Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to rise during debate at second reading of Bill C-41, legislation which is a comprehensive package of amendments to the Criminal Code of Canada.
I know that my constituents have a number of concerns about elements of the legislation. Because we are at this stage in second reading in which there are some 10 minutes remaining, I want to take this opportunity to focus on one particular provision of Bill C-41 which has been the subject of considerable debate and controversy.
It is the provision of Bill C-41 that deals with the question of so-called hate crimes, crimes which are motivated by bias, prejudice or hate, and which are based on a number of criteria set out in Bill C-41. Those criteria include race, nationality, colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability or sexual orientation of the victim.
The question of the inclusion of sexual orientation of the victim has been the subject of some debate both inside and outside the House. I want to take a couple of minutes to explain why I believe it is profoundly important that sexual orientation be included in the hate crimes provisions of the bill.
However, before I get to that specific subject, I want to note that the reference to hate motivation as a factor in sentencing already exists in the province of Ontario. The Ontario attorney general has directed crown attorneys to argue that sentencing should be increased when a crime is motivated by specific hatred. A number of guidelines are in place to guide the work of crown attorneys in this.
I want to give a couple of examples of circumstances in which sentences have been increased because a crime has been motivated by hatred. Lelas was a case involving the desecration of synagogues. This crime was quite clearly motivated by hatred, by anti-Semitism, by the hatred of Jews. The Ontario Court of Appeal increased the sentence as a result of that. Another is the case of Moyer, a neo-Nazi skinhead who urinated on gravestones in a synagogue. This was considered as an aggravating factor in sentencing and the sentence was increased.
There is the case of Hoolans who went to a so-called hate rock concert and was urged to go coon hunting at this concert. Well he did. He went out and beat to unconsciousness a Sri Lankan dishwasher. When the judge looked at sentencing for this particular crime, because the crime was clearly motivated by hatred on the basis of race, the sentence was increased.
In that light I want to ask what are the implications of the argument of the member for Central Nova and other members of this House, including the members of the Reform Party? What are the arguments for excluding sexual orientation from Bill C-41?
The arguments are very clear. They say that it is just and right and appropriate to increase sentences if a person is motivated by hatred on the basis of religion, race or sex, but it is not if you are motivated by hatred on the basis of sexual orientation. What kind of message would this House be sending to Canadian society if we accepted that message?
Just last weekend in Toronto two men on a downtown street walking home from a cafe, the Second Cup coffee shop, were attacked. Six young men piled out of a van and beat up these two men with fists, boots, and beer bottles, right in the heart of downtown Toronto. As they beat them and injured them, in a pool of blood and broken glass they were calling them faggots. That is gay bashing. Gay bashing occurs tragically too often in my home community of Vancouver, in Toronto, Halifax, and New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, and in many other communities. It is not always bashing of people who are gay or lesbian. In some cases it is bashing people who are perceived to be gay or lesbian. They are not gay or lesbian at all but because these thugs, these people who are motivated by hatred, believe they are gay or lesbian they beat them.
This legislation is saying that is wrong. It is saying that if we are to sentence people who are convicted of serious crimes of assault and other crimes and those people are motivated by hatred that judges should take that into consideration as an aggravating factor.
Frankly, I am astonished that a party like the Reform Party which says it believes in law and order would not understand that importance. I am very surprised and very disappointed at that. I have to say I am even more disappointed in the position taken by the member for Central Nova and a number of other Liberal members of Parliament on this issue. That member has said that sexual orientation should be taken out of Bill C-41, not the other grounds in section 41, but sexual orientation.
The implication and the message which is sent out by that is that it is okay. There is one standard if you beat up people based on race or religion and there is another standard if you beat up people based on sexual orientation. That is the message that goes out. If there is a different interpretation let her silent colleagues get up and say so. Let the member for Toronto stand up and say what he thinks about that kind of hateful language. That is what we are talking about here.
In fact, even the vice president of the Central Nova Liberal riding association, Janet Rosenstock, has said she is opposed to the position taken by the MP for Central Nova in this debate. She said the legislation does not single out sexual orientationany more than it does physical disability. It does not give special rights to gays or any other groups. That is the vice president of the riding association of Central Nova. She says, and perhaps Liberal members might find this interesting, that in its simplest terms if the hated are not named specifically prosecution of hate crimes is virtually impossible.
We in this House want to send a very clear and strong signal that we believe that prosecution of hate crimes must not only be possible but must be vigorously enforced. That is the message we want to send out.
I urge members of this House to support this legislation. I urge members of this House to recognize that this is an issue of fundamental justice. It is not an issue of any kind of special rights or treatment. I urge that that be recognized.
To those who say it is necessary to somehow define sexual orientation, I have something to share with them. Sexual orientation has been in legislation in this country for a number of years. There has been absolutely no need to define it to avoid abuses.
I appeal to members of this House to support this provision. Recognize that to do otherwise would be to send out a message of intolerance, a message which this House surely does not want to send to the people of this country.