An Act to amend the Criminal Code (hate propaganda)

This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in May 2004.

This bill was previously introduced in the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session.

Sponsor

Svend Robinson  NDP

Introduced as a private member’s bill.

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now 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.

SupplyGovernment Orders

September 16th, 2003 / 4:20 p.m.
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Progressive Conservative

André Bachand Progressive Conservative Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, in the same vein as my Liberal colleague, I would like to remind my hon. colleague from the Canadian Alliance that his leader, after oral question period—not concerning Bill C-250, but rather the bill he will introduce this week—made it very clear that if a church in Canada, any church at all, marries two people of the same sex, that is illegal. Is that what religious freedom looks like in Canada?

After oral question period, the leader of the Canadian Alliance said that if churches marry same sex couples, it is illegal. But for religious freedom to be protected, it goes both ways.

What does the hon. member think of his leader's remarks?

SupplyGovernment Orders

September 16th, 2003 / 4:20 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Chuck Strahl Canadian Alliance Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would say three things to that. One is that it is interesting that the member who just spoke supported this same motion in 1999. He felt it was a good idea at the time and has changed his mind now. I do not know what has changed. If it is a principled decision he is making, I do not know what principle has changed over the last four years. I would suggest none. In fact it is exactly the same motion. Nothing has been changed.

Second, the promise in the proposed legislation, which we are not dealing with today and which has been referred to the Supreme Court, there is a line about protecting religious institutions that choose not to marry same sex couples.

On Wednesday we will be dealing with Bill C-250 which would add sexual orientation to the list of protected groups under the hate crimes legislation. If that goes through I guarantee that someone will bring forward an argument that not agreeing to marry someone of the same sex constitutes an infringement on their rights and an identifiable hate crime under this section of the law if that legislation passes on Wednesday, which is a good possibility.

I would say that it is faint reassurance to say to people that it is in legislation so they can be confident. Many people are not even confident given the charter protections, let alone legislative protection, because they see it as a win for the government, not something that we can count on in the long term. That is a problem that will not satisfy, not just the religious groups but it will not satisfy people who just want to believe in one thing and not the other. However not even being allowed to say it is a serious concern, not only for religious groups but for society at large.

SupplyGovernment Orders

September 16th, 2003 / 1:05 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Vic Toews Canadian Alliance Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, it does not surprise me that member, who puts the jackboot of fascism on the necks of our people with Bill C-250, would say things like that. I expect it of him, but I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for bringing the member in line. It will not do any good because his ideology is fascism and not free speech.

In respect of the specific issue that has been raised by this individual and the comments of the Prime Minister, I believe somewhere in the range of January 29, 1981, the Prime Minister who was then minister of justice stated that he did not want sexual orientation in the Charter of Rights. He was remarkably clear for that individual that it had no place in the Charter of Rights. Perhaps at another time he said something else and it does not surprise me if he did because he likes to be on many sides of every issue.

In 1985 after the Constitution was drafted, the committee members went around and came up with a resolution saying that they should include sexual orientation. I am taking the member's word for that. I will have to check that out but I will take his word for it.

The proper response then is to bring an amendment to the Charter. It is not to say, “We five committee members we would like it changed, so maybe the judges will do the work for us”. If one wants to change the Constitution there is a process and it does not simply involve passing a resolution of a committee. It involves passing a resolution of this House, the other place and the proper representation from the provinces.

SupplyGovernment Orders

September 16th, 2003 / 12:40 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Vic Toews Canadian Alliance Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, since the lower court ruling in Ontario in Halpern v the Attorney General struck down the definition of marriage as unconstitutional 14 months ago, this is the first opportunity that elected members of Parliament have had to discuss this issue on the floor of the House of Commons. Naturally, I am pleased to have the opportunity to address the issue of same sex marriage in Parliament, in the public, democratic forum that Canadians look to for both leadership and representation on social policy issues.

Unfortunately however, so far the expectations of Canadians have been frustrated on both fronts. Recent decisions regarding the status of the definition of marriage in Canada have taken place almost entirely outside of the context of public debate or consideration of the public's elected representatives, something which is astounding considering the magnitude of the societal change these decisions are likely to effect.

Most, if not all of us, agree that this debate today is long overdue and should be looked upon as a starting point for parliamentary debate on this important social policy matter. I would like to begin with a quotation and it states:

Let me state again for the record that the government has no intention of changing the definition of marriage or of legislating same sex marriages...I fundamentally do not believe that it is necessary to change the definition of marriage in order to accommodate the equality issues around same sex partners which now face us as Canadians.

These are the words of the former justice minister, the current Minister of Health and MP for Edmonton West, from Hansard on June 8, 1999. On February 15, 2000, during the parliamentary debate on Bill C-23, the Modernization of Benefits and Obligations Act, she said:

This definition of marriage, which has been consistently applied in Canada and which was reaffirmed last year through a resolution of the House, dates back to 1866. It has served us well and will not change. We recognize that marriage is a fundamental value and important to Canadians.

She added, and I think importantly for this debate:

Important matters of social policy should not be left to the courts to decide. If parliament does not address the issue, the courts will continue to hand down decisions in a piecemeal fashion, interpreting narrow points of law on the specific questions before them. This guarantees confusion and continuing costly litigation. Most worrisome, it risks removing us from the social policy process altogether.

What she was talking about when she referred to us was the democratic institution of Parliament.

Just four years later, and the minister's words notwithstanding, the jurisdiction of Parliament to legislate on matters of social policy has been effectively derailed by the courts.

