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House of Commons Hansard #113 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was amendment.

Topics

An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals)Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals)Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

An hon.member

On division.

An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals)Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I declare the motion carried.

(Motion agreed to)

An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals)Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The Chair is very cognizant that the business arising out of private members' business raises strong views for debate in the House but that is the nature of our responsibility as members of Parliament.

The Chair is aware, of course, that the hon. member for Provencher might want to rise on a point of order regarding some amendments. The Chair is very much aware and sensitive to the fact that private members' hour is of course a very restricted allotted time, one hour in this case today. Therefore I am prone to listening to the member for Provencher so that time does not take away time from the hour of private members' business.

Points of OrderGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Vic Toews Canadian Alliance Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order with respect to Bill C-250.

Over the course of the past several months my office, and I think every member of Parliament's office, has been flooded with mail from Canadians who are quite concerned about Bill C-250, which will have negative consequences on their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of religion.

I brought forward a number of amendments to the bill in order to address those concerns. Unfortunately, because the member who sponsored this bill chose to filibuster in committee rather than consider the substantive issues, we were unable to address those issues at committee.

Unfortunately some of the amendments that I have brought forward, indeed some of the more significant ones, have been ruled out of order by the clerk's office and I simply cannot understand the rationale for the clerk's decision.

Bill C-250 deals with an amendment to section 318(4) of the Criminal Code, the definition of “identifiable group”. It reads:

In this section, “identifiable group” means any section of the public distinguished by colour, race, religion or ethnic origin.

Because of the application of that definition to not only section 318, but sections 319 and 320, all of these three sections are impacted. This is not simply a consideration of section 318.

If we go to section 319, for example, subsection (7) states “'identifiable group' has the same meaning as in section 318”.

The terms and the ideas used throughout those three clause are very closely interrelated. They could have simply put all of them in one clause and had separate categories. This in itself is a code. It is one code, sections 318, 319 and 320, because of the way it has been drafted.

As I understand it, these amendments came out of consideration and concern by the United Nations after the second world war and the genocide that was--

Points of OrderGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Svend Robinson NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I wonder if perhaps the Speaker could just indicate to which specific amendments the hon. member is referring in his point of order. The House has received notice of two amendments from the hon. member.

The member suggested that he proposed some amendments in the committee. The member never proposed a single amendment in committee, never gave notice of an amendment, never made any attempt to--

Points of OrderGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I would urge everyone to be generous, tolerant and respectful and we will proceed in the best tradition of this House through a debate that will follow this or these points of order to the highest standards we can possibly meet and as Canadians expect from us.

Points of OrderGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Vic Toews Canadian Alliance Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate you admonishing the member. He certainly was out of turn in committee. I sat patiently listening to him. I will sit and listen patiently to him when he puts his speech forward.

The clerk's office recognized the inter-relationship between sections 318, 319 and 320 when it allowed the member for Scarborough—Rouge River an amendment regarding paragraph 319(3)(b). That amendment seeks to amend one paragraph in a list of four in section 319.

I refer the Speaker to the amendment. The amendment states:

Paragraph 319(3)(b) of the Act is replaced by the following: (b) if, in good faith the person expressed or attempted to establish by an argument an opinion on a religious subject or an opinion based on a belief in a religious text;

That is a very significant amendment. There is also the phrase, which in the context of religion has a very significant connotation, “in good faith”. That is a significant phrase. We then have a judge who will look at this particular section and ask whether the individual had good faith.

I now want to talk about my particular amendment. My amendment sought to amend one paragraph in a list of four in section 319. Indeed, in the amendments--

Points of OrderGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. There is a problem. We are here for private members' business and you are the guardian of our privileges. We have one hour for a private member's bill. Our colleague can be for or against, We all want to discuss amendments, but here we have a strategy to prevent debate and prevent us from hearing the amendments.

I would like to see you exercise some vigilance over our prerogatives. At this point in the day, we are supposed to be discussing private members' business. We want to hear the amendments. We want to discuss their substance, and I believe that process needs to be begun, in accordance with the schedule for our day.

I submit that our rights have been violated in that we cannot get on with what we are supposed to be doing at this point in the day, which is examining Bill C-250 and its amendments.

Points of OrderGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The Chair had the best of intentions in wishing to give the hon. member for Provencher the opportunity to express his position in connection with a point of order, without in any way affecting the length of time allocated to private members' business.

