Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to rise and participate in the debate on Bill C-384, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (mischief against educational or other institution). This bill would create a new offence in section 430 of the Criminal Code to prohibit hate motivated acts of mischief against an identifiable group of persons at an educational institution, including a school, day care centre, college or university, or community centre, playground, arena or sports centre.
I would like to congratulate the member for Châteauguay—Saint-Constant for her initiative in introducing this bill and thereby raise attention of this type of hate crime in our society.
In discussing this proposed legislation, there are two main elements that should be underscored. First, the importance of fighting hate motivated crimes; and second, to provide protection to the educational and social places where ethnocultural and other identifiable groups gather.
These are places where people gather to joyfully share in cultural experiences, often passing on through generations the richness of our multicultural mosaic. These are institutions to which children are entrusted to be educated. Yet too often, those who would hate and cause violence target these very places of joy and education.
Canada is an open and welcoming society that has embraced multiculturalism as an underlying principle. Our multicultural mosaic is a shining example to the world of peace and harmony among all races, religions, ethnicities; in fact, humanity in its endless multitudes of variations. Unfortunately, there are those among us, individuals and groups, who would act to spread hatred and violence, even violence against identifiable groups.
In 2004 the pilot survey of hate crime was published by Statistics Canada. This study reported a total of 928 hate crime incidents.
Overall, 57% of these hate crimes were motivated by race or ethnicity. The second most common motivation was religion, which accounted for 43% of incidents. Sexual orientation was the motivation in one-tenth of the incidents.
Blacks and South Asians were among those most frequently targeted in hate crime incidents motivated by race or ethnicity. The majority of incidents by religion involved anti-Semitism followed by those targeting Muslims.
The most common types of hate violations included: mischief or vandalism at 29%; assault at 25%; uttering threats at 20%; and hate propaganda at 13%.
While statistics are important, I would also like to point out a number of examples of hate crimes against several communities, religious and educational institutions that make the case of supporting Bill C-384 even stronger.
On March 24, 2004, the Al Mahdi Islamic Centre in Pickering was intentionally set on fire. Its interior walls were spray painted with supremacist graffiti. On September 2, 2006, the Skver-Toldos Orthodox Jewish Boys school in Outremont was firebombed. On June 21, 2007, the community centre of the Kitigan Zibi Anishnabeg Algonquin First Nations community in Quebec was vandalized with swastikas and white supremacist graffiti. On March 11, 2008, RyePRIDE, a community service group at Ryerson University was vandalized with hate graffiti.
The study also concluded that young people, those between the ages of 15 and 24, experienced the highest rate of hate crime victimization. This rate was two times higher than the next age group. As well, it was educational and other community institutions that were the most frequent targets of hate crime propaganda.
Acts of vandalism motivated by racism, xenophobia, homophobia, and hatred of the other are more than simple acts of mischief. To the victims and the community to which they belong these are traumatic assaults on the very core of who they are and their place in society. It is an assault on the very values of inclusion, tolerance and pluralism that are at the core of our Canadian identity.
I would now like to address a gaping omission in our current hate crimes legislation. According to the 1999 General Social Survey, 18% of hate crimes were motivated by hatred of a gender. Yet, gender-based hate crimes, misogyny and misandry, are not covered.
As it is currently drafted, Bill C-384 only addresses acts of hatred or incitement to violence against an identifiable group based on religion, race, colour, national or ethnic origin or sexual orientation.
As Valerie Smith, a leading expert and advocate on the issue of violence against women, underscores, misogynistic acts of vandalism carried out against a girls' school or university women's centre would not be covered under this bill because it protects only those groups identified by colour, race, religion, ethnic origin or sexual orientation. Bill C-384 adopts a limited list of identifiable groups found in section 318 of the Criminal Code dealing with hate propaganda.
For this reason, it would seem prudent to amend the proposed legislation to ensure that hate targeting a gender group is also included, because as the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics shows, women and girls continue to be targets of hate crimes at disturbingly increasing rates. Because sex, the legal term for gender, is not included in the list covered by this proposed legislation, girls and women will not be protected under this law.
As further underscored by Valerie Smith, this legislation would be enhanced if the more inclusive definition found in Criminal Code subsection 718(2) were to be used.
In 1996 this law was amended to allow courts to increase a sentence where an offence was motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on race, national or ethnic origin, language, colour, religion, sex, age, mental and physical disability, sexual orientation or any other similar factor. There is no legal reason for Bill C-384 to use the limited list of identifiable groups found in section 318.
As section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms underscores, everyone has a right to equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination, and in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability.
In the spring of 2005 I was reviewing Canada's hate crimes legislation and I noted that there were a number of categories, identifiable groups. However, I was startled to find an omission. Gender was not covered. That spurred me to draft Bill C-254, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (hate propaganda), a private member's bill that is perhaps unique in the sense that all it entails is the addition of one single word to existing legislation, “sex”.
Returning to my colleague's Bill C-384, I think that besides increasing punishment of hate-based acts of mischief against an identifiable group, vulnerable groups also need assistance to better help protect themselves against these cowardly attacks. This would entail governments taking proactive measures to help defray the increased security costs that would have to be paid by vulnerable communities in protecting their institutions from hate-based attacks.
The current government has set up a pilot project with only $3 million in funding for the purposes of helping vulnerable communities to protect their institutions.
Canada's Jewish community estimated that it would require a minimum investment of $8 million to begin to upgrade the security surrounding its community centres and schools.
In many cases the communities whose institutions were attacked were forced to raise funds to repair and enhance security in their facilities. This has taken much needed funding away from the educational needs of children and youth.
In response, the leader of the Liberal Party announced in April that a Liberal government would create a $75 million fund to boost security at places of worship and community centres targeted by racist vandals.
It is my view that Bill C-384 is a worthy piece of legislation that should be supported by all members. It is also my view that Bill C-384 would be further enhanced by friendly amendments that would deal with gender-based acts of hatred.
When people talk of a future global village, I respond by saying that it exists here in Canada, in our urban centres. We are a shining example to the world of how humanity, in all of its variations, can live constructively and joyously in peace and harmony.
However, in our midst threats exist to our multicultural mosaic, to our Canada, a Canada which celebrates all of our diversities. With this legislation we will further diminish the ability of those who hate, who would do harm, and who would incite others to do so.