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



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


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.


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.


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

February 23rd, 2017 / 8:45 a.m.
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Sven Spengemann Liberal Mississauga—Lakeshore, ON

Madam Chair and distinguished members of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, I thank you for this opportunity to speak on my private member's bill, Bill C-309, an act to establish Gender Equality Week.

It's a great honour for me to appear before you today, not only in my capacity as the member of Parliament for Mississauga—Lakeshore, but also because, in my view, this is a real opportunity to have a profoundly positive impact on Canadian society.

Before elaborating, Madam Chair, I would like to take a moment to thank my team here in Ottawa and in my constituency for their dedicated work in bringing this bill to where it is today.

Adrian Zita-Bennett is my executive and legislative assistant, and he did much of the heavy lifting on the consultation and the development of the text of this bill. My amazing team in the constituency office—Dulce Santos, Hanan Harb, Leslie Peres, and Kyra Brennan—engaged our community in Mississauga—Lakeshore and supported us each step of the way.

Madam Chair, I would also like to thank Strength in Stories, which is a grassroots organization that helped to inspire this bill, and particularly its co-founder, Rachelle Bergen.

In addition, local and national stakeholders such as non-profit organizations, women's shelters, and all levels of government provided feedback that was critical in developing the preambular paragraphs of this bill.

My team and I felt that making frank and compelling mention of the full scope of gender-based inequalities that persist in Canada was an essential step to ensure that gender equality week will be effective in delivering two things: national engagement and prospective solutions.

The reason for this, Madam Chair, is simple. Solving any given problem first requires full recognition of the existence of the problem and of its scope. We need to be able to call problems by their names and be frank and open when tackling the challenges that we continue to face.

I am sure the members of this committee are not at all surprised to hear stakeholders tell them we still have a lot of work to do to create a more gender-equality-based society. I would like to cite some facts that reinforce that perception.

In the Global Gender Report it has published every year since 2006, the World Economic Forum reveals the scope of existing gender gaps and the efforts being made to close them, particularly in the fields of health, education, economic participation, economic prospects, and political empowerment. According to the 2016 report, which the forum published last October, Canada ranks 35th out of 144 countries, between Luxembourg and Cape Verde, but 1st in North America.

Madam Chair and distinguished members of the committee, we, as Canadians, must also acknowledge that the wage gap between men and women undermines our economy and the global economy. People around the world increasingly recognize that gender inequality is a major stumbling block.

According to a report the Royal Bank published in 2005, the lost income potential of Canadian women due to the wage gap is about $126 billion a year. A report published by the UBS financial services corporation last October states that global economic performance would rise by £10 billion if the wage gap between men and women were closed. Similarly, according to a report issued by the McKinsey Global Institute in September 2015, promoting gender equality would add £12 billion to global GDP by 2025.

Gender equality week can work to achieve what more and more international organizations and governments around the world are advocating: that the elimination of gender gaps will lead to strong and lasting economic benefits. As a 2013 International Monetary Fund report on women's participation in the global labour market put it, “The challenges of growth, job creation, and inclusion are closely intertwined.”

Here in Canada, gender-based inequalities have become ingrained in the fabric of our society, and if we do not address them directly, they will continue to persist.

Canadians of minority gender identity and expression are often faced with these challenges in an even more profound manner, and on the predicament of indigenous Canadians, Madam Chair, a 2015 RCMP report outlines that indigenous women make up just over 4% of our population and yet account for 16% of female homicides and 11% of missing Canadian women.

The acknowledgement of these outcomes goes far beyond partisan affiliation. All of us bear some responsibility in a society that categorically and systematically treats and values genders differently.

In short, if we truly seek to address these challenges, a pivotal first step is to recognize them frankly and understand them fully.

Second, the federal government cannot solve these problems by itself. Gender equality requires awareness and engagement on the part of all Canadians. To be clear, I'm very proud of the leadership of our Prime Minister and the federal government, who are working to address systemic gender-based gaps that have shaped Canada since Confederation.

The Prime Minister has achieved gender parity in cabinet for the first time in the history of Canada. Also for the first time, he appointed a woman as Leader of the Government in the House and a female minister who will focus exclusively on gender equality issues.

The Canadian government has launched an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women, and the Minister of Status of Women is developing a national strategy to combat gender-based violence. The government has also begun to implement the gender-based analysis plus tool, or GBA+, in all federal government organizations to ensure the aspects of this issue are taken into consideration in all government programs, policies, and statutes.

The Canadian government has tabled Bill C-16, currently being debated in the Senate, which protects Canadians who belong to minority groups distinguished by gender identity or gender expression by adding gender identity and gender expression to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination as defined in the Canadian Human Rights Act.

In early December 2016, the Governor of the Bank of Canada, the Minister of Finance, and the Minister of Status of Women announced that Viola Desmond, a Nova Scotian businesswoman and civil rights champion, will be the first woman to appear on a Canadian bank note.

