An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code

Sponsor

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is, or will soon become, law.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Canadian Human Rights Act to add gender identity and gender expression to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination.

The enactment also amends the Criminal Code to extend the protection against hate propaganda set out in that Act to any section of the public that is distinguished by gender identity or expression and to clearly set out that evidence that an offence was motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on gender identity or expression constitutes an aggravating circumstance that a court must take into consideration when it imposes a sentence.

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.

Votes

Oct. 18, 2016 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

Canadian Jewish Heritage MonthPrivate Members' Business

June 20th, 2017 / 5:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Michael Levitt Liberal York Centre, ON

moved that Bill S-232, An Act respecting Canadian Jewish Heritage Month, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, it is a great honour to be here today as we consider Bill S-232, an act respecting Canadian Jewish heritage month, and I am honoured to be the sponsor of this bill in the House.

I want to acknowledge Senator Linda Frum, who has partnered with me in introducing this bill, which received unanimous support in the other place. I hope today to convince members of the chamber to give it the same enthusiastic support.

I want to particularly thank the hon. members for Thornhill and Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke for their strong multipartisan support of this bill. I also want to take a moment to recognize the efforts of my friend and mentor, the Hon. Irwin Cotler, whose tireless work as a defender of human rights is a badge of honour for the Canadian Jewish community. Professor Cotler originally introduced the substance of this bill as a motion in 2015. As I stand here today, I want to dedicate my efforts in bringing this bill before the House to Irwin Cotler's honour.

Aaron Hart, widely regarded as the first Jewish Canadian, settled in Trois-Rivières, Quebec, in 1760. In the more than 250 years since then, Jewish Canadians have been deeply involved in building this wonderful country that we are also privileged to call home. Whether coming to Canada in search of economic opportunity, freedom from persecution, or in service to the crown, Jewish Canadians from St. John's to Victoria to Yellowknife have played an active role in the unfolding Canadian story.

The early Jewish immigrants came predominantly from western and central Europe, followed in the late 19th century by increasing numbers of eastern Europeans. Approximately 20,000 Holocaust survivors made it to Canada, followed by Jewish refugees fleeing from the Middle East and North Africa. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Jewish immigration from North Africa, particularly Morocco, brought many francophone Sephardic Jews to Quebec. This group is now a large portion of Montreal's Jewish population and a small but vibrant part of Toronto's Jewish community, including la Communauté Juive Marocaine de Toronto in my own riding.

Beginning in 1990, there was a significant Jewish migration to Canada from the Soviet Union, including the Russian Jewish community. Canada is home to nearly 60,000 Russian-speaking Jews, a thriving community represented by institutions like Toronto's Jewish Russian Community Centre. In 1983, my mother Edna and I left our home in Scotland to embark on, as she explained at the time, a great adventure. She brought me to Canada to build a better life and future for us both. Knowing barely a soul, we settled in Toronto because she knew there was a thriving Jewish community that would welcome us and provide us with the support we needed.

I am a proud Canadian, I am honoured to represent the people of York Centre in this House, and I am a proud Scottish Jew, a member of a small but mighty clan whose tartan I proudly wear here today. In many ways, the diversity of Jewish Canadians mirrors the mosaic of our broader Canadian society, each of us bringing with us our own customs and traditions and making Canada even better because of it.

Today I stand in this house as the member of Parliament for York Centre. I stand on the shoulders of the dedicated, brave, and committed Jewish men and women who paved the way before me. It is in their merit that I encourage all members of this House to support this bill.

One of the most inspirational Jewish Canadians for me was the Hon. David Croll, who served as the Liberal member of Parliament representing the riding of Toronto—Spadina for a decade following World War II before being appointed Canada's first Jewish senator. Mr. Croll came to Canada when he was six years old, his family fleeing the pogroms of czarist Russia. Through hard work selling newspapers and polishing shoes, he was able to put himself through law school. In 1930, at the height of the Great Depression, Croll was elected mayor of Windsor, the first Jewish mayor in Ontario, where he instituted welfare programs for the jobless and the poor. Croll became a member of the provincial Parliament in 1934, where he served as Minister of Labour and Minister of Public Welfare, the first Jewish Canadian to be a minister of the crown.

