Mr. Speaker, I welcome this opportunity to speak to Bill C-41 because I believe that the bill that will review and examine sentencing practices must be responsive to the concerns and values of Canadians.
The bill reflects our commitment to a justice system that is balanced, fair and encourages respect for the law. This is an omnibus bill, as we all know, and it responds to a number of very important issues.
I wish to commend the Minister of Justice for the nature of the consultations that he undertook, the wide scope of this bill, which in the end clarifies and ensures improvements in the application of the Criminal Code.
I have been listening to concerns in this regard and I am sure that members can be very satisfied with the improvements and the strengthening of actions and sentencing around criminal acts.
I fully agree with the objective of this bill as well as with all its provisions. That being said, my remarks will deal with two points in particular: first, offences motivated by hate and second, offenders abusing a position of trust.
I believe that equality for all Canadians includes freedom from hatred and from harassment. Expressions of hatred have absolutely no place in Canadian society. Openness, understanding and sharing are features that shape our collective identity. Most Canadians believe that each one of us has the right to live free from hatred or expressions of hatred and actions that are motivated by hatred.
I have always felt, and I have actually been convinced, that a crime motivated by hate based on one's race, religion, sex, age, sexual orientation, mental or physical capacity or any other form of that nature is a very serious crime and needs to be looked at in a particular light.
With this bill, such hate motivations will be considered an aggravating circumstance in the Criminal Code for the first time. It therefore will define and ensure that these crimes will be treated much more severely.
One of the strongest aspects of the new hate crime proposal is in its broad scope. It enshrines even further the principles that one finds behind section 15 of the charter which is a fundamental value for all Canadians.
While we are generally more aware of hate crimes related to religion, racism or sexual orientation, we must not forget that women as a group also come under attack simply because they are women.
In the aftermath of the massacre of 14 women at the École Polytechnique de Montréal in 1989, our country was shocked to discover the hatred that some men feel toward women. That was a very shocking moment and made many Canadians sit up and take note.
Women's experience in the criminal justice system is primarily that of victim. The way they are treated in the justice system is critical in their efforts to achieve equality as a right. Our vision, reflected in Bill C-41 and other initiatives, is one of a society and a justice system in which all Canadians are full and equal partners, confident that their rights will be upheld by the law.
The disturbing increase in the expressions of hatred and discrimination in our society is well documented. Since 1989 there has been a marked upsurge in hate group activity throughout the world, certainly right here in Canada. These groups are now better organized, they are far more subtle in their approach, and they have developed new strategies which really need to be addressed. One needs to be far more sensitive to read the message behind the message. It is subliminal in many cases and much more invidious in its intent.
The Solicitor General has estimated that over 52 neo-Nazi groups and 85 other associations promoting hatred are currently operating in this country. I believe that is cause for serious concern.
In its 1993 annual audit of anti-semitic incidents in Canada, the league of human rights of B'Nai Brith Canada recorded a 31 per cent increase in anti-Semitic harassment and vandalism. The league documented a disturbing increase in hate group activity. They have, to quote the league: "adopted a more militant and activist stance than in prior years". I can tell the House that those acts of vandalism and those expressions of hatred, which I have seen on the walls of synagogues and buildings in my riding of Mount Royal, are really distressing and very disturbing. Young people who come to schools or go into the cemeteries are really quite shocked and it leaves a mark on them.
Often, our personal knowledge or experience of ways hatred can be expressed gives statistics a sense of reality and urgency. I am convinced that all the hon. members of this House can remember a specific incident or action intended to frighten or harm someone by reason of his or her race, religion, colour or sexual orientation, just because they were different.
The increasing diversity of our population's make-up poses quite a challenge to Canadian society as a whole.
We all have a sense of pride and are all very thrilled when we read that the United Nations finds Canada the finest place in the world in which to live. Notwithstanding that, we have a series of warts. It is important to look at these and see how we can excise this unacceptable behaviour from our society.
We know that Canada is a multicultural and multilingual country from its beginnings. Our native peoples, our aboriginal peoples, are multicultural and multilingual. They were joined by
English and French, both languages and both cultures, to form a beautiful mix. Now, according to the 1991 census, 42 per cent of Canadians have origins other than British or French.
