Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-250 on this fine sunny Friday afternoon, and I would like to congratulate the member for Burnaby—Douglas on his admirable persistence.
I do not agree with the comments made by the previous speaker about the member for Burnaby—Douglas. We all know that the latter is an enlightened person who believes in freedom of expression and he has demonstrated this on numerous occasions.
When this bill was studied in committee, I was extremely surprised, as a Quebecker, to see a number of arguments raised by other members of the House that seemed in many respects far-fetched. However, I would like to agree with my colleague, the member for Provencher, on one point.
In order to understand the bill introduced by the member for Burnaby—Douglas, one has to have read the Supreme Court decision in the Keegstra case, which was rendered in 1990. It is interesting, because in reading this decision, it becomes clear just how sensitive the issue of hate propaganda really is, and also how deeply rooted this issue is in Quebec law.
Former minister Guy Favreau, whose name has become famous because of a building named after him near the Place des Arts in Montreal—but people may be surprised to learn that he was also a former Minister of Justice—established a working group that presented a report in 1966. This was the first group to consider the whole issue of hate propaganda. In fact, in the 1960s and 1970s, certain neo-Nazi groups or groups that had questionable views on freedom of expression posed a threat to national security.
When this working group was struck, it contained such well-known people as the Rev. Gérard Dion, professor Shane MacKay of the University of Toronto, the father of the current Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, and also the former Prime Minister of Canada, Pierre Elliott Trudeau. This working group released its report in 1966 in which it recommended that the Criminal Code be amended to make a clear reference to fomenting trouble to disrupt law and order and threaten public order. It also contained a recommendation regarding genocide.
The hon. member for Burnaby—Douglas is putting before us today a bill to amend the Criminal Code by adding sexual orientation to subsection 381(4).
Just to make it clear, our colleague's bill concerns hate propaganda and amends section 318(4) of the Criminal Code to include sexual orientation in the definition of identifiable group.
At present, in the Criminal Code, identifiable group includes people who are distinguished—that is, groups that are currently part of Canadian society—by colour, race, religion or ethnic origin, and the hon. member for Burnaby—Douglas is proposing to add sexual orientation.
The first question we must ask ourselves, as lawmakers, is: do we believe that, in Canadian society, there are individuals who might be subject to hate propaganda on the basis of distinguishing characteristics such as sexual orientation, colour, race, as I just mentioned? Anyone who answers yes to this question obviously has no reason not to support the bill introduced by the hon. member for Burnaby—Douglas.
I was pretty amazed, however, when in committee, they would have had us believe—I must say this was a campaign led mainly by the Canadian Alliance with some of our Liberal colleagues—that if, as lawmakers, we voted in favour of this amendment to subsection 381(4) of the Criminal Code, thereby recognizing that there are groups in Canadian society who may be subject to hate propaganda because they can be distinguished by their race, colour or sexual orientation—if we agree to add it—this would somehow jeopardize freedom of religious expression.
I hope that there is not, in any of the religious writings one might have faith in, whether one is Catholic, Muslim or any other religious denomination, anything that would make us comfortable with the fact that it might be used for purposes of incitement to hate propaganda. I hope that no member of this House will put freedom of religion on the same footing as using that freedom for purposes of hate propaganda. Hate propaganda, whatever its motives, means or examples, is unacceptable.
What surprised me was the lack of rigour. I was even more surprised because the hon. member for Provencher is a former crown attorney. Thus, he is someone who knows the law, who has pleaded cases and who has given instructions for prosecutions.
Canada has no state religion. In the Canadian Constitution and the charter of 1982, there is no state religion. A person cannot say that because he or she is Christian, Muslim, Catholic or Hindu, it is right for his or her world view—since religion is a world view—or one of the many other religious beliefs to receive more weight in the legislative texts than any other.
Now, freedom of religious expression is a guidepost. A long time ago, the Supreme Court made several rulings to define freedom of religious expression. Obviously, no one can prevent people from quoting the Bible, the Koran or any other religious work. That is not the objective of the bill introduced by the hon. member for Burnaby—Douglas.
I would like to quote from what is undoubtedly the most important Supreme Court ruling on religious freedom. I am speaking of Regina v. Big M Drugmart, a case all first-year law students study. This decision defines freedom of religion. The definition of freedom of religion therein does not withstand the Alliance's arguments. It says:
Freedom must surely be founded in respect for the inherent dignity and the inviolable rights of the human person.
It continues by defining the human person. It talks of freedom—and this is the most important part:
Freedom means that, subject to such limitations as are necessary to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others, no one is to be forced to act in a way contrary to his beliefs or his conscience.
That is how the courts defined freedom of religion; in other words, no one is to be forced to act in a way contrary to his beliefs or his conscience.
Please explain the link between recognizing that people who are homosexual can be subject to hate propaganda and that they should be protected as a group under the Criminal Code, and the right to religion, as it was defined by the Supreme Court a decade ago.
That is where the Canadian Alliance gets completely carried away. They would have us believe that if members of this House granted additional protection to homosexuals by making them an identified group, as is the case in the Criminal Code, then people who quote the Bible, the Koran or any other religious text would feel that their rights have been eroded.
I respectfully submit that the member for Provencher's argument is intellectually dishonest. What he is trying to do is deny that there are people who are homosexual.
Canadian Alliance members have voted against conferring rights on homosexuals at every opportunity in this House. It would have been much more honest for the member of Provencher to stand up and call a spade a spade. That is his true intention.