In the first days of the Second World War, Mr. Croll enlisted with the Essex Scottish, one of more than 17,000 Jewish Canadians who answered the call to serve.

As a federal parliamentarian, Croll championed a range of social issues, from health care to pensions, from tax credits for the poor to prohibiting discrimination.

One of his greatest achievements, in my view, was in pushing for the opening of Canada's immigration regime. Between 1933 and 1948, under Canada's notorious “none is too many” policy, only 5,000 Holocaust refugees were admitted to Canada—the fewest of any western country. The most egregious example of this misguided policy happened in 1939 when Canada turned away the MS St. Louis. There were more than 900 Jewish refugees on board, seeking sanctuary here in Canada. They were turned away and forced to return to Europe, where 254 died in the Holocaust. We cannot turn away from this uncomfortable truth and Canada's part in it.

In 1949, however, Canada admitted 11,000 Jews—more than any other country, other than Israel.

Nate Leipciger is one of the survivors who came to Canada. Seventy-three years after having survived the lowest point of his life, Nate returned to Auschwitz, this time as the highest point in his life. He came back by invitation to guide and teach his Prime Minister, the head of government of his adopted country, about the horrors he endured and the lessons we must never forget. He described his return to Auschwitz last year with the Prime Minister as “triumphant”. He said, “They gave me a one-way ticket, but I returned with my wife, daughter and granddaughter and the prime minister.” He came full circle, from dehumanized to sharing some of the most poignant human moments, shedding tears with the Prime Minister.

We as Canadians must remember the lessons taught by history from this awful period. Monuments like the national Holocaust memorial, soon to be opened in Ottawa, and local ones like the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial at Earl Bales Park in Toronto form part of the legacy of survivors and their families. They came to Canada and became Canadians in their own right. Their stories are our stories as Canadians.

I am proud that my riding became home to so many Holocaust survivors, emerging from the ashes of Europe to begin building new, vibrant lives here in Canada.

Pola and Zalman Pila were two of them. They both survived the death camps and death marches and were reunited after liberation, the sole survivors of their families. They arrived in Toronto soon after, penniless, not speaking English, a married couple with an infant son. With little formal education, they worked day and night to make a life for their children and later their grandchildren. They took the shattered remnants of their lives and with faith, love, and determination built an inspiring future. Pola delivered food right to the doorsteps of those in need, visited the sick, and provided financial assistance to all who asked. Her contributions and the contributions of Jewish women to Canada have been tremendous.

Let us consider Bobbie Rosenfeld. She was known throughout the 1920s as the superwoman of ladies' hockey. In 1924 she helped form the Ladies Ontario Hockey Association, serving as its president until 1939. Rosenfeld won gold and silver medals at the 1928 Summer Olympics after setting multiple Canadian track and field records. She was also a trailblazer off the field, a strong advocate for women in sports. In 1950, Rosenfeld was voted Canada's female athlete of the half-century by The Canadian Press, which awards the Bobbie Rosenfeld Trophy to Canada's top female athlete every year.

I could go on listing the myriad contributions of Jewish-Canadian women like Tillie Taylor, the first woman to be appointed as a provincial magistrate in Saskatchewan, or Constance Glube, appointed the first female chief justice in Canada on the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia in 1980, or Justice Rosalie Abella, who was born in a German IDP camp and became the first Jewish woman to sit on the Supreme Court of Canada.

However, it is not just the individual achievements that should be celebrated. Indeed, the Jewish contribution to Canada has often been greatest when it has come as the product of communal action and furtherance of a shared purpose.