The 1999 promise to protect marriage was made by the former justice minister, the Prime Minister, the former finance minister who will soon become the next Prime Minister, the current Minister of Justice, and by a total of 31 current cabinet ministers. They have broken their word to Canadians and they have consistently failed to clearly explain why they have done so.

Canadians expect better than this from their government. It is clear that the Liberals have failed Canadians and they have failed democracy. Despite the former and the current justice minister's promise to take all necessary steps to preserve the definition of marriage, they have failed to do so. Indeed, they have failed to take even the most basic step of appealing the decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court.

They have sat idly by while lower courts have improperly appropriated the jurisdiction to redefine marriage and the courts have fundamentally changed the definition of marriage.

Some have suggested that the charter is there to protect the minority against the tyranny of the majority. That is not correct. I find it amazing, coming from a party that calls itself the New Democratic Party, this absolute abdication of its responsibility as the democratic voice on social policy matters by simply turning them over to unelected judicial figures appointed by the Prime Minister.

The charter is not there to protect the minority against the tyranny of the majority. It protects everyone who relies on its provisions, regardless of whether one agrees or disagrees with the application of that principle.

We look at what are the principles in the charter. The institution of marriage is a matter that was specifically reserved for Parliament in 1982 and does not fall within the scope of the charter. As such, the time honoured rules of parliamentary democracy, including a majority vote, are applicable to this social policy issue. It is not for the courts to alter these rules. It is for the court to obey the law by properly applying the principles that Parliament enshrined in the charter.

If the charter is to be amended, the courts must, in our democracy, defer to the judgment of Parliament in respect of the nature of those amendments. There is a democratic deficit in the House and it comes from the frontbenches of our Liberal government.

They have failed to appeal the British Columbia and Ontario court decisions to the Supreme Court of Canada, despite the justice minister's clear responsibility as the chief law officer of Canada to uphold the jurisdiction of Parliament. As the Attorney General, the Minister of Justice does not have a responsibility to the government. He has a responsibility to the rule of law and he has substituted the rule of law for crass party politics. He has confused his political role as a Minister of Justice with the legal office he holds as the Attorney General and he has done the bidding of the Liberal Party rather than his duty as the Attorney General.

Despite spending $250,000 and having heard from over 400 witnesses in person in a dozen cities with an additional 400 written briefs submitted, this minister simply decided to shut down the justice committee because he was not getting the response he needed to sell the same sex marriage debate to Canadians.

It is not enough that he shut down the justice committee. It is not enough that he refused to appeal the Ontario Court of Appeal decision. He went further to actively undermine those who would seek leave to the Supreme Court of Canada, who hoped to be able to argue their case in front of the Supreme Court to clarify that this was an issue that remained within the jurisdiction of Parliament and that the Supreme Court clearly tell the lower courts that they had overstepped their jurisdiction and had wrongfully appropriated the jurisdiction of this democratic institution.

The justice minister's reference to the Supreme Court does not address the constitutionality of the traditional definition of marriage. All it does is ask the court whether same sex marriage is constitutional. This softball lob to the Supreme Court is worded in such a way that the court has little choice but to agree.

What do the nine Supreme Court justices feel like, being used as a political tool by the Prime Minister and the Minister of Justice? They should stand up and say they will hear the appeal, they will do the right thing, and they will respect the jurisdiction of Parliament to make decisions on matters of social policy.

Then the Prime Minister attempts to pass this charade off with a so-called free vote. When the same sex legislation eventually comes before Parliament, sooner or later, even if it is soundly defeated in the House, same sex marriage will continue to be the law in Canada since it is now the law by default, by judicial fiat.

The Prime Minister told his caucus as much in a closed door meeting. Unfortunately, he has not shown the courage to tell the general public the same.

Even those countries that have legalized the marriage of same sex couples do not treat those relationships in exactly the same manner as the traditional marriage relationship. For example, in Belgium, same sex married couples are not permitted to adopt children. Furthermore, the decision to legalize same sex marriage in both the cases of Belgium and the Netherlands is not based on a judicial interpretation of human rights as is the case in Canada. It was done as a matter of social policy.

It is interesting to note that the final vote on Bill C-250 is scheduled to take place tomorrow. Make no mistake about it, Bill C-250 is one side of the same sex marriage debate. It is the side that brings the weight of the criminal law to bear on those who for one reason or another disagree with the institution of same sex marriage. The one agenda is to push same sex marriage, the other is to stop any criticism of it by the imposition of criminal penalties. Bill C-250 will further erode the ability of Canadians to speak out in a free and open manner.

The suppression of legitimate expression is a threat to our democracy, to our basic freedoms, and the values that are in fact enshrined in the charter of rights. There is no comfort in the promise of the justice minister that religious freedoms will be protected. He has broken his word in the past and there is no reason to take him on his word now.

I want to focus for a few moments on the assertion that some of the courts are simply adhering to the charter by imposing same sex marriage on Canadian society. The proponents of this view have conveniently forgotten that in 1981 the House of Commons subcommittee debated for two days whether to include sexual orientation in section 15 and it voted to leave it out. It voted to leave it within the jurisdiction of Parliament to determine. Of course the courts wrongfully appropriated that jurisdiction by improperly amending our Constitution.

The last clear statement we have from the Supreme Court of Canada on this issue is from Mr. Justice La Forest. It should be stated that those who would discount that judgment failed to point out that of the four judges who agreed with the La Forest judgment, none of the others disagreed. They were silent.