Internationally, Canada has done its share as part of the UN Commission on the Status of Women and vigorously supports the HeForShe solidarity campaign launched by that organization.

Once again, I tip my hat to the leadership of our Prime Minister and the Canadian government in promoting gender equality.

But, Madam Chair, this is a cause on which all Canadians must lead. This is the thrust of the bill before you today. Government cannot do this work alone, and the mere passing of legislation without public recognition of and engagement with the challenges we face will be insufficient.

You may rightly wonder what exactly an annual gender equality week might look like. Each year across the 338 federal ridings in our country, gender equality week can inspire girls, boys, men, women, and those of minority gender identity and expression to take part in a dialogue to establish a more inclusive society. If we work together, Madam Chair, we can find solutions.

As parliamentarians we can use this designated week to deepen relationships and collaborate with our community leaders and advocacy groups. This work could take the form of community town halls and debates, research proposals, television and social media reports, fundraising initiatives, marches, arts and music, and other forms of advocacy. Through its emphasis on fostering local community-based dialogue on gender equality, we can also serve to strengthen current federal initiatives and communities across our country.

In my riding of Mississauga—Lakeshore, young people as well as seniors have participated in the development of the bill that is before you today. Members of our youth council have specifically expressed concern about the difficulties faced by women in entering and excelling in the workforce. Leaders in our community of seniors could play a big part in an annual gender equality week. They have seen first-hand how attitudes and policies have and have not changed with respect to gender equality, and their input would be critical to eliminating gender-based disparities, including poverty, for the next generation and beyond.

Madam Chair, our great country is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. Canada has achieved so much since Confederation, yet on the issue of gender equality and equity, there's still so much more to achieve.

Bill C-309, An Act to establish Gender Equality Week, is an effort to raise collective awareness of existing gender-based inequality and to work toward the establishment of a more inclusive society.

We need to be able to identify problems in a frank manner and understand that governments cannot solve the issues alone. This is an effort on which we must all lead, and we have before us an opportunity to achieve real progress in our communities and across our country.

Thank you, Madam Chair. I look forward to the committee's questions.

February 21st, 2017 / 5:10 p.m.
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Assistant Professor and Faculty Director, Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services, University of Alberta, As an Individual

Dr. Kristopher Wells

Absolutely. I believe it has been said that it should parallel Bill C-16. As I mentioned, many people are targeted because of their gender expression, because they're not performing what it means to be societally acceptable as being a male or female. Or, what happens when you're gender diverse? That is a group of individuals who can be at some of the most extreme risks, as my colleague has mentioned.

As we're changing one part of the Criminal Code and we have the opportunity to be consistent, I think this is prudent. I think there's been a lot of conversation around this. The difference is that now I think we're getting a better understanding of gender identity and of what gender expression is and how they both create vulnerability in individuals who may operate outside of the male-female binary. We see this as more of a fluidity that's happening in our society.

As I always say, go to our students, to our young people, and go to Facebook. There aren't just two gender choices. There are over 50. As a professor who works in this area, I'll say that my students are my best educators on what is current in how they're identifying these days.

February 21st, 2017 / 4:35 p.m.
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Assistant Professor and Faculty Director, Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services, University of Alberta, As an Individual

Dr. Kristopher Wells

Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today.

And to our colleagues who presented before, it's great to see the solidarity between communities talking about such an important issue of hate and bias in our country.

I believe that the proposed amendments to Bill C-305 are important to the preservation and protection of Canada's increasingly diverse, multicultural, and pluralistic identities, especially as we increasingly express and make visible our diverse identities and values directly through our public institutions.

As emphasized by member of Parliament Randall Garrison, I believe Bill C-305 should not only include sexual orientation and gender identity, but also gender expression, as prohibited grounds for the offence of mischief, which aligns with the current changes proposed by Bill C-16, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code, which includes both gender identity and gender expression as prohibited grounds of discrimination.

Transgender individuals experience some of the highest rates of violence, discrimination, and prejudice in our society. Unfortunately, in Canada we have no way for law enforcement to track, charge, or specifically prosecute hate or discrimination that is motivated by gender identity or gender expression. Trans lives matter and are worthy of protection. This critical absence must be addressed.

It is vitally important to recognize and protect the LGBTQ community in similar ways as other cultural, racialized, or visible minority communities that are vulnerable to hate, prejudice, and discrimination because of an identifiable characteristic of a person. Much discrimination against LGBTQ people is based on their gender expression and the assumptions that are made as to what it means to be stereotypically male, female, or to be perceived as neither.

It has been said that homophobia and transphobia are one of the most powerful weapons of sexism, misogyny, and privilege in our society. LGBTQ individuals are often considered to be invisible minorities because they may not reveal their true identities unless they feel safe. This is why the LGBTQ community organizations, like pride or rainbow centres, and growing cultural celebrations, such as pride festivals, and specific LGBTQ-identified neighbourhoods or enclaves are all critically important safe spaces. These safe spaces are often visibly marked with rainbow flags to indicate inclusion, acceptance, and support. Indeed, it was a remarkable historic moment to witness the rainbow pride flag raised over Parliament Hill last June. This was a strong and visible signal to the world that Canada supports our LGBTQ communities both at home and abroad.