In 1868, just one year after Confederation, the Toronto Hebrew Ladies Sick and Benevolent Society was established. With no paid staff and a budget of only a few hundred dollars, these visionary women built the foundation of what would become one of the leading family service agencies in North America, Jewish Family and Child. Based in York Centre, I have had the privilege of seeing first-hand how JF&C continues to have a positive impact on the lives of thousands of vulnerable Canadians from every background. JF&C upholds the Jewish value of tikkun olam, the idea that individuals are responsible not only for their own welfare but for the welfare of society at large.

It is one of several inspiring Jewish organizations in my riding that champion this ideal including B'nai Brith Canada, which can trace its roots to 1875; the National Council of Jewish Women of Canada, the first Jewish women's organization in Canada founded in 1897; and Canadian Hadassah-WIZO and the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, which are both celebrating 100 years of life-changing contributions to Canadian society.

These stories have played out in communities big and small across Canada. I am certain that every member of the House from every province and territory can point to the role that Jewish Canadians play in their communities. As celebrated as these stories are, a darker undercurrent of Canadian Jewish heritage must also be acknowledged. Canada has sadly not been immune to anti-Semitism, a scourge that remains stubbornly in our midst.

On June 13, Statistics Canada released hate crimes data for 2015. Jewish Canadians were once again the most targeted religious minority in the country. As a Jewish Canadian, I find this data to be doubly concerning. Throughout history, the level of anti-Semitism has been a fairly accurate barometer of the overall condition and health of a society. An attack against Jews or any minority is an attack on everyone.

In the face of this persistent problem, we must join together, and state unequivocally that when it comes to incidents of hate and discrimination in Canada, we cannot abide hate and prejudice being targeted against any group. Jewish Canadians have always been at the forefront of standing up and fighting against hate and discrimination.

Consider Canada's first Jewish parliamentarian, Ezekiel Hart, who in 1832 was instrumental in Quebec becoming the first jurisdiction in the British Empire to accord full political rights to Jews, 26 years before Great Britain. This commitment to universal equality, and the fight against hate and discrimination remains a core priority for Jewish Canadians and for me personally, standing here today as a result of Ezekiel Hart's activism.

It being pride month, I want to recognize the efforts of Kulanu Toronto, the voice of the Jewish LGBTQ community in Toronto. I had the honour of attending its pride shabbat dinner last week, a celebration of the Jewish LGBTQ community. This pride month, we can also celebrate Bill C-16, yesterday receiving royal assent affirming and protecting gender identity and expression under the Canadian Human Rights Act, and under hate crime sections of the Criminal Code. I am proud of the active role the Jewish community played in advancing this important legislation. The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs served on the steering committee of Trans Equality Canada, a coalition that has worked tirelessly to see this initiative succeed.

The stories I have shared here today are Canadian stories. The values they reflect are Canadian values. The enactment of Canadian Jewish heritage month will ensure that the historic and ongoing contributions of Jewish Canadians are recognized, shared, and celebrated across this great country, cementing their legacy and inspiring future generations to build a better Canada. I encourage my hon. colleagues in the House to support this bill.

JusticeOral Questions

June 19th, 2017 / 2:45 p.m.
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Vancouver Granville B.C.

Liberal

Jody Wilson-Raybould LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I am incredibly proud of the work our government is doing.

In Canada we embrace diversity and inclusion. We have to ensure that everybody has the freedom to be who they are. That is why I am incredibly proud that the Senate passed Bill C-16 last week. I look forward to it receiving royal assent and adding to the Canadian Human Rights Code a prohibition against gender identity and gender expression.

We are doing more. We are looking at historic records and the expungement of them for unjust laws. In this month of pride, I want to celebrate and applaud the—

June 14th, 2017 / 6:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

I'm fully supportive and cognizant of the issues and concerns that transgender people have when they cross the border, but by the same token, I'm a little worried about making changes here without the opportunity to get a definition of “gender” put into the.... I think we're stepping a little outside of what we want to be doing here in terms of the legislation.

