An Act to amend the Criminal Code (mischief)

Sponsor

Chandra Arya  Liberal

Introduced as a private member’s bill.

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 Criminal Code to add to the offence of mischief relating to religious property the act of mischief in relation to property that is used for educational purposes, for administrative, social, cultural or sports activities or events or as a residence for seniors.

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

May 10, 2017 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.
Feb. 8, 2017 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

Religious FreedomPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

December 8th, 2017 / 12:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have three petitions to table today.

The first one is from 26 petitioners, regarding Bill C-51 and religious freedoms.

The petitioners draw the attention of the House to the potential removal of section 176 of the Criminal Code, which they say is the only section that protects faith leaders from malicious interference with funerals, rituals, and other assemblies of any faith. They also draws the attention of the House to Bill C-305, which was passed earlier in the year, and drawing some allusions to it.

The petitioners ask the government to abandon any attempt to repeal section 176 of the Criminal Code and to stand up for the rights of all Canadians to practise their religion without fear, recrimination, violence, or discrimination.

October 30th, 2017 / 4:05 p.m.
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President, Evangelical Fellowship of Canada

Bruce Clemenger

Let me go back to thought, belief, conscience, and so on. One could make the argument, I guess, that religious freedom could be protected under freedom of conscience, freedom of belief, assembly, and so on. But it's not. Religion was distinctively added, recognizing UN declarations and the charter.

We're saying that just as religion is distinctively identified as a guaranteed freedom it is also appropriate to have distinctive protection for religious worship, the expression of religious freedom in the Criminal Code.

To your second point about equality rights, consider subsections 176(2) and 176(3): “Every one who wilfully disturbs or interrupts an assemblage of persons met for religious worship or for a moral, social or benevolent purpose”. It's the same thing with subsection 176(3), which actually broadens it. If you have a meeting that is race-based or focused on a specific distinctive race, of whatever category, it may well be included in this. Rather than taking away from the protection of religious freedom, the onus would be on including more explicit protection, if it's not already here. But I think it's probably already here.

It's the same with Bill C-305, which created an initial offence for mischief against religious institutions and schools but also had institutions for benevolent, social, or moral purposes. The same thing is actually captured there.

October 18th, 2017 / 3:45 p.m.
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Chief Executive Officer, Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs

Shimon Fogel

Thank you, Madam Chair.

We appreciate the opportunity to present to members of this committee on behalf of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, the advocacy agency of the Jewish Federations of Canada.

We are a national, non-partisan, non-profit organization representing more than 150,000 Jewish Canadians affiliated through local federations across the country. Like our sister organization, B'nai Brith, we are committed to working with government and all like-minded groups to ensure Canada remains a country where everyone enjoys equal opportunities and equal protections.

Canada is a tremendous country, particularly for members of minority groups. It is one of the most vibrantly diverse, inclusive, and respectful places in the world. However, hatred persists here in the margins of society. We must remain vigilant to ensure that hate does not gain a greater foothold and we must endeavour to push it ever further into the shadows.

Confronting hate is an all too familiar experience for Jewish Canadians. In report after report, Statistics Canada and police services across the country continue to confirm, as was noted just a moment ago, that Jews are the religious minority most targeted by hate-motivated crime, in both absolute numbers and on a per capita basis.

Nationally, there were 54 hate crimes targeting Jews per 100,000 individuals in 2015. While this number is relatively consistent with previous years, there was an increase in hate incidents targeting other minority communities, including the Muslim community. In fact, Muslims were the next most targeted group, with 15 incidents per 100,000 individuals.

Local numbers reinforce this. Let me give you some examples from the GTA, where the plurality of Jewish Canadians reside.

The Peel police service noted 23 incidents targeting Jews in 2016, which is a 155% increase over the nine incidents that occurred in 2015 and the highest increase in victimization of any identifiable group. Over that same period, there was a 92% reduction in hate crimes targeting Christians, from 13 to one, and a 54% reduction in those targeting Muslims, from 11 to five. Jews are around 0.2% of the population of Peel, but were targeted with 39% of all hate crimes. In the city of Toronto, the Jewish community is just 3.8% of the population, but was targeted in approximately 30% of hate crimes in 2016.

I mention these numbers not to showcase Jewish victimhood but to demonstrate the very real experience that our community has in grappling with the issues this committee is studying. At the same time, I want to note that percentages can sound alarming and misleading.

In York Region, anti-Jewish hate crimes decreased by more than 10%, while anti-Muslim hate crimes increased by more than 18% in 2016. This sounds significant until you look at the real numbers, which are a decrease from 19 to 17 incidents targeting Jews and an increase from 11 to 13 incidents targeting Muslims.