I would simply remind the House that I took that initiative and accept responsibility for it. That is why I have not announced debate because, at that point, any time taken up for any reason, point of order or otherwise, would cut into the time for debate in the hour allocated to private members' business.

That having been said, the Chair has been patient and now I would like the member for Provencher to please become focused. I will hear a little bit more but the member for Provencher and the House should also know that the Speaker, in making his ruling, weighed carefully all of this information. Again, because of the nature of the debate I am trying to be as fair as I can be on a very important subject matter and one with a great deal of sensitivity.

I ask the member for Provencher, if he could assist the Chair, to wrap things up in the next few minutes so I can then make the ruling on the amendments and then we can proceed with the private member's hour.

Points of OrderGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Vic Toews Canadian Alliance Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, these are matters of significant importance to my constituents and to many people in Canada. I have been very clear in where I am going. I have written out my speech and know exactly where I am going. These are all essential elements of my argument and to take a part away would be to destroy that argument, and destroy your ability to make an appropriate decision in this particular case.

I state that with all due respect and I appreciate, Mr. Speaker, that you made the ruling beforehand that this would not take away from private members'. That was not the same right that was afforded to me in committee when the member who sponsored the bill filibustered and allowed no one else to speak. To now put allegations on the record, as he has done, saying I did not bring forward a motion or amendment is simply wrong. I brought forward an amendment and a motion to consider this particular issue. But that is typical of the member's conduct in committee and in the House.

On the amendments that I brought forward, the clerk's office ruled that those amendments that would seek to amend subsections 319(6) and 320(8) respectively were in order. We are not just talking about section 318, we are also talking about sections 319 and 320. A discussion and the scope of sections 318, 319 and 320 is in order.

I am speaking from the clerk's point of view, not a substantive discussion of the issues raised. What is the difference between the amendments put forth by the member for Scarborough—Rouge River and mine regarding subsection 319(3)? There is no substantive way of distinguishing the amendment of paragraph 319(3)(b) brought by the member for Scarborough—Rouge River and the amendment that I proposed to paragraph 319(3)(b). The rules have been applied inconsistently in favour of the member for Scarborough—Rouge River and against mine.

There is no substantive difference or reason why that distinction can be made and I brought forward that amendment. I already read the substantive code section and I read the section put by the member for Scarborough--Rouge River. My amendment to paragraph 319(3)(b) stated:

(b) if the person expressed or attempted to establish by argument an opinion or a belief on a religious subject or text;

That is more condensed than that which was put by the member for Scarborough--Rouge River and yet his amendment was deemed to be in order. There is no substantive difference or reason why that distinction was made in favour of his amendment and against my amendment.

Once the amendment to paragraph 319(3)(b) is in order, then it follows that the remainder of the amendments that I also brought forward are also in order from a procedural and scope point of view.

Points of OrderGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Svend Robinson NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I want to seek some clarification from the Chair as to the procedure at this point. It seems to me that the member for Provencher is in fact challenging the ruling of the Chair with respect to the admissibility of amendments. My understanding is that under the rules of the House, that is not acceptable.

In fact, the Chair has not even had an opportunity to rule on the admissibility of amendments and the hon. member is pre-empting that. The member is challenging what he has been told will be the ruling. It is completely out of order.

Points of OrderGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I wish to thank the hon. member for Burnaby—Douglas who has made some good points with regard to the procedures.

I will direct myself to the member for Provencher. What he has presented to the House today is the same information that was given and shared with the clerk and others, and ultimately it was shared with the Speaker who will make the ruling.

As such, I do not think that I have to remind members, as the hon. member for Burnaby—Douglas already did, of Standing Order 10. I do not feel that I can go much further. I am prepared to listen just two more minutes. I know the hon. member for Provencher has stated that he has something more comprehensive, but I must proceed, and so I would ask him if he has some concluding remarks, the Chair will listen.

Points of OrderGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Vic Toews Canadian Alliance Provencher, MB

If the Chair chooses to cut me off, Mr. Speaker, I cannot stop that, but I do think that my constituents are entitled to be heard in the House. There was a ruling by the clerk's office, there has not been a Speaker's ruling, and I will speak until you cut me off and I will stay to the point.

