Canada, which submitted its report in 1965 to the justice minister at the time.

This committee, chaired by Maxwell Cohen, included notable personalities, such as the future justice minister and Prime Minister, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, and another future justice minister, Mark MacGuigan. It was under Mr. Trudeau's government that these provisions were added to the criminal code.

These provisions prohibit the dissemination of hate messages targeting an identifiable group. This term is currently defined as any section of the public distinguished by colour, race, religion or ethnic origin.

What offences are created under this provision?

First, encouraging genocide or promoting genocide is considered an offence. Genocide is defined as killing of members of the group, or deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction, with intent to destroy in whole or in part any identifiable group. It is interesting to note that adding sexual orientation to the criteria used to define “identifiable group” would expand the usual meaning of genocide, which normally applies to a race or a people.

The second offence mentioned in the provisions dealing with hate propaganda is communicating statements in any public place and thereby inciting hatred against any identifiable group, where such incitement is likely to lead to a breach of the peace. From the condition attached to this provision, it seems that its main purpose it to protect public peace.

The third offence is communicating statements, other than in private conversation, which wilfully promote hatred against any identifiable group. It seems that this provision is aimed at protecting members of a particular group rather than the state.

It should be noted that, apart from statements made in public or in private to advocate or promote genocide, all other offences require an element of public communication. This shows that, even before the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was adopted, legislators were careful not to interfere in cases where ideas and opinions were expressed in private by an individual.

In recent years, the Internet has been used as a means of communicating hate propaganda against identifiable groups. This is why, in the fall, the government added a provision to deal with this problem in Bill C-36, the anti-terrorism legislation.

The provision in question authorizes the court to order the deletion of hate propaganda stored on and made available to the public through a computer system within the jurisdiction of the court. This would allow for the deletion of any offensive material in cases where the person who posted it is not known or is outside the country.

Canada is now involved in negotiating a protocol on the Council of Europe's cybercrime convention signed by some 30 other countries in November 2001. Among other things, the convention would provide for international co-operation on investigations and legal proceedings regarding certain offences. The protocol would extend the benefits of the convention to offences related to hate propaganda. The question raised in Bill C-415 is whether legislative provisions dealing with hate propaganda should be extended to a group that is identifiable because of its sexual orientation.

In considering this issue, we must take into account the fact that in the Keegstra case, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the provisions on hate propaganda interfere with the freedom of expression guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of rights and freedoms. However, by a slim majority of 4 against 3, the supreme court confirmed the provisions as being a reasonable limit in a free and democratic society.

One of the areas examined by the supreme court was the damage caused by the promotion of hate toward identifiable groups. It stated that the damage was caused on two levels: the members of the group singled out by the hate propaganda and society as a whole. The court found indications of the damage caused to groups identified by colour, race, religion or ethnic origin and stated that the protection of identifiable groups was a pressing and important goal aimed at by the legislation.

We must ensure that any amendment made to those provisions will not bring about some imbalance between freedom of expression and protection of minorities that could jeopardize the provisions regarding hate propaganda.

Before adding to those groups, we must ensure that there is enough hate propaganda targeting the group to justify its inclusion under the protection provided by the provisions on hate propaganda.

The Minister of Justice supports this bill. I think this issue should be given careful consideration before we decide whether Bill C-415 should go forward.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

May 29th, 2002 / 5:30 p.m.
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NDP

Svend Robinson NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

moved that Bill C-415, an act to amend the criminal code (hate propaganda), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, it is an honour to speak to this legislation which I first tabled in the House almost 12 years ago. It was on June 27, 1990 that I tabled Bill C-326 to amend the criminal code hate propaganda provisions.

The bill is straightforward; in fact it is a single page. The purpose of the bill is to amend the hate propaganda and promoting genocide provisions of the criminal code to include in the definition of those who are part of the “identifiable group” that is protected under these provisions the ground of sexual orientation.

Under the current provisions of the criminal code hate propaganda sections, identifiable group means any section of the public distinguished by colour, race, religion or ethnic origin. My amendment would add the words “sexual orientation”. I hasten to add that in the future I would strongly support expanding this provision even further to include, for example, the grounds of sex, and physical and mental disability, to include the provisions that are covered by section 15 of the charter of rights.