The last clear statement we have from four judges of the Supreme Court who constituted the majority decision in Egan was a defence of the definition of a marriage and the rejection that Parliament, providing special support and recognition to the traditional definition of marriage, does not constitute discrimination against other types of relationships, including common-law heterosexual relationships or homosexual relationships.

To avoid living up to the responsibilities, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Justice said in respect of the 1999 resolution that they did not somehow realize that this might involve a commitment to the use of the notwithstanding clause. As the leader of the Canadian Alliance stated earlier, that is an argument that is without merit. However I want to make it easier for anyone who has any concerns about voting for the traditional definition of marriage as one man and one woman because of the reference to all necessary steps in the 1999 motion and the motion here before us.

Accordingly, I make the following motion, seconded by the member for Crowfoot. I move:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “others”.

I will bring this forward Mr. Speaker, and I am sure the Clerk will pick that up.

Today I say to this Minister of Justice, the cabinet and colleagues, now is the time to end the deafening silence and tell Canadians where we stand. Do we believe in the traditional definition of marriage or not?

With my proposed amendment, the motion is clear. Where do we stand on the definition of marriage? It is time to end the kind of nonsense that the Liberals have tried to raise in order to take a clear stand on this issue. Will members reaffirm the definition of marriage as being one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others or do members vote against that definition?

The members' votes on the amended motion will tell Canada where they stand.

SupplyGovernment Orders

September 16th, 2003 / 10:35 a.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Stephen Harper Canadian Alliance Calgary Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure to what the hon. member refers. I was of course in his riding in the summer and he and I had a brief conversation. I was in the riding to deal with the issue of BSE., which is very important to his riding. At that meeting was one of his own colleagues, the member for Huron—Bruce. It was that member who got up that night and was very critical of the government's position on the marriage issue. I did not raise it that evening so I am not sure to what he is referring. He may be referring to some party literature or whatever. I do not know.

All I can say to him is this. He says that he might want to print some bad words about me and have them printed by newspapers in my area. I can assure him that newspapers in my area have only been all too willing to print any bad word about me. I can assure him we are treated fairly equally by newspapers across the country in that regard.

In terms of the member's contention that the government's position would protect the churches, I simply say to the hon. member that assertion is not credible. This is the government that said it would protect the traditional definition of marriage. Its argument now for overturning the traditional definition of marriage strikes at the right of any person or institution to believe in that definition and it is simply is not credible, especially in conjunction with Bill C-250, to say that would be maintained.

I notice the government has asked the Supreme Court of Canada to rule on the question of whether churches would be allowed to perform traditional marriage ceremonies or refuse to perform other ceremonies. However it has not asked the Supreme Court of Canada what penalties the churches, or synagogues or mosques would face if they refused. My contention is that those consequences would certainly cause them to have to adopt view of the Liberals view on same sex marriage.

SupplyGovernment Orders

September 16th, 2003 / 10:15 a.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Stephen Harper Canadian Alliance Calgary Southwest, AB

Our society has come, over the decades in my lifetime, to respect and recognize in law the choices of consenting adults. It is time that traditional institutions like marriage be equally recognized and respected.

This position is also very dangerous because, no matter what the Liberals say today, the kind of mentality that would have traditional marriage declared illegal and unconstitutional would inevitably endanger actual rights that are enshrined in our constitution, not merely read in, such as freedom of religion.

The Liberals and the justice minister say today that they will not touch the ability of churches, temples, mosques and synagogues to determine their own definition of marriage but these are the same people who said in the last election that they would never consider touching the definition of marriage itself.

I ask you, Mr. Speaker, and members of the Liberal Party who agree with us in principle to think very carefully about this. If the Liberals and some of their front bench people now say that the traditional definition of marriage is illegal, immoral, discriminatory and racist, what will stop them? Why would they ever tolerate those who, through their religious institutions, believe otherwise?

We see before the House Bill C-250, which is, in our view, just another step down this course of criminalizing opinions on this subject that are simply not accepted by the Liberal left.

Finally, there is the notion that what is going on here is highly undemocratic. I do not think I have to explain this but let me go over the facts. In 1999 a virtually identical motion was passed through the House and supported by the Liberal Party: supported by the Prime Minister, the incoming prime minister and, in fact, I have to add, drafted in part through arrangements in the House by the then justice minister, now health minister.

How it is a trap now and was not some kind of a trap then I do not know. Actually, I do know. We were facing an election campaign where the Liberal Party would have to face its own conservative supporters who would simply not accept this categorization of their views. Therefore they adopted a position then and now they want to do something different, now that they are out of sight.

However nothing relevant to this motion has changed in the past four years. Public opinion on the motion is just as divided. If anything, it is actually slightly more in favour of traditional marriage than it was then but it is just as divided. Lower courts are ruling just as they were then, that we should go in a different direction. The bias of those courts was becoming apparent. This was all known. It was mentioned in the motion. It was precisely why the House of Commons passed that motion.

The motion said that the government would protect marriage and would use all necessary means. It did not say that it would use the notwithstanding clause as the first line of attack, that this was a chance to obliterate the charter. It never said any such thing. The Prime Minister is trying to claim that now. He did not try to claim that in 1999 when the same motion was being passed.

The motion does not say “the notwithstanding clause”. It says “what is necessary”. The government did not do what is necessary. The government did nothing to protect traditional marriage.

In fact the government did everything it could do within reason to overturn that definition of marriage. It did not, to begin with, ever introduce or pass through the House into statutory law the traditional definition of marriage. Parliament has never done that. What has been overturned in the courts has been simply a series of common law rulings.