It's important that we not lose sight of the fact that on the whole, Canadians are incredibly welcoming, respectful, and accepting people and that hate crimes, though often jarring and sometimes horrifyingly tragic, are relatively infrequent occurrences. In Peel, 38,154 Criminal Code offences were reported in 2016. Of those, just 59, or 0.15%, were designated as hate-motivated. That said, one hate crime is too many.

Canada is a great place to be a minority. We believe the following constructive recommendations will help make it even better and we hope that each will be a point of consensus for this committee. I share with you four points.

Number one is improving data.

Currently, the collection and publication of hate crime and hate incident data varies widely by police department. I mentioned statistics from Peel, Toronto, and York Region, which are all readily available, but the reports from these three neighbouring jurisdictions each provide different information, so making direct comparisons is sometimes difficult. Other jurisdictions, such as Montreal, release no specific data regarding hate-motivated crime and which identifiable groups are being targeted. This practice has an impact on the national numbers compiled by Statistics Canada, leaving policy-makers, like each of you, with incomplete information.

This committee should recommend that the government establish uniform national guidelines and standards for the collection and handling of hate crime and hate incident data.

This step will help ensure that local, provincial, and national law enforcement consistently collect, catalogue, and publicize data regarding hate crimes and hate incidents. The more accurate and comprehensive the data available, the more appropriately efforts to counter hatred and bigotry in Canada can be calibrated to address the specific needs of the communities most impacted. Comprehensive empirical data is required to effectively diagnose the problems and prescribe the most appropriate solutions.

Number two is to define “hate”.

One can't effectively fight bigotry and hatred without precisely defining it. The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's definition of anti-Semitism was achieved through multilateral consensus endorsed by governments around the world, including Canada's, to accomplish just that. Concrete examples set clear standards for what constitutes anti-Jewish sentiment and what is legitimate critical expression. Similar definitions should be established for other forms of hate, based on careful consideration, common sense, and consensus.

The term “Islamophobia” has been defined in multiple ways, some effective and some problematic. Unfortunately, it has become a lightning rod for controversy, distracting from other important issues at hand. While some use the term “Islamophobia” to concisely describe prejudice against Muslims, others have expanded it significantly further to include opposition to political ideologies. For example, this October's Islamic Heritage Month guidebook issued by the Toronto District School Board contained a definition of Islamophobia that included, ”dislike...towards Islamic politics or culture”.

This incident exposes significant problems associated with relying on ad hoc, inadequate definitions of Islamophobia. Muslims can be protected from hate without restricting critique of ideologies, especially those that are explicitly anti-Semitic. Recent examples of anti-Semitism on display at some mosques and Muslim organizations in Montreal, Toronto, Calgary, and Vancouver have shown that extremism is a problem within parts of the Canadian Muslim community that must be addressed.

As Canadians counter hatred and protect individuals from discrimination, we must also maintain the freedom to debate and criticize ideas. Defining other forms of hate—including, but not limited to, Islamophobia—along lines similar to the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism is, we think, a good starting point. It would help law enforcement and others to identify hate incidents with greater accuracy and consistency and provide definitive guidance to Canadians about precisely where free speech turns into hate speech.

Next, when it comes to countering hate crimes, greater and more consistent enforcement of existing laws is needed. In many cases, hate crime prosecutions require the authorization of provincial Attorneys General. This can become highly politicized and can be a very difficult hurdle to overcome. Recently the Attorney General of Quebec decided not to lay charges in the case of an imam in Montreal who had called for the murder of Jews. On the charge of hate promotion, the statute of limitations had been exhausted.

In an era when statements can live on in perpetuity online, in this case on this particular mosque's YouTube channel, we believe the statute of limitations for hate promotion should be extended, and we encourage you to make that recommendation to the government.

Quebec's Attorney General also declined to pursue a second charge of genocide promotion. This decision sent a message that someone can call for the death of an entire group of people without consequence. We think that's the wrong message.

To address this situation, the federal government should establish a national training program for police and prosecutors to educate them about the dangers of hate speech and encourage them to enforce the existing Criminal Code hate speech provisions more consistently and more robustly.

Finally, federal government resources should be allocated to support the development of dedicated local police hate crime units. These units have been integrated into several police services across Canada and have constituted an unqualified success. Units specifically trained to investigate hate-motivated crime ensure that incidents are handled with particular sensitivity and understanding of the distinct nature of the crime and its impact on the victims, their families, and their communities.

Universalizing hate crime units would ensure that as many vulnerable Canadians as possible can benefit from these services that ensure the officers responding to hate incidents are the best equipped to do so.