The challenge of the proposed amendments in Bill C-305 will be in establishing clear definitions as to what is meant by administrative, social, cultural, or sports activities or events. For example, many hate crimes and incidents happen in specific LGBTQ-identified neighbourhoods and at community or social events. Places like Church Street in Toronto, Davie Street in Vancouver, and Saint Catherine Street in Montreal all represent clearly identified and civically supported LGBTQ neighbourhoods.

Would these areas receive the same protection that is proposed by Bill C-305? I believe clarity is needed to ensure that these and other important community gathering places, such as pride festivals, which can draw tens of thousands, or in the case of Toronto and Montreal and Vancouver's pride festivals, hundreds of thousands of people.

Sadly, these celebrations of diversity also make them prime targets for hate and extremism. While mischief or crimes to property are one of the most common forms of hate crimes in Canada, most hate crimes against the LGBTQ community are not to property, but directly target individuals in the form of physical and sexual assaults and murder. Indeed, recent hate crime statistics indicate that of all the reported hate crimes committed in Canada, those targeting the LGBTQ community are among the most violent in nature and require serious medical attention. It's not one stab wound, but 40, as these individuals are not seen as persons, but as objects to be destroyed.

Sadly, only one in 10 hate crimes is ever reported to law enforcement. By attacking vulnerable individuals, most hate crimes are designed to instill fear and terror into entire communities. They strike at the very heart of what we believe an inclusive democracy should be, which is to live one's life openly, without threat or fear.

The proposed amendments to Bill C-305 raise several further questions. Will commercial spaces, such as LGBTQ-identified businesses, be protected under the legislation? Places like bars and nightclubs have been important and historic spaces of refuge and resistance for the LGBTQ community. In some cases they were the only safe spaces that existed in many communities.

Our modern pride movement is said to have emanated out of the police raids at the Stonewall Inn, an infamous bar in New York City. And now thanks to one of the final acts of president Obama, it has been recognized as the first national LGBTQ monument in the United States. Stonewall marked the beginning of a newfound source of community identity and activism. Those fateful riots in June of 1969 are the reason why many pride festivals are held around the world today.

The recent Pulse nightclub tragedy in Orlando, which took the lives of 49 innocent people and wounded 53 others, occurred in a gay-identified nightclub. This is another very recent and tragic example of the extreme hate and violence still directed at the LGBT community. There have been more than 25 documented directed attacks on LGBTQ-identified spaces, where people came to find community and love, but where they were met with hate and death.

Perhaps rather than the piecemeal amendments to the Criminal Code of Canada, all of which are well intended to address hate and prejudice, it's time for a different and more comprehensive approach. In Canada, law enforcement agencies still do not have a common operational definition of hate crimes, which causes challenges in police investigations, reporting, and the accurate collection of important national data. This is why there should be a specific hate crime section and universal definition included in the Criminal Code of Canada.

For example, a possible uniform definition might be this: A hate crime is an offence committed against a person or property, which is motivated in whole or in part to harm or instill hatred towards an identifiable group based on real or perceived race, national or ethnic origin, language, colour, religion, gender, gender identity, gender expression, age, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, or any other similar factor.

The addition of a specific hate crime section in the Criminal Code of Canada, which could be in similar form to the current section on terrorism, section 83.01, and the education and application of this new hate crime section by police agencies and justice officials would ensure that Canada's diverse communities understand that our government not only advocates and supports peaceful co-existence between communities, but it also enforces the full extent of the law against hate-mongers and extremist groups whose goal is to attack diversity and difference and tear away at Canada's very social fabric.

While the proposed amendments to section 430 are important, hate is not only a crime against property. Rather it disproportionately impacts people, many of whom are the most vulnerable in our society. We must do more to protect and support our most vulnerable and marginalized communities. One look around the world shows us that hate and extremism are on the rise. The question is this. What will be our response to this growing threat? As we recently and tragically witnessed, Canada is not immune.

We must do more to protect our diverse communities. We must do more to give law enforcement the appropriate tools to adequately investigate, track, and prosecute hate-motivated crimes, regardless of whether they attack property or persons. It's time for us to have a much broader conversation about hate and extremism in Canada.

I hope this private member's bill will do just that.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today.

February 21st, 2017 / 4:25 p.m.
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Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Marceau, I was really glad to hear of the work and support you've given to Bill C-16 and my colleague, Randall Garrison and his work on that. I think we've identified that gender expression is missing from this bill.

I have one quick question for you. In section 718.2 of the Criminal Code, one of the aggravating factors is also sex. Do you think that should be included in this specific part?

