Bill C-384 proposes to amend the Criminal Code by adding a new offence to the existing mischief provisions.
The Criminal Code mischief provisions state:
Every one commits mischief who wilfully
(a) destroys or damages property;
(b) renders it dangerous, inoperative, or ineffective;
(c) obstructs, interrupts, or interferes with the lawful use, enjoyment or operation of property; or
(d) obstructs, interrupts or interferes with any person in the lawful use, enjoyment or operation of property.
The amendment would make it a specific offence, with increased penalties, when the mischief is committed against an educational or recreational institution, or any related object, that is used exclusively or principally by a group identifiable by its colour, race, religion, ethnic origin or sexual orientation.
The bill, specifically in lines 12 to 15 about sentencing, states: “being motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on religion, race, colour”. When I read that, I know that some of the existing provisions in the Criminal Code about mischief allow action to be taken by the judge.
The new provision would apply when it could be proven that the act of mischief was motivated by prejudice or hate based on religion, race, colour, national or ethnic origin or sexual orientation.
I understand the rationale behind the proposal. It seeks to send a clear message to Canadians that we do not tolerate acts motivated by bias, prejudice or hatred. I noted the examples pointed out by my hon. colleague from the Bloc, who talked about the schools and the things that were done in Outremont to the Jewish school and the library.
In particular, it seems that the intention of the bill is to send a message to potential hatemongers that we do not tolerate acts that are directed toward institutions in Canada that are used by what is defined in subsection 318(4) of the Criminal Code as an “identifiable group”, or in other words, a group identified by colour, race, religion, ethnic origin or sexual orientation.
My question when I read the bill is about motivation and whether in existing law this is not covered. Does the judge not have the ability to define that aggravating factor when they look at the sentencing provisions?
As we heard in our throne speech last year:
Canada is built on a common heritage of values, which Canadians have fought and died to defend. It is a country that continues to attract newcomers seeking refuge and opportunity, who see Canada as a place where they can work hard, raise families and live in freedom.
We are a diverse nation and our laws recognize and protect that diversity.
The report tabled by Statistics Canada earlier this month also reflects this diversity. The results of the 2006 census shows that the ethnocultural diversity of our population is growing and will continue to increase. In fact the census indicates that there are more than 200 different ethnic origins.
The 32 million people living in Canada make up a cultural, ethnic and linguistic mosaic that is found nowhere else in the world.
Canada welcomes many immigrants a year from all parts of the globe, who continue to choose Canada drawn by the quality of life and its reputation as an open, peaceful and caring society that welcomes newcomers and values diversity.
Canadians need to continue to respect and value one another regardless of their colour, race, religion or ethnic origin. As the member pointed out, unfortunately when there are differences among people, there is the possibility of conflict between them.
And when conflict leads to criminal behaviour, the criminal justice system must be able to respond appropriately.
As a nation, we will not tolerate hate-motivated acts that are based on a person's colour, race, religion, ethnic origin or sexual orientation. We are making great efforts to be a nation where peace reigns. Canada was founded on the principles of peace, order and good government.
Canadians value this and a place where they can feel safe. Today, rightly, they worry about their safety and security. There is no greater responsibility for the government than to protect this right to safety and security.
Canadians can be proud of their country and its achievements. Working together, we have built a nation that is prosperous and safe, a place where people from around the world live in harmony.
I personally had some reservations about the wording and how effective the bill may be when under its provisions crimes are brought before the court. Will it really be effective, especially given that we all see in our ridings at all times the tremendous amount of general mischief against public buildings, private buildings and public and personal property today?
Having said that, I am sure that all members of the House will commit to continuing to work together to ensure that all Canadians have a justice system that reflects our values as a nation, including standing up for vulnerable communities.