Had this committee been conducting these hearings a year ago, I would have had an additional recommendation to share. Instead, Madam Chair, I would like to conclude with this.

I'd like to express our gratitude to members of this House for supporting Bill C-305and your colleague Chandra Arya for bringing it forward. CIJA has long advocated for these changes, which will expand penalties for hate crimes targeting infrastructure such as community centres of identifiable groups. As we speak, the bill has just passed its final vote in the House before becoming law.

Bill C-305 is a clear example, Madam Chairman, of how elected officials can work together in the spirit of consensus and common sense to make a practical difference in protecting vulnerable minorities. I'm hopeful that the committee members will similarly unite around the approach I have outlined here today.

Thank you.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 15th, 2017 / 7:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to be joining the debate on Bill C-51, this late in the night.

Before I go too far, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Durham, whom I am very pleased to be hearing from again today.

I was so pleased today to hear you, Mr. Speaker, mention in the House Yiddish for Pirates by Gary Barwin, who is one of my favourite authors.

Everybody in the House knows I am a big lover of Yiddish proverbs, and I have one also for this legislation. It speaks to our pinch points. Everyone knows where his or her shoes pinch. I will explain the pinch points I have in this legislation.

Many members on the Conservative side, including New Democratic members as well, have mentioned that they agree with the majority of the provisions in the bill having to do with increasing protection for victims of sexual assault. Nobody disagrees with it. It is a great idea. Clarifying the law is way overdue, but we do have pinch points.

There are proposed Criminal Code provisions that will be eliminated, and we simply disagree with that. Either we disagree or we think it is not in the right method. Abolishing laws in general, getting rid of Criminal Code statutes, and less government regulation is typically something I am all for. The less of it we have, the better. Not adding new laws to the statute books is a sign of restraint on the part of parliamentarians, and we would show greater restraint if we tabled more laws calling for the abolition of sections of different laws and reductions to the Criminal Code. That type of behaviour is laudable and it should be congratulated when it is practised in the House. Let us admit another thing too. This is an omnibus justice bill, and I have concerns about certain parts of it.

Why would we remove certain sections of the Criminal Code, like section 49? Why remove that part in the sesquicentennial of our country? That is Confederation, specifically, because Canada existed much before that. Is that not an odd provision to be eliminating during the 150th year of Confederation? The Crown is just as much a part of the history of Canada as the red ensign, the maple leaf, the Bill of Rights, Vimy, and countless other images and symbols we have in Canada. Section 49 only affects an incredibly small group of people, people who are intent on committing a malicious act against the Crown, in Her Majesty's presence of course.

As I said before, I completely support the amendments proposed in Bill C-51 to strengthen and protect the victims of sexual assault. They are timely and needed. As members heard from the Conservatives' justice critic, we are more than willing to expedite those portions to committee so they can be considered fully.

On removing the Criminal Code section on duelling, I have mixed feelings, not because I think duelling is right but simply because there is a long history in Canada of it being used as a deterrence tool. The last fatal duel in Canada was June 13, 1833, in Perth, between John Wilson and Robert Lyon, both law students. One was the son of a Scottish officer in the British army, the gentleman who passed away in this duel. John Wilson, who was acquitted of the crime, later was elected to the legislative assembly of the Province of Canada, became a Queen's Counsel, a QC, and was elected three times to that assembly. He was, of course, a Conservative.

There are also other provisions that covered those types of crimes, such as bodily harm, but it was also that extra prohibition on duelling and it was a big problem at the time. Nowadays, it is not so much. One of the members from Simcoe mentioned his views on duelling.

I understand the removal of section 143 of the Criminal Code, and I am surprised it is illegal. I see these types of ads all the time in my community, such as “Stolen bike, no questions asked, could you just return it to me”, or an open question about a lost cat, lost dog, or an RV is stolen. I have never known that this was an illegal act, that there was a prohibition on advertising the fact that someone would give a reward. Therefore, ending the prohibition on the use of such words in public advertising and offering a reward is probably very wise. It is eminently reasonable and wise for the House to do so.

The one I want to focus on, which has been the source of many questions I have asked in the House, is clause 14 on Criminal Code section 176, the prohibition against disrupting a religious service or interfering with a minister of a cult, a person who is in the service of others during a religious assembly of any sort.

I have serious concerns with removing this section. I have heard other members say we have other Criminal Code provisions that cover this. The difference is, section 176 gives extra protection. I will make a comparison in a bit between that and Bill C-305 because they are very much comparable.