I ask because in my riding I have a building, the Cowichan Women Against Violence Society. It's a women's organization specifically there to help women out of abusive relationships, and if someone were to target that building just because it is helping women, do you think that sex is a key element missing from section 4.1?

February 21st, 2017 / 3:55 p.m.
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General Counsel and Senior Political Advisor, Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs

Richard Marceau

No. I actually like Michael's idea. It's one that I would seriously consider.

Otherwise, I am fine with the bill as is, with the caveat as I mentioned earlier: the LGBTQ buildings or community centres. Should they be in the same subsection with a subtitle of religious property, or should they be in another subsection? It's of no consequence to us. We believe that, as a community at risk, it should be protected.

I would mention one other thing. If we assume that Bill C-16 will be passed by the Senate this session, we should make sure that the wording of Bill C-305—which was passed by the House and is now being considered by the other place—is consistent with Bill C-16.

February 21st, 2017 / 3:40 p.m.
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Richard Marceau General Counsel and Senior Political Advisor, Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

I'd like to thank the committee members for inviting me. I'd also like to thank Chandra Arya, the member who brought forward Bill C-305, as well as all the members who supported it at second reading.

This legislation has been on the Jewish community's agenda for quite some time. Understandably, then, I would like to set the backdrop for Bill C-305. Though in no way do I want to take any credit away from Mr. Arya for sponsoring the bill. Quite the contrary.

Back when I was in your shoes and serving as my party's justice critic, the Jewish community approached me to have protective safeguards already available to houses and places of worship and cemeteries extended to community centres and schools belonging to the community.

They convinced me, so I put together a bill, which I was about to introduce when the 2006 election was called. I was defeated in the election, but Carole Freeman, a Bloc Québécois MP took up the charge and introduced the bill. After passing at second reading, Bill C-384 was referred to this committee. The 2008 election was then called, and Ms. Freeman lost her seat as well.

Between 2008 and 2011, a Liberal MP by the name of Marlene Jennings brought the bill back, this time as Bill C-451. It garnered widespread support from all parties, but Marlene, too, lost her seat in 2011.

During the 41st Parliament, Marc Garneau, now Minister of Transport, reincarnated the bill as Bill C-510, but it was too low on the priority list to ever see the light of day.

It's been 10 years since the bill first came about, and we are here today to study it. Finally, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

The objective of the bill is fairly straightforward. It is to extend the protection already given to houses of worship and cemeteries to other buildings and structures used by communities at risk.

Our community, the Jewish community, has often been the target of vandalism. As Michael mentioned, Jewish Canadians are victimized by hate-motivated crime at a higher rate than any other identifiable group. StatsCan data shows that roughly three-quarters of these crimes fall under the legal category of mischief—broadly speaking the vandalism or destruction of property.

Vandalism of community centres and schools involves more than attacks on buildings. It reverberates throughout a community and throughout a city. It touches every member of a community, whether that person goes frequently to that place or not. That is why it must be seriously punished.

The bill extends the protection by defining the word “property” for the purposes of subsection 4.1 as being:

a building or structure, or part of a building or structure, that is primarily used for religious worship...

that is primarily used as an educational institution...

that is primarily used for administrative, social, cultural or sports activities or events—including a town hall, community centre, playground or arena—, or...

that is primarily used as a residence for seniors

I understand there are concerns about the bill's being too broad, more specifically about the groups afforded protection in subsection 4.1 and about which buildings would be covered. Let me tackle one at a time.

The fact is, the subsection is about mischief relating to religious property. I have heard concerns that extending it to cover buildings associated, for example, with the LGBTQ+ community would denature the subsection. We at CIJA have no problem extending protections to LGBTQ+ community buildings. Our longstanding advocacy in this area, including our deep involvement in support of C-16—previously C-279—brought forward by Mr. Randall Garrison, speaks for itself.

I don't think the principle of inclusion with regard to the LGBTQ+ community is at issue. The question may be whether these protections should be included in the same subsection, thus changing its nature, or whether they should be extended to LGBTQ+ community buildings in a different subsection. To the Jewish community, the how/which subsection matters less than the what, namely that these institutions be covered and better protected.

As for the issue of the bill's being too broad regarding which buildings would fall under this subsection, I disagree. What about, for example, a synagogue, a mosque, or a temple that rents space in a mall? Shouldn't those be protected? How about the social services agency of a community that rents space in an office building? Today the Jewish social services agencies from across Canada are on the Hill, meeting MPs and ministers to discuss the issues around disability. They would tell you, and rightly so, that they would like and need their offices to be covered.