Also, if sex is used in the agreement, the last thing I want would be to give a reason to go back and have to get the agreement renegotiated over changing a term that we're going to have to change when Bill C-16 is passed anyway. There'll be a complete review of all of this legislation so it will be changed when C-16 is passed. Is that correct?

June 14th, 2017 / 6:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

I have a question and a comment because we've had a lot of talk about when Bill C-16 comes into effect and legislation needing to be changed. Obviously that's new legislation. I guess I have a two-part question. At this point, is gender defined in law? The second question I have—and I'll go back and give you another opportunity to comment on this because I did have a conversation offline on it—is whether “sex” is defined, and whether the courts have spoken to what is defined by “sex”.

June 14th, 2017 / 5:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

Despite the fact that it hasn't been used, as Mr. Clement very rightly pointed out, we've now passed a bill, which is now in the Senate, that is going to require us to use it a lot more.

Is there any reason we can't change that, other than it's consistent with the Customs Act? I'll be honest with you, I thought it had to do with a decision that was made by the Supreme Court 20 years ago regarding what sex of officer could do the search. That's something separate.

So the only thing is being consistent with an act that's likely going to have to be changed under Bill C-16?

June 14th, 2017 / 5:35 p.m.
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NDP

Matthew Dubé NDP Beloeil—Chambly, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

We drafted this amendment following consultations with various groups that advocate protection for transgender persons, who might want to ensure that strip searches are conducted by an appropriate individual.

Despite our qualms over the very existence of certain aspects of this clause, we at least want the language used to be consistent with the fact that this is 2017 and to reflect the fact that we are at last honouring the rights of the transgender community, for example, in the spirit of bills such as C-16.

PrideStatements By Members

June 14th, 2017 / 2:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Julie Dabrusin Liberal Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, this afternoon, for only the second time in Canada's history, we will raise the Pride flag on Parliament Hill.

Raising the flag to wave proudly on Parliament Hill is an important symbol of our commitment to ensuring Canada is safe, inclusive, and welcoming. With the passage of Bill C-16 from this place and Canada's leadership as the co-chair of the Equal Rights Coalition, important steps are being taken to recognize this commitment.

With the reported persecution of the LGBTQ2 community in places such as Chechnya, celebrating Pride affirms our efforts to advance the rights of LGBTQ2 people around the world.

Across Canada, I invite all Canadians to join the Pride celebrations. I look forward to the Toronto Pride parade, Faith+Pride hosted by the MCC, the Trans March and the Dyke March, started by Lisa Hayes and Lesha Van Der Bij.

Pride is a time to celebrate, support, and remember.

Foreign AffairsOral Questions

June 9th, 2017 / 11:55 a.m.
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Liberal

James Maloney Liberal Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, all individuals should be treated with respect and dignity, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender expression, or gender identity. From appointing the member for Edmonton Centre as the Prime Minister's Special Advisor on LGBTQ2 Issues to introducing Bill C-16, which is currently before the Senate, our government has consistently demonstrated our commitment to the promotion and protection of LGBTQ rights.

Could the Minister of Foreign Affairs update the House on the two developments announced yesterday that would advance the rights of LGBTQ people globally?

Pride MonthStatements By Members

June 6th, 2017 / 2:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Arif Virani Liberal Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, June is Pride Month in Toronto. Events will be taking place all month to raise awareness and show solidarity with the LGBTQ2 community, culminating with the pride parade. I am proud that our Prime Minister was the first ever sitting leader to march at pride and is a party leader with the courage and conviction to voice unequivocal support for the LGBTQ2 community in Canada. I am also proud that our government has introduced Bill C-16, to make targeted acts against the trans community a hate crime, and Bill C-32, which makes the age of sexual consent equal for heterosexual and homosexual young couples.

I am most proud of the residents of my riding of Parkdale—High Park, who despite a climate of rising intolerance both internationally and here at home, remain steadfast champions in the fight against homophobia and transphobia, constituents who believe, as I do, in equality for all, regardless of how we identify or whom we love.