Section 176 of the Criminal Code protects the clergy, and all those responsible for leading members of their faith in a service. Removing this particular provision is my pinch point in Bill C-51. It adds extra protection for individuals, serves as a deterrent, and protects religious services from disruption, including funerals. I am concerned what it could mean without this for those who are in the business of providing funeral services to others and the incentives therein.

I do not think anyone feels incented to disrupt a funeral. This type of provision serves as an additional deterrent. Subsections 176(1) and 176(2) also protect religious assemblies from wilful disturbance and interruptions. It does not talk about something accidental, it talks about something purposeful and wilful, when one is aiming to do something for the sole reason of disrupting a religious service. Most importantly, surprise.

As I mentioned before in a previous question, we went through the trouble in the House of passing a mischief improvement provision in Bill C-305, where we actually gave greater protection to property and communal spaces against vandalism motivated by hate. It was a very reasonable proposal as a private member's bill that was passed in this House. In that situation, we already had provisions to disincentivize and deter people from vandalising property. This was an additional charge on top of that which would be separate from it because we said communal spaces and crimes motivated by hate are special and deserve extra attention paid to them, and further punishment should one be found guilty of them.

We already have all those provisions on protecting property. The same idea in principle applies to section 176 of the Criminal Code that clause 14 proposes to eliminate; my pinch point in this piece of legislation.

We know there are other Criminal Code assault provisions to protect the person in the bill. There are provisions against interfering with persons and provisions preventing people from going into a sports match and disrupting it for the sole purpose of committing some type of mischief. I believe that clergy, Imams, leaders of any faith, deserve special protection. Why does the government not believe that as well?

Disrupting a sports match, an assembly for charity purposes, or a bingo game is mischief, most definitely. However, it is not the same as interfering with a religious service, not the same thing as interfering with persons who are leaders of a faith, and trying to look after members of their congregation, temple, mosque, or synagogue.

Just this week, Statistics Canada reported that there has been an uptick in certain hate crimes and crimes motivated against religions. Why would we then, two days later, consider Bill C-51, clause 14, which would eliminate that additional protection for leaders of a certain faith or religion who lead rituals, give services, and conduct funerals on behalf of community members?

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms, section 2 just lays it out. Fundamental freedoms include: freedom of conscience, freedom of belief, freedom of religion, freedom of association, and freedom of peaceful assembly.

Does section 176 not actually grant that extra protection for these freedoms to be practised in Canada? Why can we not have section 176 to assure ourselves that there will be an extra provision in the code to punish those who wilfully interfere with a leader of a faith conducting a service or a funeral?

I want to bring up one or two additional points. It was just this past May that an arsonist in Hamilton, who targeted a mosque, received 25 months in prison. Had the same person targeted the mosque during a service or had wilfully blocked assembly, section 176 could have been used in that particular case.

The last example is from my home province of Alberta. Father Gilbert Dasna was a Catholic priest who was murdered at his residence in St. Paul on May 11, 2014. Had Father Dasna survived and had there been an assembly at the local cathedral that had been disrupted by the gunman who murdered him, that person would have been eligible for an extra charge under section 176. Why is it so wrong to give individuals like Father Dansa extra protection from criminals?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 15th, 2017 / 7:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Mégantic—L'Érable for his speech.

As I did before, I would like to bring the discussion back to section 176 of the Criminal Code. I will quote subparagraph 176(1)(b):

knowing that a clergyman or minister is about to perform, is on his way to perform or is returning from the performance of any of the duties or functions mentioned in paragraph (a)...

The document then goes on to describe the specifics and what the Criminal Code is seeking to protect.

I agree with the member on the fact that the bill contains many sections and many notions related to sexual assault. As my colleague said, these are good ideas and good amendments to the Criminal Code.

However, I want to focus specifically on section 176. I would like the member to tell me whether he agrees with me. I do in fact think that we should offer members of the clergy additional protection, on top of what already exists in other sections of the Criminal Code.

As I mentioned earlier, we introduced a private member's bill, Bill C-305, which provides additional protection for property against vandalism motivated by hate.

I wonder if the member could expand on that.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 15th, 2017 / 7:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Madam Speaker, earlier this session, and I think it was just a month ago, this Parliament passed Bill C-305, which actually increased penalties for vandalism motivated by hate of sacred property and property used by religious institutions. We already had provisions that covered it, but we felt that even more protection, a special protection, was needed from that particular crime.

I think that is the same point my colleague, the member for Yorkton—Melville was trying to make, that section 176 offers an extra protection for members of the clergy and spiritual leaders. I would just like the member to expand on that. Could the member give us a further explanation on the comparison of Bill C-305 and the provision of Bill C-51 on—

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

May 10th, 2017 / 5:30 p.m.
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NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at third reading stage of Bill C-305.