Once the amendment to paragraph 319(3)(b) is in order then it follows that the remainder of those amendments that I also brought forward are in order from a procedural and scope point of view. Why can one amendment to paragraph 319(3)(b) be considered proper within the scope when the remaining paragraphs cannot? There is no justifiable reason. I direct the Chair's attention to those particular sections.

Why can that distinction be made in respect of the member for Scarborough—Rouge River so as to include them and to exclude all four amendments that deal with a significant issue? Even if some of the other paragraphs were not in order, my proposed paragraph (b) is in order and the Chair has the power to include that paragraph on its own. There is no appropriate distinction to exclude paragraphs (a), (c), or (d) of my proposed amendment.

As recognized by the Clerk's office in accepting amendments 319 and 320, all of sections 318, 319 and 320 would be affected substantively by Bill C-250. The definition of “identifiable group” impacts on the interpretation of all three sections. My proposed amendments that have been accepted seek to amend 319 and 320, and they have been ruled in order. The proposed--

Points of OrderGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Order, please. The Chair has heard the intervention from the hon. member for Provencher and again this is all part and parcel of information and facts that he brought forward through to the Speaker. The Speaker weighed those very carefully and in the end has made a decision.

With respect to some of the discussion or debate as to whether the Speaker has made a decision or not, in fact, he has. That is why for instance the amendments that were deemed inadmissible are not on the Notice Paper.

I draw to the attention of members Standing Order 10 which states:

No debate shall be permitted on any such decision, and no such decision shall be subject to an appeal to the House.

I consider the matter closed.

The House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's Order Paper.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-250, an act to amend the Criminal Code (hate propaganda), as reported (without amendment) from the committee.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

June 6th, 2003 / 1:45 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

There are three motions in amendment standing on the Notice Paper for the report stage of Bill C-250. Motions Nos. 1 to 3 will be grouped for debate and voted upon according to the voting pattern available at the Table.

I will now propose Motions Nos. 1 through 3 to the House.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

moved:

That Bill C-250 be amended by adding after line 9 on page 1 the following new clause:

“2. (1) Paragraph 319(3)(b) of the Act is replaced by the following:

(b) if, in good faith, the person expressed or attempted to establish by an argument an opinion on a religious subject or an opinion based on a belief in a religious text;”

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Vic Toews Canadian Alliance Provencher, MB

moved:

That Bill C-250 be amended by adding after line 9 on page 1 the following new clause:

“2. Subsection 319(6) of the the Act is replaced by the following:

(6) No proceeding for an offence under subsection (1) or (2) shall be instituted without the consent of the Attorney General.”

That Bill C-250 be amended by adding after line 9 on page 1 the following new clause:

“3. The definition “hate propaganda” in subsection 320(8) of the Act is replaced by the following:

“hate propaganda” means any writing, sign or visible representation that advocates or promotes genocide or the communication of which by any person would constitute an offence under section 319 and does not include any religious text or part thereof;”

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Svend Robinson NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, it has indeed been a long journey to get to this point in the debate on this legislation. I want to thank those members of the House who have been supportive along this journey to amend the Criminal Code provisions on hate propaganda to include sexual orientation.

I first tabled this bill in the House almost 15 years ago. I want to acknowledge today the tireless work that has been done by many groups and individuals across the country to arrive at the point where the bill has now been deemed passed out of the justice committee and is before this House for the two final hours of debate.

I want to thank my colleagues from almost all sides of the House who have indicated their support for the legislation. The leader of my party, Jack Layton, and all of the members of my caucus have been tireless advocates of equality for gay and lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people, and for this bill in particular. I am pleased that my colleague from Winnipeg Centre is in the House today to show his solidarity and support for the legislation as well.

I would like to thank my honourable colleague and friend, the member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, not only for his support of this bill, but also for the work he has done on behalf of equality for gays and lesbians for almost all his life. I would also like to thank his colleague, the hon. member for Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier, who worked on this bill as well.

I am very pleased to see in the House today the right hon. member for Calgary Centre who has again spoken out strongly in support of this legislation. I tell him that support means a great deal, not only his support for the bill but the work that he has done over the years, and he knows where of I speak on equality for gay and lesbian people. I thank him for that support. Also if I may I will add his colleague from Pictou--Antigonish--Guysborough, the newly elected leader of the Progressive Conservative Party who has indicated his support for the legislation and I might add was subjected to a particularly vitriolic attack at the recent leadership convention for having shown that support. I also certainly want to thank a number of colleagues on the government side who have indicated their support for the legislation, in particular the member for Vancouver Centre who at the committee was there for every session of the committee. She did not walk away at critical points, but she was there to speak out and to vote in support of this very important bill.