At a time when Sayyed al-Ghitaoui, an imam at Montreal's Al Andalous Islamic Center, who called for the destruction of the cursed Jews, imploring Allah to kill them one by one, and to make their children orphans and their women widows, has the support of his mosque; at a time when Igor Sadikov, a member of McGill University's student society sent out a tweet that read, “punch a [Z]ionist today”; at a time when—and this happened on February 6, 2017—someone hacked the attendance sheet of a children's swim team in Côte Saint-Luc, hosted by Google Docs, and filled it with murderous threats against the Jewish community, as well as several references to Hezbollah, a Lebanese terrorist organization, banned in Canada, that seeks the destruction of Israel;

At a time when six Muslim worshippers were so brutally gunned down while engaged in prayer, when a wave of hate vandalism hit many religious and community institutions in Ottawa, including the community centre where my sons work and the synagogue I am a member of, it is time to send a strong signal that anti-Jewish, anti-Christian, anti-Muslim, anti-Sikh bigotry, and all other forms of hatred have no place in Canada, that schools and community centres are as central to minorities' lives as houses of worship or cemeteries, and that mischief against those buildings should be seriously punished.

I encourage all members of Parliament to continue to support Bill C-305 and to pass it without delay.

Thank you very much.

February 16th, 2017 / 3:50 p.m.
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Ted Falk Conservative Provencher, MB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you, Mr. Arya, for coming to committee today and for the work you've put into this piece.

I have a question, and I'm going to build on what Mr. MacGregor and Mr. Fraser talked about, and that's in regard to proposed subsection 4.1 of your private member's bill.

They've talked about coordinating amendments. If Bill C-16 ever became law.... That isn't a law, but we do have a document today that is law, and that's the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Subsections 15(1) and 15(2) make specific reference to categories that cannot be discriminated against.

Why would your bill not include this similar language or the exact language that is used in the charter?

February 16th, 2017 / 3:45 p.m.
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Colin Fraser Liberal West Nova, NS

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Thank you for being here, Mr. Arya, and for your good work on this bill and for your clear and articulate presentation today.

I'd like to ask questions that have been touched on by a couple of questioners, with regard to adding gender expression and language that is consistent with Bill C-16, currently before the Senate. I know that when we considered another piece of legislation, we added a coordinating amendment so that, if that bill becomes law, we'd be using the same sort of language. Would you be open to that sort of coordinating amendment depending on which bill, if either one or both become law? Would you be open to having that added as an amendment?

February 16th, 2017 / 3:40 p.m.
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Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

I think your bill has laudable goals, but my concern overall is that we seem to be fixing individual trees and losing sight of the forest.

If you look at Bill C-16 and the Criminal Code, you will see that there are also provisions there for prohibiting discrimination based on sex. Your bill also forgets to include that particular part. Is that something that you were made aware of, or is that another oversight?

Human RightsOral Questions

February 16th, 2017 / 2:40 p.m.
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Vancouver Granville B.C.


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

Mr. Speaker, again, I would like to thank the hon. member across the way for his tireless efforts in terms of getting us to this place where I was proud, based on his work and the work of many before him, to introduce Bill C-16. I am following this piece of legislation. I think it is incumbent upon all parliamentarians to do what they can to ensure its expedited passage so we can ensure that individuals, all Canadians in this country, are free to be themselves. It is imperative that we move this bill forward.

Human RightsOral Questions

February 16th, 2017 / 2:40 p.m.
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Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, BC

Mr. Speaker, almost a year ago, I stood with the government and celebrated the introduction of Bill C-16, which would extend the same rights and protections enjoyed by other Canadians to those in the trans community. Now this government bill stands stalled in the Senate. It has been over six years since this legislation was first passed in this House, but still transgender Canadians are told to wait even longer, to go on waiting for their rights.

What are the Liberals doing to get Bill C-16 passed into law? Has the minister communicated the urgency of this bill to senators, or will they let trans rights die in the Senate for a third time?

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

February 2nd, 2017 / 5:35 p.m.
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Scarborough Southwest Ontario


Bill Blair LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I am also pleased to join in the second reading debate of Bill C-305, an act to amend the Criminal Code concerning mischief, which was introduced in the House on September 27 by the member for Nepean.

I would like to begin by thanking the member for Nepean for bringing this important issue before the chamber to give this Parliament an opportunity to speak to it.

I also want to thank and commend the member for Victoria and the member for Mégantic—L'Érable for their remarks, which were very timely and appropriate as well.

We have been tragically reminded of the impact that hate in all of its manifestations can have on our society. The horrific attack on the Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec on Sunday night, the hate-inspired acts of terror which occurred that evening taking six of our fellow citizens' lives, injuring so many, and tragically traumatizing a community and a nation must deepen our resolve to confront and prevent hate in all of its manifestations.

In my experience, the issue of hate does not immediately manifest itself in acts of terror and murder, but far more often is expressed in acts of mischief. Our failure as a society to confront and deal appropriately with these acts, to denounce them in our strongest forms, and to resolve them through appropriate serious consequence can have the effect of encouraging them through complacency. We are reminded of the importance of dealing with this issue.

As parliamentarians I believe we could all agree that hate crimes in all of their forms cannot be tolerated in our country. They are a fundamental attack on our values and our principles and on each and every one of our citizens. A crime of hate against any Canadian citizen is a crime of hate against all Canadian citizens.

