A part of it might be a bit of a history lesson for people around the table, but I thought I'd start with the discussion about the provision dealing with sentencing, subparagraph 718.2(a)(i) of the Criminal Code.
That was originally created in 1995 by the then-Liberal government under Jean Chrétien. I believe it was a campaign promise that had been made in the 1993 election. I thought I'd quote something that Allan Rock had said at that time. In his appearance before the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs in 1994, he discussed the hate crime sentencing provision that was proposed in the bill at that time, which subsequently enacted 718.2(a)(i). He said:
Why is it there? I think all of us are aware of the appalling increase in recent years in the incidence of hate crimes in our society. Every party that ran in the last election expressed its concern about that phenomenon. I think we join together regardless of party stripe in agreeing that we cannot tolerate hate crimes in Canadian society. It's there because of certain commitments made by the government, of which I'm a member, during the election and since it. It's there because B'nai Brith, for example, has told the Department of Justice that there are now over forty organized hate groups in Canada actively at work every day of the week.
He went on to say:
When someone goes onto my property and spray-paints graffiti on the side of my house, that is a crime that should be dealt with accordingly. I am the victim. But if they walk into the grounds of a synagogue and spray-paint a swastika on the side of the wall, the attack is not only against that property and that owner; it's against the Jewish faith as a whole. Every member of the Jewish faith is intended to feel intimidated and more vulnerable because of it. That is what distinguishes crimes motivated by hate
—presumably from other regular crimes that are not so motivated.
I put that on the record to indicate that when the sentencing provision was enacted in 1995, it was because of a strong feeling that Canada needed to enact special legislation to deal with hate crimes and to more appropriately denounce the seriousness of those kinds of crime.
Therefore, you have 718.2(a)(i), which reads:
A court that imposes a sentence shall also take into consideration the following principles: (a) a sentence should be increased or reduced to account for any relevant aggravating or mitigating circumstances relating to the offence or the offender, and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, (i) evidence that the offence was motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on race, national or ethnic origin, language, colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, or any other similar factor
You have a very strong sentencing provision in the Criminal Code that was originally created way back in 1995. The concerns for putting it in there, I think, very much mirror the sorts of concerns that have been expressed around the table by some of the witnesses who have appeared before this committee.
The next change that happened was the creation of section 430(4.1) of the Criminal Code, the current hate crime of mischief directed against property “primarily used for religious worship”. It's motivated by hatred based on various criteria.
The reason for the limiting of that offence to the concept of protecting property primarily used for religious worship was that it was thought that that particular kind of mischief would create a chilling effect on those who wanted to practise their religion. Therefore, it was designed specifically to protect that kind of property and not any other kind of property, even though when the bill that the offence was part of—the Anti-terrorism Act of 2001—was being debated in Parliament. There were some organizations that came before the House of Commons and the Senate and argued that it should be expanded to include other kinds of property.
I'd like to correct what appears to be a misconception that occurred in the testimony given the other day by Mr. Arya. There was a question asked about a house of worship being vandalized and the maximum punishment of 10 years in jail for that. If a Jewish community said it had been vandalized, the maximum punishment would be two years in jail. In case there is any misconception, that is incorrect. The way that the general mischief offence works in the Criminal Code is that it can either be prosecuted by way of indictment with a maximum penalty of 10 years in jail, or simply by way of summary conviction, which is a maximum of two years in jail.
The way the choice is made whether to proceed by indictment or by summary conviction depends not on the value of the damage to the property, but on the value of the property itself. Under the general mischief offence, if I were to vandalize a home, on the assumption that most homes these days cost more than $5,000 or less, it would be the general mischief offence that would apply, which has a maximum of 10 years in jail. That is the same penalty that is proposed in the private member's bill C-305. It's also the same penalty that currently exists for the hate crime mischief offence.
I also want to briefly mention that there had been mention of some statistics published in recent years of hate crimes that have been committed. According to my analysis of the testimony, the most recent statistics quoted for the committee were those from the year 2013. In fact, last year there was a table published by Statistics Canada that gave hate crime statistics for the year 2014. It was just a table; it was not in the form of a regular report with analysis. According to those tables, in the year 2014, the total police-reported hate crimes—and these are reports that are made by the police to Statistics Canada—was 1,295. Of those, in terms of the violations of the criminal law that occurred, the total of all violations to the criminal law that the police categorized as hate crimes was 1,170. Of those, 523 were mischief, and mischief in relation to religious property motivated by hate was a total of 89.
I just wanted to bring those particular issues to the attention of the committee.