Evidence of meeting #48 for Justice and Human Rights in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was crimes.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Ihsaan Gardee  Executive Director, National Council of Canadian Muslims
Glenn Gilmour  Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section, Department of Justice
Lyne Casavant  Committee Researcher

5:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Chris Bittle Liberal St. Catharines, ON

That said, it's now 22 years later. If we're looking at the public's view and Parliament's view, especially of the LGBTQ population, in terms of 1995 and now, why are we anchoring ourselves in public opinion and Parliament's view from that former time? I'll give you an example. You mentioned that this is a unique offence and that criminal law tends to be more general, but we just heard from a police officer, who specializes in hate crimes, that, I believe, 26 or 28 homicides happened in Ottawa last year and that people were upset by that. However, a series of hate crimes happened over a two-week span and there were public meetings and people were terrified. This seems to be a crime that can shake a community to its core, even more so than homicide, which seems to be irrational, but it is the reality of this.

Why should we continue to anchor ourselves in that rationale, given society's movement and the unique nature of this offence?

5:10 p.m.

Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section, Department of Justice

Glenn Gilmour

My reply to that would be, I suppose, in part related to Bill C-16,, the bill currently before the Senate on expanding not only the definition of “identifiable group” but that would also amend the hate crime sentencing provision in the Criminal Code to add both gender identity and gender expression to that provision. In that sense, the hate crime sentencing provision, once Bill C-16 is passed, would reflect current thinking by Parliament on the need to protect groups that had not been specifically singled out for protection before.

The other part I would mention is that Bill C-305 only focuses on mischief committed against various groups when that is motivated by hatred. It does nothing to focus on violence against persons when that violence is motivated by hatred based on various criteria, such as sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. The way the current law works is that, for those kinds of incidents, say assault or assault causing bodily harm, the sentencing provision in the Criminal Code, in 718.2(a)(i), is used to adequately denounce and punish such conduct, not Bill C-305.

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Chris Bittle Liberal St. Catharines, ON

Thanks.

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Housefather

Can I follow up and, then, Mr. Cooper?

I want to come back to Mr. Bittle's question because I think it's a good one. Based on a lot of what you're saying, it sounds like this whole idea of protecting a certain category of building is probably not what you may have thought was the greatest idea in the first place, but it exists. There is a special protection, which creates a maximum sentence of 18 months instead of six months on a summary conviction, with respect to damage to this type of property. We're only dealing with mischief now. We're not dealing with other types of hate crime.

You talked about the original rationale that Parliament had many years ago. They believed that there would be a chilling effect on religion and that's why they chose to single out houses of worship. How is singling out houses of worship...? For example, as a Jew, I don't know how I would react any differently if it were an attack against a synagogue or a temple versus a Jewish community centre or a Jewish school. What is the rationale for excluding a Jewish community centre and a Jewish school, or a Mennonite community centre with a Mennonite school versus the church? I don't understand that.

5:15 p.m.

Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section, Department of Justice

Glenn Gilmour

My understanding is that the reason it was originally limited to property primarily used for religious worship was that, in particular, could interfere with the freedom of religion in the charter. In a sense, it was tied to the charter right of freedom of expression. You're absolutely right in terms of how a community feels, that if a Jewish community centre were attacked, we've heard testimony that the impact on that community is the very same as if a synagogue were attacked. I do not dispute that at all. Of course, at the end of the day, it is up to you as parliamentarians to decide whether there is a need to change the original rationale for what is now the current law into something broader.

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Housefather

Exactly.

I'll follow up on Mr. Bittle's point and then get to Mr. Cooper. In 1995, gay people couldn't get married in this country and there were no rights for transgendered individuals whatsoever. Perhaps our view today that the right of the gay community to feel safe going into its buildings is the same as the right of a religious community to go into its buildings, or the right of a racial community to go into its buildings. So the rationale may have changed because the way hate crimes today happen may have changed, and our view of the rights of those groups may have changed, which is why we're dealing with Bill C-16 in the first place.

Anyway, those are just my thoughts.

Mr. Cooper.

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

You read my mind because you asked the very question I was going to ask.

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Housefather

Well, thank you.

Mr. Bissonette.