Our charter of rights and freedoms guarantees that everyone in Canada has a right to equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and our government is committed to protecting that right. The amendments proposed by this bill would strengthen the message that hate crime will not be tolerated in Canada.

I would now like to turn briefly to where the current law stands in Canada. Currently, there is a specific hate crime of mischief committed against property primarily used for religious worship which is found in subsection 430(4.1) of the Criminal Code, mischief relating to religious property. It is a hate crime because the offence is only committed when such mischief is committed out of bias, prejudice, or hate based on religion, race, colour, national or ethnic origin. The maximum punishment for this offence is 10 years' imprisonment. Subsection 430(4.1) of the Criminal Code was enacted as part of the Anti-terrorism Act of 2001, which was also known at that time as Bill C-36.

Today, hate crime is restricted to property that is primarily used for religious worship, such as churches, mosques, and synagogues, and also includes cemeteries. However, during the committee hearings on Bill C-36, some witnesses, while approving of the creation of a specific hate crime of mischief, argued that the crime should be broader in scope, and if I may, I will cite some examples.

David Matas, lead counsel for B'nai Brith Canada, in his testimony at that time, argued that sex should be added to the list of hate motivations and also that the crime should be expanded to cover schools, organizational buildings, and cemeteries.

As well, on November 6, 2001, before the same committee, Mr. Ed Morgan, who was at that time chair of the Ontario region of the Canadian Jewish Congress, testified that all religious property should be protected by the hate crime mischief offence. He said:

Not just sanctuaries, not just synagogues or churches, but all religious structures, religious centres, religious schools, religious community centres, cemeteries—which are a particular target for hate crimes and desecration—ought to be covered as well.

He also argued at that time, and again I quote from his testimony:

...the grounds of group identification ought to be expanded to include, for example, hate crimes against groups identified by sexual orientation or gender. Gay-bashing is a hate crime, as would be an attack on a women's centre, every bit as much as on a religious community centre.

As a result, subsection 430(4.1) was amended by the House of Commons committee to add cemeteries to the list of properties primarily used for religious worship, but not the other kinds of properties that had been cited in the testimony, such as schools or community centres.

As well, a proposed amendment to add sex as a ground of hate motivation was rejected at that time, because it was seen as not relating logically back to the purpose of the hate crime mischief offence, which was to protect places of religious worship, unlike other hate motivations of race, colour, religion, or ethnic or national origin.

Bill C-305 proposes to add to this mischief offence additional kinds of property. These are buildings or structures used for educational purposes, for administrative, social, cultural, or sports activities or events, or as residences for seniors. As well, the list of hate-motivating criteria would be expanded by adding two new ones: sexual orientation and gender identity.

I wholeheartedly support the principles behind the bill that our criminal law should clearly denounce all hate-motivated mischief. However, it does bring forward some questions about the potentially broad scope of the proposed crimes in this section, which were previously discussed during the first hour of second reading by my colleague and the member for Charlottetown.

The private member's bill in its current form could potentially capture numerous unintended buildings and spaces such as sports arenas or coffee shops. These buildings or structures are currently protected by the general offence of mischief. Additionally, in order to ensure consistency with the existing hate speech provisions in the Criminal Code as well as those amendments proposed under Bill C-16, gender identity, which is currently before the Senate, we need to look more closely at this proposed legislation.

Therefore, the government will support Bill C-305 with a view to amendments to address the potential overbreadth and consistency with other provisions of the Criminal Code. We believe that Bill C-305 should receive second reading and be sent to committee for further study.

I would like to take this opportunity to once again thank the member for Nepean for his commitment in bringing this matter forward. It is a timely piece of legislation. It is work that demands our closest attention.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

February 2nd, 2017 / 5:15 p.m.
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Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in strong support of Bill C-305, an act to amend the Criminal Code regarding mischief. I want to thank the member for Nepean for bringing this bill forward.

Bill C-305 would make small but significant changes to the way we handle hate-motivated crimes against communal spaces. There are many things we can do to stand up to discrimination and make our communities safer for all of us. This bill is one good step in that direction, so I hope we can all work together to see it debated, improved, and passed into law.

Canada is thought of, at home and abroad, as an inclusive nation, a place that welcomes all people, regardless of culture, language, or religion, with equality and respect. It is a country where diversity is not just accepted but celebrated. We strive to make Canada a nation free from racial intolerance and xenophobia, but recent events remind us that we still have more work to do.

Here in Ottawa, right here in the nation's capital, we have seen mosques, synagogues, and a Jewish community centre vandalized. We have seen discrimination in communities right across Canada, and in Quebec City this weekend, we saw where hatred can lead.

In Canada, racial and ethnic discrimination motivates about half of all police-reported hate crimes. Another quarter of these crimes are driven by prejudice towards religion, and that number, sadly, is rising. In just the last three years, hate crimes against Muslim Canadians have more than doubled. These statistics should not cause us to despair. They should call us to action.