There is support from people across the country, individuals, young people, people like Mark Hanlon who is a 19 year old student attending Memorial University of Newfoundland, a young gay man who single-handedly spearheaded an online petition campaign right across the country, which resulted in over 13,000 people signing a petition in support of this bill. There is support from labour activists and unions across the country, city councils, the council of the city of Vancouver, the city council in Ottawa, faith leaders, religious leaders and many others.

As well I want to underscore the contribution of Inspector Dave Jones of the Vancouver police department. He has worked so tirelessly for this legislation at the Vancouver level but also nationally together with the Canadian Association of Police Boards and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police.

EGALE particularly in recent days also has been active in supporting the legislation.

Finally I want to pay a particular tribute to one of my staff, a young woman who has done a tremendous job in working on this legislation day in and day out. I want to pay tribute to Corie Langdon from my office who, many members will know, has done a terrific job.

I am going to speak briefly because there are three amendments before the House now that deal with the issue of the impact of the bill on religious texts. I want to say very clearly that the major objective of the bill is to ensure that the current provisions of the Criminal Code which protect four particular groups, those who are distinguished on the basis of race, religion, colour or ethnic origin, that those provisions should be extended to include another group and that is gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

The evidence we heard in committee was compelling and powerful, that in fact it is this group which is subjected to the greatest proportion of attacks motivated by hatred, the greatest number of violent hate crimes in Canada. Yet it is this group which is excluded from the legislation now.

What kind of signal does that send out in Canada? Too many people have been victims of gay bashing and indeed in some cases of murder, whether it be a young law student, Robbie Peterson who was brutally beaten in New Brunswick, whether it be Aaron Webster who was beaten to death with a baseball bat in November 2001 because he was gay, or so many others across the country.

This bill I profoundly believe has the ability, the potential, to actually help to save lives. I think it is very important that we acknowledge that objective of the bill.

The bill would not in any way interfere with religious freedom. The member for Provencher has suggested and stated in one instance that the bill would in his words “classify parts of the Bible as hate literature and portions of the Catholic catechism as hate literature”. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In fact, the bill has significant support from a number of religious leaders in the country as well. I have a letter from a Catholic priest at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Dawson City, Yukon, Father Timothy Coonen, who wants to strongly support Bill C-250. He said:

I'm stunned to discover that gays and lesbians are not fully protected under the law. And I'm saddened to learn that much, if not most of the opposition to this bill is coming from the Christian community. As a member in good standing of the ordained clergy in Canada, I wish to let you know loud and clear that the conservative right wing of Christianity does not represent the majority of Christians in this country!

This is a Catholic priest and he says as well:

I believe that there is nothing in the Bible that permits the promotion of hatred against other human beings, including gays and lesbians.

I received a similar letter from the pastor of a Baptist church in New Brunswick, Pastor Thomas Adams of the Richibucto Baptist Church in New Brunswick, who said that he fully supports this legislation. He challenges those who have opposed it and have suggested in any way it might target religious texts. Nothing could be further from the truth.

My colleague from Scarborough—Rouge River has proposed an amendment that would explicitly make it clear that religious texts are not being targeted by this amendment. I can certainly say that I have no objection whatsoever to the member's amendment. If it clarifies the intent of the bill, certainly that is a positive thing. I frankly do not think it is legally necessary but certainly it is not something that I would in any way oppose.

In December 2001 the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice said on behalf of the Minister of Justice:

I am very pleased to be able to say tonight that the minister will be putting forward amendments to the Criminal Code of Canada to add sexual orientation to the definition of an identifiable group under the hate crime provisions.

Today, a year and a half later, it is an honour for me to be able to move ahead with this legislation, with the legislation that was promised after the murder of Aaron Webster. This legislation is long overdue.

I would point out as well in closing that to those who suggest that in any way this would target freedom of religious expression, the chief researcher of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, Philip Rosen, has prepared an excellent background document. I would commend it to all members. The conclusion to which he comes is that the bill fully respects freedom of religion in Canada.