The government then went to court and had an unblemished string of losses ending when Justice McMurtry and the Ontario Court of Appeal decided to unilaterally and instantaneously change the definition.

What the government then did was use that opportunity, not to appeal the case, not merely to refuse to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada where it feared it might lose, but is now in the courts of this country trying to block anyone else from appealing this decision in the Supreme Court of Canada.

Its position now is that it does not want a vote on this issue until after the next election. It does not want Parliament to look at this in the life of this Parliament. It wants the Supreme Court of Canada to approve its legislation but only to approve the questions that it asks. It does not ask the Supreme Court of Canada whether the traditional definition of marriage would be legal and constitutional in this country.

When it actually gives at some future date the Parliament of Canada the right to vote on its legislation, that vote will mean nothing because that vote will give members of Parliament two consequences: pass what the courts have already done or do not pass it and leave it the way it is. There will be absolutely no choice whatsoever.

In laying out these facts I have been accused of compiling some kind of conspiracy theory against the government. This is not conspiracy; this is dishonesty. It would be hard to be more open and transparently dishonest than this government has been on this question.

To concede this kind of ground to the courts without so much as a debate or vote Parliament, what I wonder is where is the incoming prime minister? Where is Mr. Democratic Deficit, Mr. Fix the Democratic Deficit? All of a sudden his position is whatever the courts say that is fine with him. So much for elected people. But why should we be surprised that he seems to have no particular problem with scandals over there? He had no problem writing cheques for any number of boondoggles or anything else. In any case it would be difficult for the government to be more dishonest than it is being.

The motion has been previously passed by this House. In fact it was the House's last word on it. People on all sides, particularly in the Liberal Party, had to campaign hard on this issue. In some more conservative ridings they were elected on it, and absolutely nothing has changed.

What is before us today? It is a chance for the House, for the Liberals in particular, to come clean and do what we have done. We are a conservative party. We support traditional marriage. We voted for it and we believed in it. We ran on it and we meant it. I call on the Liberal Party to do the same thing.

If this motion is to pass today, we obviously need the votes of Liberals to do that. It will tell the government to take a different course of action. If it does not pass today, it will tell the people of Canada they need a different government.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

September 16th, 2003 / 10:05 a.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition signed by a large number of Canadians, including from my own riding of Mississauga South.

The petitioners are concerned about Bill C-250 which proposes a change under section 318 and section 319 of the Criminal Code which could lead to individuals being unable to exercise their religious freedom as protected under the Charter of Rights of Freedoms, and to express their moral and religious doctrines without fear of criminal prosecutions.

The petitioners therefore call upon Parliament to protect the rights of Canadians and not make the Bible a piece of hate literature so that Canadians can be free to share their religious beliefs without fear of prosecution.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

September 16th, 2003 / 10:05 a.m.
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Liberal

Janko Peric Liberal Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36 I have the privilege to present to the House a petition signed by concerned constituents in my riding of Cambridge.

The petitioners call on Parliament to protect the rights of Canadians to express their religious beliefs without fear of prosecution. The petitioners are very concerned that expressing moral disapproval of a sexual practice by citing the Bible or other sacred religious books could be linked to a hate crime charge under Bill C-250.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

September 16th, 2003 / 10:05 a.m.
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Liberal

Ovid Jackson Liberal Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to present today three petitions on behalf of my constituents of Bruce--Grey--Owen Sound.

The first petition is an objection to Bill C-250.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

June 12th, 2003 / 3:20 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Reed Elley Canadian Alliance Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise in the House today to present a petition on behalf of Canadians who are concerned about Bill C-250 and are asking that Parliament take a good look at the legislation and halt the passage of Bill C-250 to ensure that religious freedom remains unfettered in Canada.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

June 11th, 2003 / 7:15 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Kevin Sorenson Canadian Alliance Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to stand in the House to debate and to oppose Bill C-250.

I was told a long time ago that if one refuses to stand for some things, one may fall for everything. There comes a time when people need to take a stand, not only to represent their constituents but to take a stand for what they believe is the right side to stand on. That is what we are doing here tonight.

The law that has been proposed in Bill C-250 promotes the interests of some people over the interests of others. It poses a significant danger to freedom of speech and freedom of religion. This bill, as brought forward by the member for Burnaby--Douglas, is a “trust me” bill. Everyone we have heard speak in favour of Bill C-250 has said, “Just trust me”. They have told Canadians to trust them that there is a need for the bill and to trust them that there is a huge bitterness and hatred toward a certain segment of our society, basically the homosexual segment. They have said, “Trust us that we need something extra in the Criminal Code. Trust us that if someone is brutalized or assaulted we need this because there is no power in the Criminal Code at the present time”.

That “trust me” is not going to hold up here today.

Members of the Canadian Alliance do not support anyone making statements promoting hatred toward any identifiable people, to any group. The proposed amendments to the law raise a number of very serious concerns about which thousands of individuals have written and called. Tens of thousands of petitions have been brought forward in the House.

I see that my time is up. The Canadian Alliance is proud to stand and say we will oppose this bill.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

June 11th, 2003 / 7:10 p.m.
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Northumberland Ontario

Liberal

Paul MacKlin LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-250 which we are debating today proposes to extend the application of the hate propaganda provisions to groups distinguished by sexual orientation.

The purpose of the hate propaganda provisions is to prohibit the public communication of hatred against an identifiable group. An identifiable group is currently defined in the Criminal Code as any group distinguished by colour, race, religion or ethnic origin.