Bill C-305 would expand the protection we give to communal spaces against vandalism driven by hate and discrimination. As it stands, the crime of mischief in our Criminal Code is punishable by up to two years' imprisonment, but where that mischief is motivated by “bias, prejudice or hate based on religion, race, colour or national or ethnic origin”, it becomes punishable by up to 10 years behind bars. This is only the case, however, when the crime is committed against religious property. It does not apply to other community spaces.

Bill C-305 would extend these legal protections to more communal places, including daycare centres, seniors' homes, schools, town halls, and sports arenas, granting them the same protected status as places of religion.

Let us be clear. This is not just some arcane criminal law question. It is about our values. It is about supporting Canadians' right to live without fear of discrimination and to enjoy spaces free from hateful vandalism. It is about making it clear that hate-fuelled vandalism is a hate crime, regardless of where it is committed.

A second benefit of Bill C-305 is that it would expand the list of discriminatory motives for hate crimes to include “gender identity” and “sexual orientation”.

Ten years ago, New Democrats pioneered legislation calling for the inclusion of gender identity as a prohibited basis for discrimination under federal human rights law. I want to acknowledge the incredible hard work and dedication of my colleague for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, who advanced the cause this far. I want to thank all members from all parties who have joined that cause along the way. Because of the efforts and advocacy of thousands of Canadians, that cause succeeded in passing Bill C-16 recently, which is a milestone in Canada's commitment to inclusion and protection for all.

However, as it stands, the wording of Bill C-305 before us today is inconsistent with Bill C-16 in that it includes gender identity but does not include gender expression. Therefore, for the sake of clarity and consistency, I would propose that both be included and protected by this bill.

We know that one in six hate crimes in Canada is motivated by discrimination toward sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. These are not the most common hate crimes, but they are the most likely to be violent.

I believe an amendment at committee to mirror the language used in Bill C-16 and change “gender identity” to “gender identity or expression” would strengthen the bill and affirm our policy of zero tolerance for transphobic discrimination.

These and other amendments can be considered at committee. However, I want to thank, again, the member for Ottawa West—Nepean for opening the door for much-needed conversation on hate crimes in Canada.

Better laws can counteract these offences. However, changing laws is obviously not enough. We need to teach empathy in our schools, tolerance in our workplaces, and openness and inclusivity in our community centres and spaces. We have a responsibility, now more than ever, to stand up to discrimination. The roots of prejudice are in lack of understanding, and that is within our power to change.

We know that Canada is not immune to the disturbing trends we see south of the border and across Europe. We have seen how playing with the fire of fear and division can spark violence. However, we have also seen acts of great strength. We have seen citizens speaking up for their friends, for their colleagues, or for complete strangers, refusing to let differences divide them. Now is the time when we must look to that strength and reaffirm our commitment to building a safe, resilient, and welcoming Canada for all.

We know what happens when we fail to stand up to those who seek to divide us.

This week, six Canadians were murdered in a mosque, targeted because of their faith. That act of violence shook our country and triggered an outpouring of support for our Muslim friends and neighbours, as Canadians gathered in vigils across the country to remember the victims. However, we cannot ignore that the hatred that led to a gunman in a mosque in Sainte-Foy, Quebec, is not so different from what drives a teenager to spray a swastika on a door in Ottawa or a commuter to hurl racial slurs on a streetcar in Toronto.

It is critical, now more than ever, that we condemn, not only these acts, but also the divisive rhetoric that inspires them.

At a time when so many are fearful, we can lead by example. We can do more to protect the diversity we are so quick to call our greatest strength.

Every individual in Canada has the right to live without fear of persecution. This bill would be one more step to ensuring that right is protected. I urge every parliamentarian to commit to that cause and support the bill.

Gender Equality Week ActPrivate Members' Business

January 30th, 2017 / 11:30 a.m.
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Sven Spengemann Liberal Mississauga—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, welcome back to you and all of my colleagues. It is indeed an honour to speak on the first parliamentary day of 2017, the year of our 150th anniversary.

To start off, I would like to thank my colleagues in the House for their interest in Bill C-309, an act to establish gender equality week, for their important contributions to the debate at second reading, and for their support. I would also like to thank 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 want to thank Rachelle Bergen and the Strength in Stories team for their ideas that helped bring us to where we are today.

This effort is about building a more inclusive society. We think about gender equality week as an opportunity to rally all Canadians around a very important issue and to generate additional momentum for social change. It is not an occasion to celebrate accomplishments, but as reflected in the paragraphs in the preamble, gender equality week seeks to raise awareness of the most profound remaining challenges and offers a platform to work collaboratively on concrete solutions.

To be absolutely clear, I am very proud of what we as Canadians are already doing to achieve gender equality and equity. In November 2015, our Prime Minister formed Canada's first cabinet with female and male parity. Our government has launched an inquiry into Canada's missing and murdered aboriginal and indigenous women, and the Minister of Status of Women is developing a federal strategy against gender-based violence.