For that reason I want to again indicate that I am prepared to support the amendment of my friend, my colleague from Scarborough—Rouge River to the extent that it will help to clarify the purpose of this amendment to the Criminal Code. I would hope that members of the House on all sides with that amendment would support this long overdue amendment to the Criminal Code of Canada.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

2 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Motion No. 1, my amendment to the bill. I am pleased to see that we have a fairly sanguine, healthy attendance here today. I am also pleased to see interest to this extent in private members' business.

The bill was adopted in principle by the House and was sent to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. The committee was very busy and had to delay its deliberations on this issue. Ultimately, with the approval of the member for Burnaby--Douglas, the matter came up in the justice committee and we had some time to deal with it. For reasons related to procedure and politics, the committee itself was not able to deal directly with clause-by-clause consideration of the bill, even though it is only a one clause bill.

There were some potential amendments that might have been considered, but the committee was not able to do that. The rules governing private members' business should be looked at for this reason. We found ourselves in a difficult position. Inevitably, there was no vote and no amendment at committee and the bill was deemed reported back to the House without a vote or without any effective deliberations, and here we are today.

I have moved an amendment which I believe will improve the bill. Currently, the sections 318 and 319 procedure exempts from hate crimes expressions of opinion based on a religious subject. As we all understand, sexual orientation is not in and of itself a religious subject. There are many differing views in our society on this subject, as has been pointed out today. Our objective here is to allow a lot of freedom in how we express ourselves in this country. Our charter is testament to that.

Some of our religious texts are quite old while others are quite new. We must admit that some of them have been quite negative on the subject of homosexuality. That view expressed in our religious texts is very real. Although many of these religious texts were written long ago, they are in fact today for many Canadians, living manifestations of their faith. We have to recognize that as well. Even though they might have been written 100 years ago, 1,000 years ago, or 2,000 years ago, those texts, whether it is the Bible or the Koran or other religious writings of other faiths, are very much living manifestations of current modern day faith.

People are living their faiths based on a religious text which sometimes is negative on the issue of homosexuality. I have received mail, e-mails, telephone calls, representations from my constituents and people from outside my constituency who have said that the provisions of this proposed amendment would effectively criminalize the Bible or the Koran. One can differ on that conclusion, but the fact that this amendment might do that was enough to cause this member and perhaps other members in the House, and we will see how we vote on this, to take steps to protect the charter based freedom of religious faith.

My amendment ensures in fairly clear words that a good faith expression of an opinion based on a religious text is not, and cannot be, seen as any type of a hate crime or an expression of hate. In my view the amendment will protect all religious texts which are subscribed to and adhered to by many Canadians.

Having said that as briefly as I could, I commend the amendment and the bill into the hands of members of the House.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

2:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Vic Toews Canadian Alliance Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is certainly my honour to speak in respect of this bill and the amendments that have been raised, two of which I have brought forward.

I want to make it clear that the Canadian Alliance rejects hatred directed at any group in Canada. We have heard the kind of vitriolic statements made by the member for Burnaby—Douglas against certain groups in our society. Even if he does not share their religious beliefs, a little more respect toward those religious groups would be in order. Our party does not choose and pick favourites. We reject hatred directed at any group in Canada. In that context we have consistently expressed concern about Bill C-250 on the basis that it raises serious concerns for fundamental freedoms.

While this bill may be motivated by good intentions, and I give the member the benefit of that doubt because I have no reason to doubt his word as an hon. member, good intentions however often have unintended consequences. When those intentions and unintended consequences form a part of our laws, the impact can significantly interfere with the ability of people to communicate or to adhere to essential matters of personal belief, religious or otherwise.

Constituents have brought forward a number of examples throughout the court system, looking at the fear they have of where this legislation is going.

For example, back in 1997 Sylvia MacEachern, the editor of a Roman Catholic journal, was subjected to an investigation by the hate crimes unit of the Ottawa-Carleton Regional Police for stating on an Ottawa radio station that she supported the teaching and the catechism of the Catholic church regarding homosexuality. The charges were not proceeded with because there was no provision for sexual orientation in the hate crimes section of the Criminal Code. Here we have a clear example of a Catholic expressing an essential element of her faith being subjected to a police investigation in our country.

Hugh Owens, a Christian, was taken to court by the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission for placing an advertisement in the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix that listed bible verses opposed to homosexual acts. In a ruling on December 11, 2002, the Court of Queen's Bench for Saskatchewan found that the advertisement exposed homosexuals to hatred and indeed classified the bible in that context as hate literature.