The bill came back to the House by means of new procedures adopted to ensure that private members' bills are given appropriate attention by the committees they are referred to.

In the case of Bill C-250, the bill was examined by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. The committee held meetings and heard from different witnesses. However due to unfortunate circumstances, the committee was not able to complete its study and conduct a clause-by-clause study of the bill. As a result, Bill C-250 was deemed to have been reported without amendments.

During the committee hearings, witnesses and members alike expressed concerns that excerpts from the Bible on homosexuality would be found to be hate propaganda if the hate propaganda provisions were extended to a group distinguished by sexual orientation.

The committee also heard testimony from Department of Justice officials who advised members that it was unlikely that anything in the Bible could meet the threshold established by the jurisprudence for deciding that a statement constitutes hate propaganda. Their comments were based on the interpretation of the elements of the offence by the Supreme Court of Canada in the Keegstra decision.

The Supreme Court of Canada also stated that the statement had to be made for the conscious purpose of promoting hatred. The Supreme Court said that promoting had to involve active support or instigation to hatred. The Supreme Court said that hatred connotes emotion of an intense and extreme nature that is clearly associated with vilification and detestation. I am not aware of any part of the Bible that would meet this threshold.

More important, justice officials brought to the attention of the committee the existence of a specific defence against the charge of hate propaganda. This defence exists currently in subsection 319(3)(b) of the Criminal Code and it applies to an opinion expressed in good faith on a religious subject.

The defence provision says clearly that no person shall be convicted of an offence of promoting hatred if, in good faith, he or she expressed or attempted to establish by argument an opinion on a religious subject.

By way of example, I am certain that the Bible is a religious subject. Therefore, the existence of this defence comforts me in the belief that quoting from the Bible would fall under this defence.

I am convinced that the Bible would not be found to be hate propaganda if Bill C-250 became law.

Throughout the committee hearings it became apparent that Canadians want it to be crystal clear that it will be possible to continue quoting and teaching the Bible or other religious texts without being concerned about being accused of propagating hatred.

Motion No. 1 as drafted provides this kind of reassurance. This amendment would clarify the application of the defence to an expression of opinion based on a religious text when the opinion is expressed by a person who believes in the text. I support the intent of this amendment and hope it will help to further reassure all those who have expressed concerns.

Motion No. 2 would extend to an offence under subsection 319(1) the requirement that any attorney general consent to the prosecution of this offence. The offence under subsection 319(1) is different from the other hate propaganda offences for which the attorney general's consent is currently required.

Specifically, the offence in subsection 319(1) is that of incitation to hatred which could result in a breach of the peace. Although at first glance this would seem positive, requiring the attorney general's consent for this offence could result in delaying police intervention in circumstances where physical violence against victims is imminent.

In addition, this provision could impact on provincial and territorial attorneys general, and they have neither been consulted nor given an opportunity to consider the implications of this amendment. In order to maintain positive relations, it is essential that they be consulted and be allowed to comment on a proposal such as this. With this in mind, I cannot support Motion No. 2.

The third motion amends the definition of hate propaganda in subsection 320(8) to exclude any religious text for the purposes of seizure and forfeiture of hate material. I submit that this motion is unnecessary and could result in excluding unintended material. Section 320 allows seizure and forfeiture of texts only where “the communication of which by any person would constitute an offence under section 319”.

This means that the only texts that can be seized are texts which meet the high threshold established by the Supreme Court of Canada for hate propaganda offences and to which none of the defences, including the religious belief defence, apply. Under existing legislation, a text that expresses a bona fide religious opinion would therefore not be seized. Motion No. 3 might open the door to abuses in the interpretation of religious texts. It proposes to protect all religious texts from seizure, without a definition and without a bona fide test as exists in section 319. As a result, it would protect any writing that is claimed to be a religious text. It would not allow a distinction between bona fide religious texts and bogus religious texts. They would all be equally protected.

An amendment with such serious implications requires further examination to assess its impact, not only on hate speech based on sexual orientation but also on hate speech based on the existing criteria, that is, race, colour, religion or ethnic origin. This amendment should also be discussed with the provinces and territories because of the potential for negative impact. For these reasons, I cannot support Motion No. 3.

In conclusion, with the amendment from the member for Scarborough--Rouge River so that the necessary balance is struck between adding protections for this identifiable group and on the other hand ensuring that those who quote or teach in good faith the Bible or other religious texts are not accused of inciting hatred, I accordingly ask members to consider doing the right thing for all Canadians.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

June 11th, 2003 / 7 p.m.
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Progressive Conservative

André Bachand Progressive Conservative Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak on this bill.

In this regard, the Progressive Conservative Party has decided to lead by example. There is often talk of a free vote but, over the past two years, our party has held the most free votes.

Basically, I hope that most of the members of my party will support Bill C-250. I believe that this bill is a step, and I have never pretended otherwise. Personally, I am very open to same sex marriage and even allowing same sex couples to adopt.

So, I think that Bill C-250 is an essential step in accepting same sex marriage. But I hope that this debate will be quickly followed by a vote in the House.

This bill—and I do not want to repeat what my hon. colleagues have already said—updates the Criminal Code. Thirty years ago, no one ever talked about gays, lesbians, transgendered people and so forth. Today, they do, as we are doing now. So, there is an evolution in acknowledging people who are part of this country. Gays and lesbians are an integral part of this country and of our reality. So, this is an important subject. This group has a place and is making its own way. However, this group is the victim of hate propaganda and violence too.