The Government of Canada introduced Bill C-16, which 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.

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. However, important as these and other actions are, there is more work ahead of us than there is behind us, and to close the remaining gaps, the government will need the advocacy, support, and commitment of Canadians.

Bill C-309 recognizes that need and 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 at all levels of government, young and established professionals, new Canadians, indigenous peoples, Canadians in law enforcement and our armed forces, and seniors. Involvement in gender equality week could take a wide range of forms, including town hall discussions, university and college colloquia, music, plays, literature, film projects, workplace round tables, the formulation and presentation of academic research, public rallies, fundraisers, and social media, radio, and television events and campaigns.

Our consultations with various groups, organizations, and different levels of government helped us develop a substantive preamble that gives Canadians a fuller perspective of the challenges that lie ahead. The challenges posed by gender-based violence and the gender wage gap were identified as particularly critical hurdles that we, as Canadians, must address and overcome. Through active engagement, Canadians can achieve real progress on these fronts.

I look forward to working on Bill C-309 with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle of the House in the days, weeks, and months ahead. I encourage my fellow members to support the bill, as the time to act is now. It is only through concerted, sustained action that real and lasting social change can become a reality.

Gender Equality Week ActPrivate Members' Business

January 30th, 2017 / 11:05 a.m.
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Randy Boissonnault Liberal Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to be back in the House today and to speak in favour of the important legislation of Bill C-309, which would establish a gender equality week in Canada. This would provide a week to reflect on the importance of gender equality and the ongoing need to advance the cause of equality in Canada.

I am proud that our government will support the passage of Bill C-309, with amendments that will be brought at committee. I would like to thank my friend the hon. member for Mississauga—Lakeshore for bringing this important legislation forward.

This is an opportunity to remind ourselves of the work that still needs to be done to ensure greater gender equality.

We know that too many women are still facing systemic inequalities in the workplace. We need more women in politics, and we know that we need more women in the judiciary and more women in STEM professions.

We need to seriously address issues of sexual harassment in the workplace, and we have seen shocking examples recently of the harassment that women in public office face. It includes women in this chamber and women who have risen to become premiers of several provinces across this country, including mine. This is unacceptable, and we know that awareness and education are the most important tools in beginning to correct these issues. A gender equality week is a tool for spreading that awareness and bringing change in our country.

It is important to remember, as well, the importance of gender equality for our transgender community. As special adviser to the Prime Minister on LGBTQ2 issues, I can state unequivocally there is much work that needs to be done in this area.

Our government has been clear that equality of transgender Canadians is a priority for us because it is a priority for Canadians. Just this last week, I had the opportunity to hold round table conversations in five cities in our country; it is critical for our government to make sure that both houses pass Bill C-16, which would extend rights to transgendered persons. However, there is so much more to do, and I look forward to working with members of this House and continuing to listen to the trans and non-binary community about further steps that need to be taken. However, we do know that there is a serious need for greater awareness and education surrounding the challenges this community faces. Bill C-309 gives us that opportunity.

There are those who argue that the bill is not necessary. There are some who dismiss Bill C-309 as merely a symbolic gesture on which we should not spend any time. After all, they argue, symbols do not matter. I disagree. Symbols do matter. Symbols send powerful messages, particularly when we are discussing equality and human rights. They rally people to press forward, and they give hope and inspiration to those fighting for a better world.

We should take a look at the symbol of Angela Merkel, female Chancellor of Germany. How many girls have been inspired to rise to the top of their professions, due not only to her amazing work but to the symbol that she provides to the world?

We must not dismiss the importance and impact of symbols. It would be a mistake to pit symbol against substance rather than recognize that they are intertwined. Symbols give rise to substantive change, and substantive change leads to more symbols.

Symbols are influential; they are forces of change. Symbols provide the hope and resolve that mobilize crowds and drive people forward. Symbols unite us in pursuit of a better world.

When we set out to establish a gender equality week, when we speak up for inclusion and respect, when we march for LGBTQ2 pride, when we honour the differences, identities, and genders of every individual, we are actively and symbolically recommitting to supporting rights and equality for all.

When we discuss our gender-balanced cabinet, we know it is both a symbol of equality and a sign of substantial action. Symbols lead to substantive change; substantive change leads to more symbols; and we know that every young girl in this country will be able to point to the symbol of gender balance in our executive council and know that, some day, should they want to work hard for it, they could also have a place at that table. That will also ensure substantive action on the changes we need and the different perspectives we need to take in all elements of Canadian society.

Equality is not something that just happens. Repression and discrimination do not just end overnight. It takes the work of activists and trailblazers. It takes time and self-reflection and tough questions. It often takes the support and leadership of government.

It takes the initiative of members of Parliament to be bold, as my colleague has done. Canadians elected the members of our Liberal caucus to show that leadership, and this is one of the many ways that we are bringing real change to Canada and to all Canadians.