Call in the members.

The House resumed from May 3 consideration of the motion that Bill C-305, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (mischief), be read the third time and passed.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

May 3rd, 2017 / 7:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Chandra Arya Liberal Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to thank my hon. colleague from Brampton South for her support throughout the process. I would also like to thank the hon. member for Mount Royal, the chair of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, and all committee members who worked hard and delivered a bill that is more robust.

I am honoured to have received support from many religious and community organizations all across the country, organizations representing the Jewish faith, the Muslim faith, Sikhs, Hindus, and Christian faiths. They were all supportive. LGBTQ groups have also been a strong supporter, and it is my hope that this bill will soon become law and bring some peace of mind. In particular, I would like to recognize the support I received from the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, which worked hard to generate support from various stakeholders.

The consequences of hate crimes are considerable. A manual issued by the Attorney General of Ontario lists the impact of hate crimes on individuals, target groups, vulnerable minority groups, and the community as a whole. It says, on the impact on the community as a whole:

This, perhaps, is the greatest evil of hate crime. Hate crime can end up dividing people in society. In a multicultural society like Canada, where all groups are to live together in harmony and equality, hate crime is an anathema. Any occurrence of hate crime is a negation of the fundamental values of Canada.

Bill C-305 would codify the intent of this House into law. It would send a strong message to all Canadians that we stand united against hate crimes.

Once again, I would like to thank every member of the House who has, so far, unanimously supported this bill.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

May 3rd, 2017 / 7:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, it certainly is a privilege to stand in the House and to have the opportunity to speak in support of Bill C-305, an act to amend the Criminal Code (mischief).

I appreciate the opportunity to contribute to the discussion that is already taking place in the House today because I believe this is a very timely issue and it is one that impacts Canadians as a whole.

The bill addresses a current injustice when it comes to sentencing for crimes that are motivated by hate in Canada. Currently, if an individual is convicted of mischief, which is a fancy word for vandalism, against a place of worship, the maximum penalty for that is 10 years. However, if the same individual were to vandalize a religious school, or a religious recreational centre or a religious day care, the punishment for that same crime would only be two years in prison.

This is the exact same crime and it is motivated by hatred for an identifiable group, but the penalty is dramatically different.

Canada is a religiously plural and multicultural society. It allows its citizens to live out their lives according to their conscience, their beliefs, their values, yet throughout its history, Canada has experienced a regrettable number of anti-Semitic and racist acts of vandalism.

The recent and tragic events that took place in Quebec City not too long ago with the Muslim community and then in Toronto with the Jewish community remind us of the severe impact the manifestation of hate can have on the lives of Canadians.

Fundamental human rights and freedoms are infringed upon when hateful acts interfere with the ability of those of diverse faiths, origins and political affiliations to live out their convictions according to need. While race, ethnicity, and religion remain the most common motivators for hate-based crimes, Statistics Canada indicates that such acts of mischief are not limited to these groups. Hate crimes have also been directed toward those of different sexual orientation, those of a different political belief, or those perhaps with a mental or physical disability.

In a country that values both tolerance and respect, the fact that only those crimes which are carried out on religious property are indictable under section 430 of our Criminal Code is unacceptable.

Hate crimes affect a broad range of Canadian citizens, not just those within these religious organizations. A church community may meet in an old movie theatre, or it might even choose a recreational centre or a school. Therefore, it is possible then that hate crimes or vandalism, mischief, could then be committed against these properties.

Parents may also choose to send their children to a day care that is religious in nature because of their beliefs and values. At present, these properties do not benefit from the same protections under the Criminal Code. This is why I support the amendment brought forward today.

To fight to protect religious freedoms is a fight that we in our capacity as parliamentarians have the duty to address and to promote. While the damage of vandalism is generally minimal, the impact hate motivated crimes have on the targeted population is often absolutely devastating.

In 2014, over half of the hate crimes committed in Canada fell into what was known as the mischief category. This was 523 of the 1,170 crimes that were committed. That is a huge number. It is clear this legislation applies to the majority of hate crimes that take place within our country. Who are the targets of these attacks?

In Toronto, incidents of hate motivated crimes increased by 8% in 2016 alone. That is a significant change. Within that, Jews are the single most targeted group for the 12th year in a row. The Toronto Police Service 2016 Annual Hate Bias Crime Statistical Report also revealed that Muslims were the target of hate crimes at about half the rate that Jews were, so making up a significant portion of that population being discriminated against.

I find this very concerning. It is again the reason why I am standing in support of this legislation going forward.