Some people will say, “This means no more gay and lesbian jokes”. Gays and lesbians in Canada and Quebec have the same sense of humour as straight Quebeckers do. This does not change anything. We are talking about hate propaganda. In my opinion, this is an acknowledgment, and a signal that the Government of Canada has to give as soon as possible.

I hope that everyone will agree with me: whether we fear for religious freedom or not, whether we support the bill or not, it is essential to ensure that all the political parties in the House agree, before the summer recess, to hold a vote on this bill. Whether the members support or oppose this bill, they must vote and quickly.

Of course there is the whole issue of religious freedom. Everyone has received an incredible amount of e-mails. I would, however, remind hon. members that the principle of the separation of church and state has been around for a very long time. Parliament is neither a church nor a synagogue. It is the forum for democracy in a country. I know that some of us hold to our convictions, but Parliament is not a Catholic or Protestant church, nor is it a synagogue. Everyone is welcome here. It is up to parliamentarians to decide on this matter, in accordance with their principles, of course. There is no question of blocking or delaying, a decision must be reached.

An amendment has been moved, and I personally believe it was unnecessary. But if more detail can be added in order to protect religious freedom, so be it. I would, however, remind hon. members that defining religion is a problem in and of itself. We must be careful. When reference is made to the Koran or the Bible, there is agreement. There was reference just now made to the Gideons. We in Quebec have the Raelians. Determining whether or not something is a religion could lead to very lengthy discussions.

That said, I agree that there should be more protection for freedom of religious expression. Exactly what would adding sexual orientation to the list take away from anyone?

Does this mean that the priest who has been camping out in front of Parliament since 1997, ever since I first came here as an MP, will be taken off to court? Absolutely not. He is speaking out against homosexuality. That is fine. “So what?” as they say. He is against abortion, and has a right to be. He has been camped out there since 1997 and is entitled to do so. This is just one example. And none of that will change.

He will not be charged under Bill C-250. Often, people need concrete examples, and I think this is a good one.

Another thing I want people to understand is that everyone has an opinion when it comes to same sex marriage, but that is not the issue here. That is not what the member for Burnaby—Douglas is asking for. What he is asking is that this important group in Canada, which has a different sexual orientation from others, no longer be subject to hate or hate propaganda. That is all he is asking. I hope that there will soon be a debate on the other issues, but that will come later.

How can anyone argue against Bill C-250 based on the principle of freedom of religion, when freedom of sexual orientation also needs to be protected? We cannot limit one freedom to uphold another. Too many wars have been waged because of that. It may seem silly to say, but this propaganda exists, it is out there, and we must protect these people against it.

If we want to maintain freedom in Canada, we must protect this freedom and the ability to enjoy it. Religion should not be called into it. Absolutely not.

Once again, I understand people's hesitancy, but with the amendment before us, we should be able to vote on it easily. We should be able to explain to our constituents, to those who send us e-mails and letters, that we want to ensure that people who are different by their sexual orientation are not subject to hate propaganda. It has nothing to do, at this point, with one's position on marriage or adoption. That can be explained.

We need to take the time. My colleagues and I did that this morning. The leader of my party, who is still our justice critic, explained it; he supports Bill C-250. He explained this to people, and yet they are aware of his opposition to same sex marriage. However, this bill is not about that.

We need to explain to people that their freedom of religion will always exist and will not be threatened. It is set out in the Criminal Code.

We know that there are problems. We heard from the Vancouver police. We see that regularly. It is time for action.

Our colleague from the New Democratic Party has been fighting for this for years. I know that it bothers some people when the member for Burnaby—Douglas rises in the House and rattles our cage with regard to these issues. It is somewhat disturbing for certain people. They say, “Oh, it is him, we must be careful. There must be something fishy here”. Absolutely not. He has this unique personality as a parliamentarian and his qualities have been recognized for years.

What he brings us today is strikingly realistic. It is very simple. If it gives people the opportunity to discuss the issue of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered persons, all the better. As heterosexuals or religious people, we cannot hide in the closet. Absolutely not. We have a role to play as parliamentarians.

In closing, with all due respect, I was telling my colleagues two things. We must vote. We know that Friday, Monday or Tuesday at the latest, we will be going back to our ridings to be with our families and friends. Let us vote quickly. I am convinced that, during the summer, we will have the opportunity to discuss this issue with our constituents. We will be able to tell them that Parliament has provided protection by adding sexual orientation to the definition of identifiable group in the Criminal Code of Canada.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

June 11th, 2003 / 6:50 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Richard Marceau Bloc Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by saying very clearly and plainly that the Bloc Quebecois supports this bill and will support it wholeheartedly.

When deciding whether or not to introduce a bill, there are two questions that need to be asked. The first one is whether there is a need for a bill. The second is whether the bill in question meets the need that has been identified by the first question.

Let us start with the need. I remind hon. members that Quebec is recognized around the world as a place of tolerance, a place that accepts and defends rights and freedoms. Quebec was the first jurisdiction in Canada to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation, back in 1977. Quebeckers are very proud of this.

Unfortunately, despite the fact that Quebec and Canadian society is more tolerant when it comes to homosexuality, there are still groups and individuals that perpetuate ideas that promote hate toward homosexuals.

This type of hate must be punished in a society that calls itself free and democratic. If we do not tolerate hate propaganda based on colour, race, religion or ethnic origin, then it makes perfect sense that we should do the same when it comes to sexual orientation.

Currently, there are five groups that are targeted by hate propaganda. Of these five groups, four are protected. The one group that is not protected is made up of gays and lesbians.