In his defence Owens cited the guarantees of freedom of speech and freedom of religion in subsection 14(2) of the same human rights code and section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. However the judge held that those guaranteed freedoms did not extend to expressions of hatred. Having classified those comments as exposing homosexuals to hatred, he then made the finding against Mr. Owens.

Clearly the bill, as currently worded, does not address the legitimate concerns of many Canadians about their continued right to freedom of expression and religion.

The first amendment that I brought forward would broaden the requirement of the Attorney General's consent to proceed with a hate propaganda prosecution. The member for Burnaby—Douglas has been stating in communications that no prosecutions can be undertaken without the consent of the Attorney General in these sections. He knows that is not correct. Currently, this requirement only applies to section 318 and subsection 319(2).

The amendment would broaden the application to all of section 319. The amendment does not solve all of our concerns with the bill, but it goes at least some way to expand the oversight of the provincial attorney general and to provide additional safeguards against frivolous prosecutions.

Having said that, I am very concerned about giving the attorney general, who ultimately is a political figure, the right to determine who will be and who will not be prosecuted for expressing religious views. That should not be the function of the police or of the attorney general, much less an elected politician. This is a dangerous section and additional safeguards need to be brought forward. Ultimately the amendment alone does not alleviate all of the concerns that my constituents and thousands of others have brought forward.

One of my colleagues indicates he has received 4,000 pieces of communication on this bill alone out of his riding. That is absolutely astounding. I have never heard, out of one constituency, those kinds of numbers. In my own constituency, I believe I am somewhere at around 1,000, but my constituents know where I stand on this bill and I have encouraged them to advise other members of Parliament about the dangers that they see in the bill.

The second amendment would explicitly protect religious texts under section 320, the criminal provisions specifically dealing with the seizure of hate propaganda. If we take for example the classification of the Human Rights Commission and the Saskatchewan Court of Queen's Bench as certain sections of the Bible promoting hatred, the substantive legal definitions are the same. The onus of proof might be different in a human rights context as opposed to a Criminal Code context but the concepts are exactly the same. There needs to be protection to ensure that religious texts do not fall within the definition of hate propaganda.

It has long been the position of the Canadian Alliance that without such an explicit protection, the bill would be problematic for a number of common publications, since it would criminalize statements and texts that pertain to homosexuality. Such publications as the Catholics have indicated and as the Evangelicals have indicated to me in letters and presentations would include the Bible, the Koran and the Catholic Catechism. If texts such as the Bible or the Koran are used by someone to promote hatred or advocate genocide in that context, then of necessity those texts would be considered hate literature.

When the Department of Justice officials appeared on Bill C-250, they could not give a definitive answer to the question of whether religious publications would be subject to censorship or even prohibition. I simply refer the Speaker and the members of the House to their specific testimony. I do not think it is sufficient for the people of this country to simply have to rely on a hope and a prayer that their words and their scriptures will not be criminalized and will not be seized as hate propaganda. We have an obligation in dealing with the criminal law to ensure that those concerns are addressed.

I also commend to the members of the House the reading of the Keegstra decision. It was a four-three decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in which the court upheld the section under consideration, section 319, as constitutional under section 1, having breached the substantive freedoms and guarantees. It said that one of the reasons the majority upheld it was because it was narrow clearly drafted. We do not know the implications of this amendment and these terms. This House was deprived of the benefit of committee debating and discussing this in committee because of the filibuster of the sponsor.

It is a travesty that a bill would move in that--

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

2:15 p.m.

NDP

Svend Robinson NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Could you just indicate to the House what the length of time is for speakers and how much time this speaker has left?

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

2:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

That is not a point of order. Resuming debate, the hon. member for Provencher has less than a minute left in his intervention.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

2:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Vic Toews Canadian Alliance Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to indicate that member, the member for Burnaby—Douglas, keeps on speaking about freedom of speech and every time someone tries to make a point he stands up and interrupts because he has no belief in freedom of speech. He is only concerned about a particular agenda. We all know what that agenda is and it has nothing to do with freedom or equality. It has everything to do with the suppression of people who disagree with him. It is unfortunate in a democracy when that individual feels only his point of view is a valid one.

I commend the amendments to the members of the House to consider them for this very important bill.