Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in strong support of Bill C-305. At the outset, I would like to congratulate the hon. member for Nepean for his hard work in bringing forward this important and much-needed legislation.
Bill C-305 seeks to amend section 430 of the Criminal Code. Section 430 of the Criminal Code makes it a criminal offence for an individual to commit an act of mischief motivated by hate targeted at a group and carried out on religious property, whether that property be a church, synagogue, temple, or cemetery. Bill C-305 seeks to expand section 430 of the Criminal Code to include other types of property, whether it be a school or other educational facility, a cultural or community facility, a seniors facility, or other facility.
Regretfully, Bill C-305 could not be more timely. Recently, we have seen a spike in anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim racist vandalism in Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and other centres throughout Canada. Just last week, as the hon. member for Nepean alluded to, we saw peaceful Jews, Muslims, and black Christians targeted by a criminal with a string of hateful vandalism.
Bill C-305 seeks to close a void in the Criminal Code that presently exists under section 430. The fact is that if an individual commits an act of mischief motivated by hate toward a particular group and carried out on a religious property such as a house of worship, that individual would be subject to being charged, prosecuted, and convicted under section 430 of the Criminal Code. If convicted, that individual would be subject to a penalty of imprisonment for up to 10 years. By contrast, if the same individual committed the same act of mischief motivated by the same hate and targeted at the same group, but carried it out not on religious property but at a school, a recreational facility, or a seniors facility, that person would not be able to be charged under section 430 of the Criminal Code and would not be subject to a penalty of imprisonment for up to 10 years. Most likely, that individual would be subject to prosecution under the general mischief provisions of the Criminal Code where the maximum penalty is up to two years.
Acts of mischief motivated by hate toward a particular group, whether it be on the basis of gender, race, ethnicity, and so on, are not general acts of mischief. They are much worse. They are acts of hate. They are acts of hate designed to intimidate and terrorize a particular community. It is precisely for that reason that under section 430 of the Criminal Code, an individual who commits an act of mischief motivated by hate targeted at a group on religious property is subject to imprisonment for up to 10 years, not two years.
Bill C-305 would close the loophole that presently exists in the Criminal Code by ensuring that anyone who commits an act of mischief motivated by hate toward a particular group would be subject to section 430 of the Criminal Code and subject to a penalty of up to 10 years imprisonment whether they carry out that act of mischief at a religious facility, a school, a community centre, or other facility.
We know that, so often, acts of mischief motivated by hate are carried out in places other than strictly religious institutions or other religious property. Indeed, when we look at the very sad events last week in Ottawa, we saw that, yes, a church and two synagogues were targeted, but also the Ottawa Muslim Association as well as a Jewish teaching school. This past July, a Jewish community centre outside of Montreal had graffiti spray-painted on its doors. In 2004, the United Talmud Torah School in Montreal was firebombed. There are hundreds of other examples in the past number of years.
We, as Canadians, take pride in our collective diversity. The values of tolerance and inclusivity are Canadian values, but the fact remains that crimes motivated by hate continue to occur in Canada. Sadly, they occur regularly. Indeed, according to Statistics Canada, in 2014 nearly 1,300 hate crimes were reported. Those were just the reported hate crimes. We know from Statistics Canada that the vast majority of hate crimes are not reported. Of the hate crimes that have been reported, nearly 60% involved mischief.
Based on those very troubling statistics, it is evident that we have a lot of work to do collectively as Canadians to combat the scourge of hate. As we undertake that work, we must not be complacent and turn a blind eye, but must be vigilant and proactive, and must call out hate when we see it, by shining the light on the darkness of hate.
As parliamentarians, we have a responsibility to ensure that individuals who perpetrate crimes motivated by hate are held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.