Jews make up only 3.8% and Muslims only 8.2% of Toronto's entire population, but these two communities were the victims of more than half of all the hate crimes committed within the city. Across the country, the statistics generally fall into a similar pattern. We see the same thing when we look from one city to the next.

In addition, with members of the Jewish community being the target of most attacks, we also see significant attacks that are brought against Muslims, those who are black, the LGBTQ community, and those with disabilities. These numbers are horrifying. I would argue as well that they are not just horrifying but, together, they are an attack on our identity as Canadians.

Our Canadian identity is based on the idea of many peoples joining together toward a common purpose. Hate crimes against an identifiable group, often minority groups, attack this central principle of unity on which so much of Canada is built.

These crimes are intended to make a community of people feel excluded from being Canadian. Therefore, in order to protect the many diverse communities spread across our vast and beautiful country, we must take action. We must increase the protection that is available to those who find themselves victim to these hate crimes. To do any less would betray Canada's history, the history that we have fought for with respect to having a common and shared identity.

Given the recent history in the House and the political games the government has played with the Islamophobia motion as of late, I would like to speak to the difference between protecting freedom of speech and supporting the bill before us today.

One of the fundamental freedoms we enjoy in Canada is freedom of speech. Our constitution, the Bill of Rights, and our Criminal Code give the maximum latitude when it comes to freedom of speech. The only limits that can be placed on free speech, according to the Criminal Code, is if the speech wilfully promotes hatred against an identifiable group, or where such incitement is likely to lead to a breach of the public peace. In other words, unless people are focusing their hate on one group, to the point of encouraging violence against it, they have not actually broken the law.

However, even within this provision there is an exemption for criticism of religion. The Criminal Code states that a person is not guilty of hate speech if “in good faith, the person expressed or attempted to establish by an argument an opinion on a religious subject or an opinion based on a belief in a religious text...”

Our law is very clear. Debating the merits of one's religion is not in fact hate speech. However, focusing hate on an ethnic group and encouraging people to attack it clearly is. This is the distinction: words versus actions.

I fully support the bill going forward, because whether someone has a difference of opinion on religious grounds, there is no justification whatsoever for physically attacking a person or a property that belongs to a person who holds differing beliefs. Canada was founded on the idea that we are rational human beings and that our differences of opinion actually strengthen democracy rather than hinder it. We believe the testing of our beliefs and our values by the diverse traditions of the people who make up Canada ensures the preservation of our democracy. This is why it is so alarming to see the limits being placed on free speech on university campuses across our country right now.

Furthermore, it is why the Liberals' poorly-defined Islamophobia motion was so incredibly misguided. Their motion could take away the freedom of Canadians to debate the merits of religious ideas, about which I am very concerned.

As an alternative to Motion No. 103, the Conservatives put forward a well-balanced and inclusive motion that focused on condemning acts of systemic racism against all religious communities and not just one. Given the Liberals' love for the charter, one would expect them to understand the difference between religious ideas and religious communities.

The bill before the House right now, Bill C-305, closes a gap that currently exists within our Criminal Code. I believe it is absolutely necessary for the Canadian public going forward. Hate crimes are absolutely disgusting. They go against our shared identity as Canadians. Increasing the possible sentences for those who commit such crimes is entirely worthy of the House. These provisions will continue to protect the freedom of speech that Canadians currently enjoy, and they will enhance religious freedoms by providing a stronger disincentive to commit hate crimes.

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.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

May 3rd, 2017 / 7:20 p.m.
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NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise once again to speak in favour of Bill C-305. I would like to echo that thanks to the member for Nepean for bringing this forward.

In the current climate in North America and around the world, where there has been a promotion of hatred against all kinds of groups, a promotion of hatred that has often led to violence, this is a very important expansion of protections in Canada. I do not normally support amending the Criminal Code piece by piece, but the urgency of the situation we are in right now means that we should do this as quickly as we can, so I am very pleased to see this moving forward.

As people know, there are only two very basic things here. The bill says that places that are included in the law against hate-motivated damage should be expanded to include things we would all agree on. Very few Canadians would say we should not protect day cares, schools, and universities. Why would we not protect all those groups that are listed as protected groups under the hate crimes legislation? I think, in many ways, it was an oversight, over time, that this mischief provision was not updated as other laws changed.

Of particular concern to me, as an advocate for the inclusion of transgender rights, is that the original version of the bill actually was not consistent with Bill C-16, so I am very pleased to see that it has come back with a coordinating amendment. I am confident that Bill C-16 will pass through the Senate, even though it has taken an inordinate amount of time for that to happen. The legislation to add gender identity and gender expression to the human rights code and the hate crimes section of the Criminal Code first passed this House in 2011. Here we are, six years later, still waiting for the Senate to add those important protections. Therefore, I am very pleased to see that the bill has that coordinating amendment.

