Thank you very much, colleagues.
We believe there is certainly nothing wrong with section 176, and that protecting religious services and protecting those who conduct religious services are important.
We made the case that most Canadians would agree that if you do anything to disrupt a religious service—and it's extended, there's a long definition in there—that is more serious than if you cause a disruption at a hockey game or you get into a fist fight in a bar. We heard testimony from the minister that there are other sections.... I would suggest that most Canadians would indicate that if you disrupt a religious service, it's not just mischief. There is something more significant to it, and much more serious. We had no problem with that.
That being said, there was some suggestion that we could update the terminology as to who we're referring to, whether ministers and clergymen. I've put in an amendment here for “religious official”. That's the term we have used in the past, and it includes everybody. With regard to the remarks that it refers to "him", we refer to "their", so that it's completely neutral in that sense.
I remember when I first discovered this. They talked about this bill at second reading. I remember mentioning to my colleagues across the aisle that if they talked to their constituents, I think many of them would agree there is something very significant and serious about the disruption of a person's religious freedom. All the debates we had earlier this year seem to confirm.... Why would we take his out?
We have had an excellent response from people. I can tell you truthfully that I had 900 emails this weekend. My office said there were 900 emails from people in support of keeping section 176 as it is. I have no problem with changing the words, but I can tell you that the interpretation of these words has been expanded and that they do include....
I was at National Defence, and the term “minister” or “clergy” referred to and encompassed rabbis, imams, anybody else. If you check with the courts, they aren't always narrowing the definition of something. For the most part, they expand the definition. We have not excluded people from other religions besides Christianity.
With respect to whether you're referring to “him” or “her”, it has been established that when it refers to “him”, it also refers to “her”. However, I changed that, as well, and I'm hoping that this will get the support of this committee.
I believe it is consistent with what you heard from the testimony we had here, and I believe it's consistent with what you've probably heard from your constituents. I'm hoping that this will pass.