Thank you, Chair.
I'd like to start off my line of questioning with the Evangelical Fellowship.
I have to admit that when this bill was introduced, section 176 was just a little line item saying it's being repealed. In the great scope of the bill, it's something that is overlooked quite easily. My office, and I'm sure many MPs in the House of Commons, started receiving a lot of correspondence from people who are concerned with it. I am still wrestling with section 176.
I have a great respect for our Constitution and the Charter of Rights, and I understand that the fundamental freedoms, the freedom of belief and so on, are very important to protect everything we do. But what is not often talked about in this context is section 15of the charter, the equality rights. That's where it says that every Canadian is free from discrimination “based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability”.
Not every Canadian is religious or spiritual, but many identify very strongly with these groups, probably as much as someone who's religious. They are a part of their community. It may be a race-based community. This is an area where they find comfort, people they can identify with. We know that people with different sexual orientations sometimes need these communities as a safe haven. But there is no specific section in the Criminal Code that deals with someone disrupting one of their meetings.
We're talking about equality rights and the fact that many of these offences are covered in other areas of the Criminal Code. A judge is free, for example, to hand down stiffer sentences if something is based on hatred. I would like to have your comment on section 15, equality rights, and on how we make the Criminal Code apply equally based on all of those different factors.