This month I urge all members to show their pride and their solidarity.

International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and BiphobiaStatements By Members

May 17th, 2017 / 2:05 p.m.
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NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to mark the 13th annual International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. This day started in Montreal as an urgent call for an end to the discrimination, hatred and violence that still face the LGBTQ community. It has since grown as well to become a day of celebration of sexual and gender diversity.

Anti-LGBTQ violence is still all often a reality both at home and abroad. Recent events like the ongoing campaign of persecution against gay men in Chechnya and the epidemic of murders of transgender women in El Salvador, 17 so far this year, should be cause for action.

Unfortunately, this day also marks another anniversary, another year of the Senate failing to pass legislation guaranteeing transgender Canadians the same rights and protections the rest of us already enjoy. Once again, the current Senate hearings on Bill C-16 have had the ugly side effects of providing a public platform for transphobia.

Members of the Senate need to respect the will of the elected House, which first passed this legislation six years ago and twice since, and get the job done before they rise for the summer. Otherwise they risk killing this bill again.

Gender Equality Week ActPrivate Members' Business

May 16th, 2017 / 6:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Sven Spengemann Liberal Mississauga—Lakeshore, ON

moved that Bill C-309, An Act to establish Gender Equality Week, be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure for me to rise today to once again speak in support of my private member's bill, Bill C-309, An Act to establish Gender Equality Week, as it is read a third time. I would like to thank my colleagues in this House for their interest in this bill, for their important contributions to the debate at second reading and at the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, and for their support. I would also like to thank once more the members of my incredible team for their tireless efforts and the stakeholders, community organizations, and Canadians from all walks of life who shared their views with us. In particular, I would like to thank the Strength in Stories team for the ideas and inspiration that helped bring us to where we are today.

Gender equality week would provide us with a critical opportunity to engage and address areas in which gender-based disparities persist. As my colleagues in this chamber are aware, my team and I elaborated on these disparities in the preamble of this bill.

Importantly, gender equality week is not an occasion to celebrate accomplishments, but, as reflected in the preambular paragraphs, it is an initiative that seeks to raise awareness of the most profound remaining challenges and it offers a platform to work collectively on concrete solutions.

The resounding vote of 287-1 in this House to send the bill to committee at second reading, in my view, revealed that acknowledgement of these challenges goes far beyond partisan affiliation. All of us bear individual and collective responsibility in a society that categorically and systematically treats and values genders differently.

In short, if we truly seek to address these challenges, the pivotal steps are to recognize them frankly and to ensure that they are understood. The federal government cannot solve these issues and problems by itself. Gender equality requires awareness and engagement on the part of all Canadians.

To be absolutely clear, I am very proud of what we are already doing to achieve gender equality and equity. I applaud the leadership of our Prime Minister and of the federal government, who are working to address systemic gender-based gaps that have permeated Canadian society since Confederation.

The Prime Minister formed Canada's first cabinet with female and male parity. He also appointed a woman to be the government House leader and a minister who would focus exclusively on gender issues. These were also firsts in Canadian history.

The Government of Canada also launched an inquiry into Canada's missing and murdered indigenous women.

What is more, the Minister of Status of Women is developing a federal strategy against gender-based violence. The government also announced the implementation of gender-based analysis, or GBA+, in all federal government departments to ensure that gender issues are taken into account in all government policies and legislation.

In early December 2016, the Governor of the Bank of Canada, the Minister of Finance, and the Minister of Status of Women announced that Nova Scotia businesswoman and civil rights activist Viola Desmond will be the very first Canadian woman to be featured on a Canadian banknote.

The Government of Canada introduced Bill C-16, which is currently before the Senate. It protects Canadians of minority gender identity and expression by adding gender identity and expression to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act.

I would also like to thank my colleague, the member for Edmonton-Centre, and the special advisor to the Prime Minister on LGBTQ2 issues for his tireless work as an advocate for Canadians of minority gender identity and expression.