When the bill finally moves in the Senate, and my understanding is that hearings are going to commence tomorrow at the Senate committee, we will look forward to this coming back, I hope, before the House rises and therefore in time for what is known colloquially as the Pride season. It will give some additional thing to celebrate at that time.

I hope this bill will also be expedited in the Senate, if we can get it there, and that it will deal with this one quickly as well.

There are some people, mostly younger than me, who would be surprised to know that the original version of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms did not include protection for sexual orientation, let alone gender identity and gender expression. As I have said before, I was not a supporter of the charter at that time, because there was a debate about the inclusion of my own rights in that charter. A decision was made by Parliament at that time, unfortunately, to exclude sexual orientation. At that time, there was not even a debate about gender identity and gender expression. We have come a long way, and I am here today to salute that progress and to salute the committee for making sure that this progress is reflected in this bill.

It is an unfortunate fact in Canada that hate crimes that result in violence are most often directed at first nations people and transgender people. These are the two groups with the very highest rates of hate-motivated violence, so the bill would be of assistance in helping protect the community places where we would expect to find first nations people and transgender people in a safe place. It would help enhance that safety, which is so important.

I wish it were not true, but I know from the Victoria Native Friendship Centre, which is in my riding, that hate crimes, hate-motivated violence, and even hate graffiti often appear at their community centre. That is a great surprise to me. I do not think of my riding as one where hatred is that strong and where people are that disrespectful of other members of the community, especially the Native Friendship Centre, which is a centre where people who are trying to better their lives go. It focuses on adult education and employment programs. It is a very positive place in all those ways, so it is particularly upsetting when I see those attacks on a place like that.

While we originally started with churches that often do that positive work in our community, it is very appropriate that we expand it to these other places that often make such a positive contribution in all of our communities.

I thought a bit about what I was going to say tonight, and I was not going to go to the obvious place when we talk about the promotion of hatred, which is south of the border. I have to say, however, that in this connection there is an unfortunate spillover into this country. People talk to me about their fears and concerns. They talk to me about things which are not problems in the community which I represent. There are things that they see and hear coming from the United States, and this often has motivated people to be fearful, for instance, currently of refugees.

I had the privilege of meeting earlier today with a coalition of groups that support gay and lesbian transgender refugees from around the world. We talked about the group that has crossed irregularly into Canada. Anecdotal evidence tells us that around 40% of those who have crossed irregularly between the borders are from the LGBT community. Why are they doing that? The Conservative Party has taken a strong stance against the illegality of those crossings, but I argue strongly, as many others do, that under international law those are not illegal crossings. These people are fleeing violence and hatred in the United States. Talking to them about their experiences, especially those who are people of colour, they tell us they have become fearful of living there, and they see Canada as a place where they can find safe refuge.

This legislation illustrates the best of what is Canadian, and why people are attracted to come to this country. They want to find a safe haven. They want to be able to integrate into Canadian society, and make a contribution which will allow them to support themselves and their families. I was pleased to sit down at this meeting today and talk about those kinds of successes.

The Liberals quite rightly raised the goal of having 25,000 Syrians come to this country. In my riding, what was most impressive was how people with no particular connection to Syria stepped forward. They were not Muslims necessarily, and they were not from the Middle East. They did not have any particular reason to step forward, but as Canadians they felt that they should do their part. Many were from families that had immigrated to Canada, some of them from refugee families in previous generations, Hungarians and other people who had fled their homeland. It was so encouraging to see those people step forward and sponsor refugees. When the deadline elapsed saying they were no longer sponsors, there were no examples in my community where those ties that had been built under that refugee sponsorship program were broken.

There is some disappointment among those sponsors and with those in the community who see refugees as threats, and as bringing terrorism into the country. These refugees are fleeing terrorism and extremism, and they have come to Canada because, as the bill says, we are a tolerant country. Canada is a country which will not tolerate hatred and violence focused on religious, racial, sexual orientation, or gender identity grounds.

This is one of those cases where Canada has made progress, but we are not done. We have more to do. If the impact of this legislation is to expand those safe spaces for doing that positive work in our communities, then it has done a great thing. Without the member for Nepean bringing this legislation forward, we would have missed an opportunity to build a better and more inclusive Canada.

I look forward to this legislation making its way to a final vote here in the House and going to the Senate. I was asked, in relation to Bill C-16, to explain to a reporter how things get through the Senate. I said that, unfortunately, I cannot do that, and I am not sure there is anyone who can do that right now because there is a bit of chaos in the Senate over rules and how things proceed.