It is interesting, and particularly relevant, to note that according to Inspector Dave Jones of the Vancouver Police, in Vancouver, 62% of hate crimes target homosexuals. This percentage, 62%, is high when we consider that gays make up only one of the five groups identified as targets of hate crime. According to Dave Jones, it is unacceptable that sexual orientation is not considered an identified factor targeted by hate propaganda.

There are all kinds of examples of hate propaganda. The Internet site, www.godhatesfags.com has been mentioned several times. On this site, there is a picture posted of the young man who was beaten to death and who is allegedly burning in hell because he was gay.

On that subject, I would like to reiterate what Pat Callaghan, from the Ottawa-Carleton police hate crimes unit, said about the visit to Ottawa by some followers of the godhatesfags site creator, the so-called Reverend Fred Phelps. 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 this nonsense. We could have told him, “If you show up and start spreading this hate, we'll arrest you”.

So my first criterion has been met; there is a need to protect a group that is being subjected to hate propaganda.

For the second criterion, when we analyze this type of bill, we have to ask ourselves whether it meets the need identified in the first criterion.

Freedom of religion is what is at issue here. It is the primary objection to this bill. It was the objection raised by my colleague from the Canadian Alliance who spoke before me.

First, I think it is important to say that not all religious groups or religious individuals oppose this bill. I will not repeat what my Liberal colleague said before me about the letter from Timothy Coonen from St. Mary's Catholic Church in the Yukon, or the letter from Thomas Adams, the pastor at the Baptist church in Richiboucto, or even the editorial—to use another religious denomination—from the Jewish Bulletin of January 3, 2003 pointing out that the Bible is not hate literature. I would only ask people to read what was said.

However, I do not entirely agree with my Canadian Alliance colleague who spoke before me. He said that he would no longer be able to speak freely from the Bible to condemn homosexual activity—for lack of a better word.

I was baptized Catholic. I was raised in that faith and I even went to private Catholic school. At school, in our religion courses, we were taught—I am making an analogy; and I know that analogies are often less than perfect, but bear with me—that the Jews made a mistake in not accepting Jesus as their saviour. The theological position of the Catholic Church—and I think it is the same in all the Christian churches—is that Jesus is the Messiah. Thus, accepting Jesus as our saviour leads us to eternal life. The Jews, who did not accept him, committed a theological error.

That is what I was taught and perhaps they still teach it. It is possible to say, with respect, that one believes the Jews made a mistake in not accepting Jesus as their saviour. But to go from that to saying that because the Jews made a supposedly theological error, they can be subjected to hate propaganda is a major leap that our society has refused to make for a long time, for instance when provisions against hate propaganda were included in the Criminal Code.

On Sunday, I attended the opening of the Holocaust Museum. It is easy to see how far hate propaganda can lead. One can see the depths of baseness and darkness that human beings can descend to when hate is involved. I am very much aware of the hate that has been directed against the Jews.

In the same way, someone who believes in a particular interpretation of the Bible, a holy book, may well say, “We condemn what homosexuals do”. Someone might very well say that. But to go from this interpretation in good faith of a religious text to an incitement to hatred based on hate propaganda is, once again, a step that must not be taken.

I was using the example of the Jews who are protected by the Criminal Code because they are an identifiable ethnic group. Quite simply, the same reasoning applies in the case of homosexual, lesbian or transgendered persons. It is simply a matter of not crossing the line between interpretation of a religious text, with which one may agree or disagree, and incitement to hatred.

We know full well that freedom of religion is well protected in Canada. There is section 2 of the Canadian Charter, section 3 of the Quebec Charter and the supremacy of God, as stated in the preamble to the Constitution. No right is an absolute right in our legal system, but the only possible limitations are those necessary to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.

Because these are factors that may affect a freedom very well recognized in our legal system, these limitations must be clear and narrowly interpreted to ensure that the freedom in question is subject to as little limitation as possible.

In a nutshell, freedom of religion is given prominent status in our law; nevertheless, it is not absolute. It is subject to limitations which must be clearly justified in law and come with safeguards.

I will conclude by reminding the House of three things. First, so far, there have been very few prosecutions under the hate propaganda provisions of the Criminal Code because the test is very difficult to meet. The disclosure that results in an infraction must be specifically designed to promote hatred against an identifiable group. The message heavily laden with contempt must spread hatred according to factors very clearly defined by Justice Dickson in the Keegstra decision.

I will let a non-partisan analyst, namely the Parliamentary Research Branch, conclude for me:

The drafting of the Code's hate propaganda provisions with respect to specific intent, the definition of hate propaganda by the courts, the special defences and the fact that the attorney general of the province needs to approve prosecution all contribute to ensuring that this kind of prosecution will be possible only for the most blatant cases and that the act is consistent with the Charter.

I read further:

These requirements meet the limitation criteria set out by the Supreme Court of Canada in cases relating to freedom of conscience and religion.

Adding sexual orientation to the list of identifiable groups does not have a negative impact on the principle of freedom of conscience and religion. It does not increase the limitation that may be placed on this freedom by lawmakers and courts or decision makers. Its impact is neutral.

In conclusion, we wholeheartedly support Bill C-250.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

June 11th, 2003 / 6:40 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Larry Spencer Canadian Alliance Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I rise today on behalf of thousands of people across the land who have written and stated their opposition to this bill perhaps more than any other bill that has passed through this place in the last few years.