As my colleagues know, in budget 2017, the federal government has committed to allocating $3.6 million over three years, starting this year, to establish a LGBTQ2 Secretariat within the Privy Council Office.

I believe that this initiative is important to the development and implementation of government-led initiatives for the LGBTQ2 community, and I hope that gender equality week can contribute to these efforts.

On the international stage, Canada has seized the opportunity to serve on the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, and is a strong supporter of the UN HeForShe campaign.

As a Canadian delegate at the 61st session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, which was held in New York last March, and together with the representatives of such countries as Pakistan, Burkina Faso, and Cameroon, I committed to making the kind of efforts that Canada and parliamentarians have made to promote gender equality.

I was pleased to hear positive feedback on BillC-309 from representatives and other delegates. In Canada and abroad, there is definitely a will to eliminate the gender gap. I have no doubt that if we continue to work together to eliminate gender disparities in our respective societies, we can find constructive, long-term solutions.

Once again, I wish to acknowledge the leadership of our Prime Minister and the Government of Canada in promoting the equality of men and women.

Important as these and other actions are, more work remains ahead of us than behind us. To close the remaining gaps, the government will need the advocacy, support, and commitment of Canadians.

Bill C-309 recognizes this need and it issues a call to action to all Canadians to become involved: men, women, Canadians of minority gender identity and expression, children, students, educators, civil servants of all levels of government, young and established professionals, new Canadians, our indigenous peoples, Canadians in law enforcement and our armed forces, and seniors.

Involvement in gender equality week could take a wide range of forms, and some of these forms include town hall discussions, university and college colloquia, music, plays, literature, film projects, workplace round tables, formulation and presentation of academic research, public rallies, fundraisers, social media, radio and television events, and campaigns.

Our consultations with various groups, organizations, and levels of government helped us draft a substantive preamble that gives Canadians a clear idea of the challenges we face. Gender-based violence and the gender wage gap are particularly critical obstacles that we, as Canadians, must tackle and eliminate. Active engagement will lead to real progress on both those fronts.

Now that I have had the privilege of hearing different perspectives and working with colleagues from all parties in this chamber on Bill C-309 for the past several months, I look forward to engaging with our counterparts in the Senate in the months ahead.

I encourage fellow members to once again support this bill, as the time to act is now. Canadians want us, as parliamentarians, to address the most critical issues facing our country. Through gender equality week, we would build a platform through which we can generate momentum to resolve a major multi-faceted issue that faces our country today, gender inequality.

This House has the opportunity to send a powerful message to Canadians that their elected representatives in concert seek to engage and work with civil society to address gender-based disparities.

I look forward to continuing to work toward establishing a national annual gender equality week, and I look forward to working on this project with colleagues from this House and the Senate.

May 11th, 2017 / 4:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Ted Falk Conservative Provencher, MB

Thank you, Minister, for coming to the committee.

I was recently watching a panel discussion in which you and the Minister of Health were discussing the proposed marijuana legislation. I forget who the host was. Of particular interest to me was a comment you made, that you had not ever been a cannabis user, nor did you expect to be after this legislation was passed.

I have two questions for you.

First, why is it not a good thing for you, but it's okay for others—even for the youth of our society—to have access to cannabis as a recreational drug? I commend you for your personal position.

Second, I'm looking at the legislation your government has presented so far in the last year and a half, which you say you're very proud of. Bill C-14, the medical assistance in dying legislation, now allows Canadians to legally have their lives terminated with the assistance of a physician. Bill C-16 addresses what I think is an imaginary gap in both our Canadian Human Rights Act and our Criminal Code. Bill C-32 repeals section 159 of the Criminal Code, which addresses anal sex. Bill C-37, which repeals the Respect for Communities Act, will now make it easier for safe injection sites to be located in different communities across Canada. The most recent one, Bill C-45, is of course on the legalization of marijuana.