Mr. Boissonnault, oh, my God, I'm so sorry,

February 23rd, 2017 / 5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Randy Boissonnault Liberal Edmonton Centre, AB

That's okay. We'll suppress the “o” for a moment and bring it back.

Thank you very much. I appreciate your clarification of what we intend to do here at the justice committee.

I have a couple of “how” questions. How would we best ensure that gender expression is protected in this legislation? I see it's not there explicitly, so I'm seeking your thoughts on that.

I'm going to give you two concrete examples. In Edmonton every month there is an event that brings the LGBTQ2 community together and it uses a different venue every month. It could be the Citadel Theatre, it could be the Yardbird Suite, and just last weekend it was the Needle Vinyl bar on Jasper Avenue.

People know about that from social media; they know in the community when we're there. Where, in the legislation, could we best have a provision so that if mischief takes place while the gay community is congregating in that place, at that time, police can then follow up and charge people if they can catch them?

The same would apply to a building where a Jewish or a Muslim community would be using another space temporarily and they are there regularly. Should mischief happen at that time, how could we make sure that's covered so that it's not just the buildings owned by, and always used by, the organization, but places where there is also temporary, even periodic use, by marginalized or targeted communities?

5:15 p.m.

Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section, Department of Justice

Glenn Gilmour

I have a couple of comments.

I'll just reiterate that even under the current law, without Bill C-305, those sorts of incidents could be caught by the sentencing provision in subparagraph 718.2(a)(i).

If the desire of parliamentarians is to expand the scope of the bill so that temporary use rather than long-term or primary use of a building for, say, an LGBTQ community would be caught by its scope, then it would seem to me that one would have to change the “primarily used by” provisions. It's broader in scope. Let's say you're going to a bar and mischief is committed against the bar because there are members of the gay community inside that bar. If you were to ask me, in the way this bill is currently worded, I don't see it, by my reading of it, covering that kind of activity.

As I mentioned, it would be covered by the hate crime sentencing provision under the general mischief offence because, presumably, a bar would be worth more than $5,000.

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Randy Boissonnault Liberal Edmonton Centre, AB

That's interesting.

I think it bears being put on the record that where the community finds itself in a challenge, not in my city only but also across the country, is that when such an incident happens, the police are not always properly equipped to see that as mischief versus a hate crime. It's not a sufficient threshold to be considered a hate crime, so the case never even gets taken up.

If we were able to change that “primarily used by” provision, it would then open up and be something that the police could pursue as a mischief charge, not necessarily as a hate crime.

So that's helpful, and I appreciate that.

On gender expression, just add it after gender identity?

5:20 p.m.

Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section, Department of Justice

Glenn Gilmour

As you know, Bill C-16 refers to both gender identity and gender expression. To the extent that this bill only refers to gender identity, it is inconsistent with current legislation in the Senate, which has been already approved by the House. I'm certain that the government is aware of this inconsistency.

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Randy Boissonnault Liberal Edmonton Centre, AB

Thank you very much. I appreciate that.

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Housefather

Thank you.

Are there any other questions from anyone?

If not, I want to thank you so much for coming to testify before us today.

5:20 p.m.

Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section, Department of Justice

Glenn Gilmour

Thank you.

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Housefather

It's much appreciated.

I would like to ask the committee members to stay for one second. I just want to go over scheduling with everyone.

Basically, we've discussed doing clause by clause on Tuesday, March 7, when we come back, which would mean that the deadline for amendments would be 5 p.m. on Thursday, March 2, to be distributed on Friday, March 3. Is that still okay with everyone, or do we want to delay anything? Is that enough time for everyone? The alternative is doing it on the Thursday and giving us more time. It's whatever you want.

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Ted Falk Conservative Provencher, MB

Probably Thursday would be preferable, right?

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Housefather

We'll move it to Thursday, with the deadline being Tuesday?

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Conservative Niagara Falls, ON

Yes, exactly.

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Housefather

We won't have a meeting on Tuesday, and we'll have the meeting for clause by clause on Thursday. Is that okay with everyone? It gives us more time.

5:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Housefather

Okay. Let's do that.

Thanks, everyone.

The meeting is adjourned.