It is important to note that in Mount Royal riding-and I think it is a perfect example, although perhaps a little bit more concentrated than in other cities-the statistics show that 43.5 per cent of the population is first generation immigrants to Canada. This does not take into account the balance of the population in my riding who are of ethnic origin and who have been here since the early 1800s. It is a very diversified riding and I am proud to have about 60 different ethnic minority groups represented. They speak the languages of the world. These are the languages and the cultures of multicultural business in this global economy. They are important to us for a variety of reasons and it is exciting because you can have the wonderful experience of living in such a multicultural society.
They make up, all these Canadians, the majority in every major urban centre. By the year 2006 the proportion of Canadians who are visible minorities is expected to be between 13 and 18 per cent. In Toronto, the city with the greatest diversity, some suggest that the proportion could be as high as 50 per cent. These great urban centres reflecting our diversity make for culturally and socially exciting and dynamic communities in which to live, ones in which we can really flourish and grow.
However, we have to be forever vigilant. Hate motivated crimes can be found in this kind of a mix if we do not take care, if we are not vigilant. It could be a threat to the social cohesion of these communities. It could impede equal and full participation for all. It leads to alienation, a sense of disenfranchisement and a feeling of powerlessness.
There are some basic trusts we as a nation cannot afford to break. I will enunciate some: the right of all persons to enjoy their own language and culture; the right of a family to worship without fear of violence and distrust; and the right of women to walk safely on the streets in their communities.
To avoid conflict and maintain social harmony, our institutions must redouble their efforts to develop policies, programs and practices that recognize the reality of Canadian diversity and move to ensure this social cohesion. We need access, understanding and respect if we are to live together in peace and harmony.
Among those institutions that are ensuring this happens is our justice system, which has a great responsibility and a fundamental role to play in ensuring this trust and fairness. The system must demonstrate without ambiguity that hate crimes will not be tolerated in Canada. It is just not to be tolerated. It is not the Canadian way and it is absolutely not acceptable.
The provisions of this bill by which hate motives constitute aggravating circumstances for the purpose of sentencing should have been implemented a long time ago. They reflect this government's commitment to protecting the fundamental right of all Canadians to live without being afraid, to live in peace and security and to live as equals. Obviously, it does not suffice to ensure that hate will be deemed an aggravating circumstance, this must be part of an integrated approach to promote understanding and respect within the society.
We must work together in a broad range of legislative and non-legislative areas. It is the responsibility of the people in this House representing all Canadians to ensure that hate and the manifestations of hate are eradicated from this society.
It is very important that we educate today's youth about hate crime: how to understand it; how to sense it; and how to speak out against it. We have to emphasize the determinant role they will play both in terms of prevention and in terms of the promotion of peace and goodwill.
In that spirit our multiculturalism department in many ways with its cross-cultural and intercultural activities and its race relations undertaking and in partnership with society has developed many programs. Among them are the very helpful programs of educational materials developed for students and teachers on human rights, prejudice, racism and racial discrimination.
We have acted in many ways with the schools. I have travelled across this country and have seen students in action. It has been a pleasure to listen to these young students who understand, recognize and respond to racism. They know prejudice when they see it. Unfortunately, it is when they get home that it often gets reinforced. It is very important that they learn the lesson of speaking out, so it never happens again.
Our program uses a variety of public educational tools to speak out against hate and racism. It explains that each one of us can make a difference and that Canadians need to work together to ensure peace and harmony. It works particularly when we work in collaboration with different ministries, for example with the Solicitor General and the Minister of Justice.
The multiculturalism department has done some very extensive work with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and many other such structured institutions.
This bill will give all of us another tool that can be used to educate while addressing the issues of hatred.
Unfortunately this century has and continues to demonstrate in many parts of the world the end result of unchecked acts of hatred based on who you are and not what you are. Canada is a place where this is not to happen any more. Canada is one
example to the world that we are determined to live in a respectful environment in a respectful society. Those who do not wish to share and participate in this Canadian experiment shall be given an appropriate sentence with this new bill which indicates we shall not accept these expressions in our society.
I said I wanted to pay attention to two aspects of this very extensive bill. The other aspect I want to discuss is the key element of the amendment package, sexual assault involving a breach of trust.
Under this bill if a person is found to be guilty of sexual assault and that person was in a position of trust or authority with the victim, that fact will be considered an aggravating factor which will affect the severity of the sentence. This is very important particularly for women and children for they are the primary victims of sexual assault.