My question on all those issues is, I think, quite simple. These pieces of legislation seem to have a particular theme to them. I'm wondering what it is that motivates your government to, in my opinion, be so bent on and recklessly determined to destroy our social and moral fabric?

May 11th, 2017 / 3:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Jody Wilson-Raybould Liberal Vancouver Granville, BC

A geeky note I think is pretty fantastic. In the words of the Prime Minister, as a country we are strong because of our diversity, and as Minister of Justice I am committed, as is our government, to ensuring that the rights of all Canadians are upheld and propelled. In LGBTQ2 rights it was my great pleasure to build upon the substantive work that advocates of the trans community have been putting forward for years to introduce Bill C-16, which seeks to add gender identity and gender expression as a prohibited ground in the Canadian Human Rights Act, as well as make amendments to the Criminal Code to add gender identity and expression to the identifiable groups and add as an aggravating circumstance in sentencing to ensure that people can be free to be who they are, to express their gender identity and expression in a way they see fit. I'm also very pleased that the Prime Minister has put a substantive focus on LGBTQ2 people, and has appointed a secretariat headed by you, Mr. Boissonnault, to assist in this regard and to ensure that their rights are advanced in a substantive and a concrete way.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

May 3rd, 2017 / 7:30 p.m.
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Eglinton—Lawrence Ontario

Liberal

Marco Mendicino LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to rise to speak to Bill C-305, an act to amend the Criminal Code (mischief) as reported back to the House of Commons with amendments.

I want to begin by commending the sponsor of the bill, my colleague, the hon. member for Nepean. I also want to take a moment to thank the members of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights for their dedicated work. I also want to commend the hon. member for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke for all of his passionate advocacy over the years for the LGBTQQ community, and in particular for the transgender community, without which I do not believe we would be at this historical moment.

Allow me first to set the bill in the context of recent past events. As has been mentioned recently in the House, in January of this year, six people were murdered in a Quebec City mosque, an event that shocked and appalled the nation. In Ottawa there has been a troubling spike in the incidents of hate graffiti on synagogues over the past several months. Such incidents should cause us as legislators to consider how we wish to confront and prevent the commission of hate crimes in our society.

Bill C-305 is an important response to strengthen the ability of the criminal law to adequately denounce and deter hate crimes. It proposes to expand the scope of the current hate-motivated mischief offence now found in subsection 430(4.1) of the Criminal Code. That provision, entitled “Mischief relating to religious property”, currently prohibits mischief committed against buildings or structures primarily used for a religious purpose, such as a church, mosque, synagogue, or cemetery. The offence must be committed out of hatred, prejudice, or bias based on religion, race, colour, or national or ethnic origin.

The current provision carries a maximum punishment of 10 years of imprisonment when prosecuted by indictment and a maximum penalty of 18 months in jail when prosecuted by way of a summary conviction.

The Criminal Code presently has a sentencing provision to address hate crimes. Subparagraph 718.2(a)(i) of the code requires a judge to take into consideration as an aggravating factor for any crime whether the crime was motivated by bias, prejudice, or hatred. This is based on a non-exhaustive list of criteria, including religion, race, colour, national or ethnic origin, mental or physical disability, sex, sexual orientation, or any other similar factor.

Some may argue that given these existing provisions, there is no need to expand the offence of hate-motivated mischief any further, since what is not caught by current subsection 430(4.1) would be addressed at the sentencing stage when the judge must take into consideration whether the offence was motivated by hatred. However, I believe this is an overly narrow interpretation of the law as it stands, and we have an opportunity as legislators to address this.

I acknowledge that judges may rely on the existing sentencing provisions to account for hateful motivation, but I believe that by expanding the actual offence of hate-motivated mischief, we have an opportunity to send a strong message of condemnation to those who would commit such crimes.

Denunciation of this type of offence is not merely symbolic. Hate-motivated mischief carries a heavier maximum penalty on summary conviction than the general offence. In addition, by showing leadership on this troubling issue, we stand to raise public awareness in a real and impactful way.