However, I am going to launch that plea again tonight, that when this legislation gets to the Senate that it be treated in a fashion that expedites its passage, so that we can have this in place as soon as possible, and give yet another symbol of what an inclusive country this is, and how we will stand up for people's rights and make them safe everywhere in our communities.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

May 3rd, 2017 / 7:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in support of Bill C-305. I want to again take the opportunity to acknowledge my friend from Nepean for his hard work and his leadership in moving this legislation.

Bill C-305 seeks to amend section 430(4.1) of the Criminal Code, which relates to mischief against religious property. Section 430(4.1) of the Criminal Code makes it an offence for an individual to commit an act of mischief motivated by hate targeted at a place of worship such as a church, mosque, synagogue, or temple.

In addition to section 430(4.1), there is also a section of the Criminal Code that deals with mischief targeted toward general property. The reason section 430(4.1) was added to the Criminal Code to deal specifically with acts of mischief motivated by hate targeted at religious property was in recognition of the fact that such acts of mischief were different than acts of mischief to general property.

Take, for example, someone who sprays graffiti on the back wall of a restaurant. In such a case, the victim is the owner of the restaurant. Take the example of someone who sprays hateful graffiti on the back wall of a mosque or synagogue. That is an act that targets an entire community. It affects an entire community and it victimizes an entire community.

Bill C-305 would amend section 430(4.1) of the Criminal Code by expanding the categories of properties to not only include places of worship, but to include the likes of schools, community centres, and seniors residences. The expansion of these categories recognizes that mischief motivated by hate and targeted to people of a religious faith or a religious group often do not just take place at places of worship, but take place at religious schools, or religious community centres or religious seniors facilities. We have seen many examples of hate crimes that have been perpetrated against schools and community centres.

We saw a few years back the horrific fire bombing of the United Talmud Torah School in Montreal. More recent in Ottawa a string of mischief incidents were motivated by hate, which targeted a mosque and two synagogues, but also targeted a Jewish learning centre as well as the Ottawa Muslim Association.

Bill C-305 is good legislation. Its objective is laudable. It was why I was proud to speak in strong support of the bill at second reading. It is why I am proud to speak in strong support of Bill C-305 at this stage of the legislative process.

Bill C-305, upon passing the House at second reading, was referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, of which I am a member. As a member of that committee, I had an opportunity to study the bill in some detail.

Upon studying the bill, listening to the witnesses, and reviewing the evidence that was presented to the committee, I, along with the majority of the members of the justice committee, believed that in some respects Bill C-305, as originally drafted, was overly broad, inasmuch as it would apply not only to religious schools, religious community centres, and religious seniors residences but to all schools, all community centres, and all seniors residences. In my view, that would not be consistent with the purpose of section 430(4.1) of the Criminal Code, which was added to the Criminal Code in recognition of the fact that mischief motivated by hate targeted at religious property was a crime that was different, that was unique from mischief that targeted general property.

At the same time as finding that perhaps it was overly broad in some respects, I, along with the majority of the members of the justice committee, could not really see any logic as to why the section applied in cases of mischief targeted toward religious property but did not encompass similar acts of hate targeted at property associated with other identifiable groups. After all, when one commits mischief motivated by hate on a religious community centre, an ethnic community centre, or an LGBTQ youth centre, such acts of mischief are acts that target entire communities, affect entire communities, and victimize entire communities.

On that basis, the justice committee brought forward a few amendments to Bill C-305. As a result, Bill C-305, as amended, is, in some respects, narrowed inasmuch as it no longer applies to any school, senior centre, or community centre. However, at the same time, section 430(4.1) is expanded to encompass not just acts of mischief targeted at religious property but mischief targeted at property associated with any identifiable group, “identifiable group” being already defined in the Criminal Code.

I believe Bill C-305 would help send a strong message that hate crimes against any identifiable group would not be tolerated and that the perpetrators of such egregious crimes would be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.

Once again, I thank the member for Nepean for his hard work and leadership, and I urge the passage of Bill C-305.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

May 3rd, 2017 / 7:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Chandra Arya Liberal Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, under the current subsection of the Criminal Code, vandalism against the Jewish Community Centre is not covered.

Under Bill C-305, with the amendments that have been passed by the Standing Committee on Justice, vandalism against the Jewish Community Centre would be covered.

That was a major focus of this bill, to expand the definition of property to beyond places of worship. The current subsection in the Criminal Code is limited to places of worship only, but with this new bill it would be expanded to include schools, community centres, cultural centres, and those used mainly by these identifiable groups.