The fact that sexual assault involving breach of trust is a grave problem in this country is very disturbing on the one hand and is plain to see on the other. Canadian statistics revealed that in 1993 over three-quarters of reported sexual assault victims knew their assailants. That StatsCan survey was a true eye opener. On taking the microscope and magnifying the study through the language in the Criminal Code we found statistics that were quite revolting with respect to sexual assault and the victims. This is just the tip of the iceberg.
According to a national phone survey done by StatsCan, only 6 per cent of the women who told interviewers they had been assaulted had never reported it to the police. They were frightened. Why? One of the reasons is that that women report sexual assaults they do not believe they will be treated fairly by the judge listening to the case within the court system.
The new directions and the new directives on sentencing are going to help change that attitude. The judges will be enlightened as to what this government believes should be the proper action and the proper response given in these circumstances.
In a society in which prejudice and stereotype still exist, a woman is often blamed for being sexually assaulted. What is happening as well is women are seeing the inappropriate sentences that are given to perpetrators. This helps reinforce their attitude that they are not being considered fairly in the decisions that are rendered.
For too long our justice system has operated without any clearly defined understanding of breaches of trust in cases of sexual assault. Indeed in some cases the fact that the aggressor occupied a position of trust either as a good parent or a pillar of the community has even led to lighter sentencing. This is wrong, terribly and shockingly wrong. It is totally unacceptable. I am very pleased that the Minister of Justice acknowledges this and has brought to bear some changes in the system which will enlighten the judges in this regard.
To state it plainly, when someone violates a position of trust, whether he is a relative, an employer, a teacher, a doctor or some other figure of authority, he may do even greater damage to the victim than the anonymous rapist who attacks in the dark alley. This is particularly true if the victim is young. I would like this House to know that 63 per cent of sexual assaults involve victims under the age of 18 years. I say this is wrong. It is terribly wrong and it has to stop.
Victims of aggressions involving breach of trust could well suffer irreparable emotional and psychological damage.
Women and children who were molested by a friend, a family member or a mentor can no longer trust and love. They lose part of their humanity.
It may be difficult for a woman who has been victim of an aggression to maintain healthy intimate relationships, whether with close male friends or members of their family and even with their own spouse.
Many have to quit work, while others can no longer trust certain professionals. Their pain and suffering is often exacerbated by the fact that their aggressor does not face prosecution or gets off with a slap on the wrist.
A national study of court cases conducted by the metro action committee on public violence against women and children looked at how sexual assaults involving breaches of trust are dealt with in our justice system. It concluded that judges often fail to recognize a breach of trust.
In the many court cases studied 47 per cent involved an offender who was a father, a paternal figure, a relative, a friend of the parent, someone in a position of authority, or someone in a professional role. They all had had privileged relationships with the victim. Yet in over 40 per cent of these cases this privileged relationship was not even mentioned in the judges' comments or in the discussion of aggravating factors.
Furthermore when judges do recognize a breach of trust it is not always evident that they have given it appropriate weight in determining the offender's sentence. This bill will begin to rectify that situation by giving judges clear directives about what constitutes a breach of trust. The reformed Criminal Code will be better equipped to deal with this form of sexual abuse.
This provision will also send a message to individuals in a position of power. It says that if you use your relationship to take advantage of women or children, you will be treated harshly by the system. In other words, the greater a person's influence, the greater the responsibility to treat others with respect, and the
greater the consideration of a stiffer fine and sentencing. Not even a fine, sentencing.
The amendments in this reform package, especially those dealing with hate crimes and breach of trust, will help rebuild people's faith in our justice system. It will encourage women to be far more courageous and more open and to feel that they will be better treated if they bring the cases before the courts. That faith has been sorely tested in recent years as we have learned of the extent of violence against women and have lived through many incidences of hate motivated crimes.
I am grateful to the Minister of Justice for moving swiftly to deal with these problems. This bill is an example of our government's commitment to a just and peaceful society, a safe society with safe streets. If those words sound familiar it is because I am repeating them. They are printed and published in our best seller, the red book. We have kept our promises. These proposals follow through on the commitments we have made. They are the result of extensive consultations and co-operation with the provinces and the territories on sentencing reform.
In the name of all of our citizens, the women, men and children of this society, I am very pleased with this bill. I hope as it goes though this House people will recognize the importance of the fairness of this bill.