Let me state first that the Canadian Alliance is against the promotion of hatred against any individual or group in society. The member opposite was right when she said that the Bible does not promote hatred toward any individual, and that is very true. It is sad, indeed, when people claim to be against these kinds of rights, such as Reverend Phelps who was mentioned earlier. I am sorry we have those kinds of people who take it over the top.

The Canadian Alliance does not support that kind of action because we believe every human being has the right to be respected.

However, although we respect them and even though the Bible teaches us to love them, it does not teach us to love things that are against the principles of God's word. Therefore we are not instructed to love the wrong that we might see but we are instructed to love the person. I have great respect for some of the people in this House. They conduct themselves as gentlemen and as ladies in many situations but I do not have to agree with their lifestyle.

The Canadian Alliance believes that all individuals should be protected by law against hate crimes. In fact, we believe all groups are already adequately protected under the Criminal Code. For instance, let us think of all the people who would speak evil of politicians. There are many people in this land who basically stir up hatred against politicians and yet we would not want to be added to that group.

However we do believe in the freedom of religious expression and conscience according to section 2(a) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

We believe in free speech. I personally am concerned about this. For the past 30 years I have stood in the pulpits across this land and in other places and have preached from the Bible text. I am concerned because it is my duty as a minister of the gospel, when I am fulfilling that position, to speak truly according to the Bible, which is the book that I view as the word that teaches us rightly how to live. I am concerned that some day I would not be allowed to read and speak freely from that book.

We are concerned that Bill C-250 would not ensure adequate protection for the freedom of religious expression; for teaching, preaching or speaking in these terms; standing up for what we believe is morally right or wrong; and that in some way those freedoms would be taken away from us in the future.

Although the sponsor of the bill, the member for Burnaby—Douglas, tries to convince Canadians that his bill would not threaten or impede religious expression, we all know that if the bill passes it will just be a matter of time before some pastor, some priest or some rabbi will be hauled before a human rights tribunal and prosecuted for promoting hatred based on his religious beliefs.

We do not believe the assurances of the member for Burnaby—Douglas and I will explain why.

Some time ago the former justice minister gave her assurances that the definition of marriage would not be changed. In this House, on February 15, 2000, the former justice minister said:

This definition of marriage, which has been consistently applied in Canada and which was reaffirmed last year through a resolution of the House, dates back to 1866. It has served us well and will not change. We recognize that marriage is a fundamental value and important to Canadians. That value and importance is in no way undermined by recognizing in law other forms of committed relationships.

Then a few days later, February 29, the minister also said this, “The common law of this country is equally authoritative with legislation.The courts have said over and over again that there is no need to make it any clearer because I think they cannot make it any clearer. They have said that marriage is the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others”.

Now we are facing an attack on this traditional definition of marriage. Why do we not just lean on the assurances of the former justice minister that it will not change? However we cannot do that. No person can give anyone the absolute guarantee that things will not change. Not even the justice minister can do that. Nor can the member for Burnaby—Douglas give us those kinds of assurances that religious freedoms will be protected, nor that holy books of the different religions will be protected if Bill C-250 is adopted.

I have seen too many changes in my lifetime to things that seemed to be motherhood and apple pie, but they changed. We cannot buy that line of a personal guarantee or guaranteed protection. There is no assurance of protection of any kind. The fact is we are already losing many of our individual rights and religious freedoms. Let me just share a few examples.

First, let me mention a group in Canada called the Gideons The Gideons, because of their religious conviction, like to hand out the new testament scriptures to grade six students in the schools across our nation. They no longer can do that on school property. They must do it outside of school property. They have lost that right to exercise their religion in that way.

Just last Christmas season, the Christmas tree in Toronto was not allowed to be called a Christmas tree. It was called the “Giving Tree”. Anyone knows that at Christmastime it is a Christmas tree and that right of expression has been removed. “Merry Christmas” was removed the year before, in 2001. A friend of mine put on 80-some commercials on the radio station in Ottawa, Ontario, and that is somewhere near here. After they were recorded, he was called back to the studio and had to redo them. They could not use the words “Merry Christmas” on the radio station in this town.

In 1997 in London, Ontario, Mayor Haskett was found to be in violation because she refused to declare a gay pride day because of her religious beliefs.

In 2002 an Ontario superior court judge ruled against the Catholic school board of Oshawa, preventing it from carrying out its religious beliefs at one of its own school activities.

A printer in Ontario was fined $5,000 and ordered to do work for a gay group, even though this was against his religious convictions.

In Saskatchewan, a man named Mr. Owens printed some old testament verses in an advertisement that he paid for in the newspaper. These biblical quotes were ruled to be hate literature.

It is already happening. We are losing the right to express ourselves according to our religion and according to the books that we believe are given to us by God and that will direct us in life.

We can talk about the hierarchy of rights. Why is the first section, section 2(c) granting religious rights in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, subservient to down the line section 15, which mentions these hate crimes?

We can talk about free speech and guaranteeing it all we want but I do not believe there is any guarantee, even with the amendments. The three amendments are not written strongly enough to assure us of guarantee.

The loss of religious freedom is already taking place. People are losing their right to practise their religion and to speak freely, It is about words. It is not about hate. It is not about crime. It is about words. This bill is suppressing free speech. words that enable one to freely express religious opinion or conviction on their issues of morality.

The religious rights of people in our country are being trampled on at the insistence of a very small group of people associated with some very vocal special interest groups. Thousands of people have written to members of the House. Thousands of people have signed petitions. Not one member in the House can ignore the fact that the overwhelming majority of Canadians oppose the bill. I will join them in the opposition of the bill.