As a result, while some may perceive a redundancy, others will recognize the benefit of providing a broader range of tools to our police, prosecutors, and other criminal justice professionals and, I would add, justice for victims of this particular type of crime.

I will now address the specific changes proposed in Bill C-305 as well as the amendments passed by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

As I noted earlier, the existing offence under subsection 430(4.1) of the code applies only to mischief committed against religious property. While this is one category of property that deserves special recognition, I believe that a broader diversity of Canadians stand to benefit from an expanded application of this section.

Bill C-305 addresses this issue head-on by amending the current hate-motivated mischief offence in two ways. First, the bill proposes to include new buildings or parts of buildings primarily used as educational institutions, including a school, day care centre, or college or university; used for administrative, social, cultural, or sports events or activities, including a town hall, community centre, playground, or arena; or used as a seniors residence.

Upon passage of this bill, therefore, vandalism committed against a Jewish or Muslim community centre would be caught by the expanded hate crime mischief offence and not just vandalism committed against a synagogue or a mosque.

I should note that a major concern for our government was expressed during the debate at second reading. The concern was that the definition of property that it proposed to add to the current offence was overly broad. The list of new properties caught by the bill appeared to be much broader than we believe was intended. For instance, the bill would have likely covered privately owned sports stadiums, as well as any buildings used for social purposes. In other words, it would have covered buildings that have no real connection to groups that are historically targeted by hate-based mischief. As a result, the government felt this aspect of the bill reached too far.

I am pleased to say that this issue was addressed by the standing committee during its study of the bill. Specifically, amendments passed by the committee require a building or space to be “primarily used” by one of the groups protected by the bill. This helps maintain a rational connection between the hateful motivation and the building that is subject to the mischief.

The amendment will help to ensure that subsection 430(4.1) does not accidentally capture instances of mischief committed against property that is not actually connected with one of the protected groups.

The bill proposes to expand the list of “identifiable groups” that are covered by the mischief provision of the Criminal Code to make it more consistent with the groups set out in the section on hate propaganda offences.

The definition of “identifiable groups” for hate propaganda offences covers not only groups that are identifiable by colour, race, religion, and national or ethnic origin—the motivations currently set out for hate-based mischief—but also those identifiable by age, sex, sexual orientation, and mental or physical disability.

Bill C-305 seeks to eliminate that inconsistency by establishing a list of motivations for hate-based mischief that is similar to that set out in the definition of “identifiable groups” under the hate propaganda section of the Criminal Code. In other words, the motivations of age, sex, sexual orientation, and mental and physical disability would be added as motivations for hate-based mischief as soon as the bill is passed.

It is important to note that Bill C-305 proposes adding another item to the list of motivations for hate-based mischief that depends on the passage of Bill C-16 by both the House and the other place.

My colleagues may recall that Bill C-16, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code, an act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code, proposes adding gender identity and gender expression to the definition of “identifiable groups” for hate propaganda offences.

My colleagues will also recall that, although Bill C-305, as introduced at first reading, proposed adding gender identity to the list of motivations for hate-based mischief, gender identity was not addressed in the bill. The sponsor of the bill recognized that this was an oversight. The amendments proposed by the standing committee corrected that omission.

As a result, once Bill C-16 comes into force, an act of mischief committed against property primarily used by a group identifiable on the basis of its gender identity where the mischief was motivated by hatred based on gender identity would be caught by this expanded offence.

To summarize, Bill C-305 would expand the current hate crime of mischief to clearly denounce additional types of mischief motivated by hatred against certain historically marginalized groups. It would therefore provide additional tools to our criminal justice system to protect Canadians from hate-motivated crime.

I would once again like to thank the sponsor for his outstanding advocacy on this issue, as well as the standing committee for its excellent work on Bill C-305. I sincerely hope that the hon. members of this House continue to support Bill C-305 in order to more fully protect the diversity of communities in our Canadian society.