The section on hate propaganda has been in the criminal code since 1970. It was upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada in the Keegstra case. I will quote from one of the judgments of the Supreme Court of Canada as to the importance of this legislation. It stated:

The harms caused by [hate propaganda] run directly counter to the values central to a free and democratic society, and, in restricting the promotion of hatred, Parliament is therefore seeking to bolster the notion of mutual respect necessary in a nation which venerates the equality of all persons.

That is the purpose of this hate propaganda legislation. I would note as well that two major sections are encompassed by this, section 318 on the advocacy of genocide and section 319 on the public incitement of hatred.

Some might ask what about those who want to engage in legitimate debate about a whole range of issues, including the issue of gay and lesbian equality; or what if our religious beliefs, for example, force us to the conclusion that there is something evil about gay and lesbian people and that is an essential part of our religious beliefs? That speech is protected under the provisions of section 319 in a couple of areas.

First of all, there are safeguards in subsection 319(3). It states that no person shall be convicted of an offence under this subsection if, among other grounds, in good faith he expressed or attempted to establish by argument an opinion on a religious subject. There are other safeguards as well. In addition I would note that a prosecution under this section can only proceed with the consent of the attorney general, so there is that additional safeguard.

I want to take one moment to respond to a concern that has been raised by some members. That is the suggestion that because section 318 of the criminal code on advocating genocide does not include the protections in subsection 319(3) somehow we should not move ahead to include sexual orientation in the overall definition of “identifiable group”.

I would hope that no one in the House would seriously argue that one should be permitted to advocate genocide, which is the deliberate destruction of an entire group under the guise of some sort of religious freedom. I do not think anyone in the House would advocate that. If there is to be opposition to this bill, I would hope that it certainly would not be on that particular ground.

If we amend subsection 318(2) of the code, it also has an impact on other federal legislation such as for example with respect to the interception, seizure and forfeiture of hate materials by agents of the state in other sections of the criminal code. The Canada Post Corporation Act authorizes the seizure of hate propaganda as defined in this section. The Customs Tariff Act prohibits the importation into Canada of material that constitutes hate propaganda within the meaning of the criminal code and the Broadcasting Act as well. This applies to those sections also.

Members might ask why it is important to include sexual orientation. I will not take the full 20 minutes because I want to give other members an opportunity to participate in the debate, but I want to give one very graphic and powerful example of why this is important.

There is a fellow named Fred Phelps from the United States. Fred Phelps hates gay people. In fact, he operates a website called www.godhatesfags.com. If we went to that website we would find that it is full of hatred. It has an image of a young man named Matthew Shepherd, who was brutally beaten, tortured and left to die on a fence in Wyoming because he is gay. It has a picture of him burning in hell. On the website Fred Phelps celebrates the fact that according to him Matthew Shepherd has been in hell, as of today, for 1,326 days.

Fred Phelps wanted to come to Canada to burn the Canadian flag and to promote hatred against gay and lesbian people in Canada. Many of us were concerned about that. The RCMP in Canada said they would like nothing better than to have the tools to stop this hate purveyor from coming into Canada to promote his hatred, but they said because of the provisions of the criminal code they could not do that. I quote for example Sergeant Pat Callaghan who is the head of Ottawa--Carleton's hate crimes unit. He said:

If this was done against a Catholic, a Jew or a black person, charges could be laid. If we had that legislation, we wouldn't have to put up with his nonsense on Monday. We could have told him, “If you show up and start spreading this hate, we'll arrest you”.

That is as it should be. That is a very important reason for promoting and supporting the legislation.

As well I would note it is important because the impact of hate literature is very destructive. Hate propaganda is very destructive. It has an impact on gay and lesbian people who are struggling with their sexuality in terms of their own sense of self-esteem and self-respect.

One woman showed me a leaflet that came in the mail. She has a young son who is gay. The leaflet was full of hatred. It was a diatribe of hatred. She said “Imagine, Svend, how this affects my son” and how it affects other people, young people like Hamed Nastoh, a young man who, in despair after having been bullied and brutalized by his classmates, threw himself off a bridge in British Columbia not that long ago. There are others who, because of the failure to clearly condemn this kind of hate propaganda, feel that somehow there is a licence to attack gay and lesbian people.

Rob Peterson, for example, a young law student at the University of New Brunswick was brutally attacked in November 1999. He was kicked in the face, punched in the face, repeatedly called a fag and seriously injured. The failure of this country and of our government to say that hate propaganda is unacceptable creates an environment in which these kinds of attacks are in fact deemed more acceptable.

Of course the fact that we have hate propaganda legislation that prohibits hate propaganda on certain grounds but excludes gay and lesbian people sends out the very clear message that somehow we are less than equal. The failure to include gay and lesbian people sends out the message that we are in fact second class citizens in our own country. That as well is clearly not acceptable.

Finally, I want to note that in terms of the legislation, it has some of the broadest base of support of any private member's legislation, indeed sometimes government legislation, that has come before the House. Every provincial and territorial attorney general supports the bill. In fact in November last year there was a meeting of provincial, territorial and federal attorneys general and they unanimously called on the government to move ahead to adopt the legislation.

I see at least one member of parliament here from Alberta. The attorney general of Alberta, Dave Hancock, pointed out that protecting gays from hateful propaganda has nothing to do with endorsing homosexuality. Here is what he said:

I support the hate crime legislation which prohibits people from spewing hate against anybody for any reason. There are appropriate ways to discuss issues in our country...and you don't need to put forward hateful literature. It doesn't matter what you believe about sexual orientation.

I issue a special plea to my friends in the Canadian Alliance. I hope they will listen to their colleagues the provincial attorneys general in every jurisdiction in Canada on this issue.

This is an opportunity for the Alliance to take a stand on an important issue. On every other occasion, when the issue of equality or respect for gay and lesbian people has come before this parliament, the Canadian Alliance has voted against that legislation. I am hoping today will be different. I am hoping that today members of the Canadian Alliance under the new leadership of the member for Calgary Southwest will in fact have the wisdom to recognize that they should be supporting this legislation which has such broad support right across the political spectrum.

In fact, I have another letter which was sent by Mike Harris and Howard Hampton jointly calling on the federal government to move ahead on this legislation.

I want to quote as well the House leader for the Canadian Alliance, the member for West Vancouver--Sunshine Coast, who said that he supports this change in legislation. In fact, in a public statement he said “It makes sense to me. I don't believe in incitement of hatred against anybody”. I hope other members of that caucus will support this as well.

In closing I want to say that if one is allowed to dedicate legislation to anyone, I would like to dedicate this bill to the memory of Aaron Webster. He was the British Columbian who was brutally beaten repeatedly with a baseball bat in a park in British Columbia for one reason and one reason only: because he was gay. I hope that this parliament will send out the strongest possible signal that hate crimes and hate propaganda of any sort, whether it is racism, anti-Semitism, whether it is directed at gay and lesbian people or people with disabilities, has no place in Canada.

In fact, at Aaron Webster's funeral his two sisters, Pamela Miller and Faith Quintillan, both of whom live in Alberta, said that they hope their brother's legacy will be tougher laws to protect gays and lesbians. I hope that this parliament will heed that plea.

Criminal CodeRoutine Proceedings

November 22nd, 2001 / 10:40 a.m.
See context

NDP

Svend Robinson NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-415, an act to amend the Criminal Code (hate propaganda).

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present a bill this morning that would expand the definition of identifiable group under the provisions of the criminal code relating to hate propaganda to include any section of the public distinguished by sexual orientation.

The current provisions of the criminal code include reference to colour, race, religion and ethnic origin. The purpose of my amendment is to expand the protections of the hate propaganda provisions to include gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people to assist in protecting these groups against public incitement of hatred and violence.

The bill would assist in giving law enforcement officers at the border the power to stop people from crossing our border and coming into Canada to spread messages of hatred and homophobia.

Too many gay and lesbian people are victims of crimes based solely on their sexual orientation. Last weekend we saw the tragic death of Aaron Webster in Vancouver, a gay man who was clubbed to death in Stanley Park by gay bashers. This bill would send out a strong signal that Canada condemns all violence including violence directed at gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)