Mr. Speaker, I do find it a little bit ironic that when we as a government bring forward legislation that would actually, in a substantive and measurable way, protect Canadians, men, women and children alike, we are met with obstruction and criticism by the opposition.
When we have bills for which Canadians have been calling for years that would, in a meaningful way, protect them, we are met with that kind of response, and yet today we have a member raising the issue of protecting women, protecting Canadians. It is a little ironic.
The member also does touch on the issue of deciding which lyrics he likes or does not like or what he finds offensive or inoffensive, and, to be sure, there are lyrics that he cited that I think all of us would find terribly offensive and troubling. I would urge him to talk to some of his colleagues who are raising issues of so-called censorship, saying that the government wants to censor production, when that, in effect, is what he is proposing in his speech.
I want to state from the outset that our government not only recognizes both hate crimes and violence against women as serious issues and issues deserving of serious treatment by the criminal law, but in the last two years our government has acted in tangible, meaningful ways to better protect women, better protect all Canadians from those who would do them harm.
I do want to consider the existing criminal law on this issue. Section 319 of the Criminal Code prohibits publicly inciting hatred against any identifiable group. Identifiable group is defined as any section of the public distinguished by colour, race, religion, ethnic origin or sexual orientation.
In 1990, the Supreme Court of Canada in the case of R. v. Keegstra, considered whether this offence violated the accused's freedom of expression as guaranteed in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The court unanimously found that the hate propaganda offence did indeed infringe on freedom of expression. However, by a narrow majority the court upheld the offence under section 1 of the charter on the basis that its infringement constituted a reasonable limit upon freedom of expression that could be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.
The judgment underscores the importance, indeed the necessity, of having clear and strong evidence to support any expansion of the hate propaganda offence.
In 2004, statistics from the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics study on hate crime in Canada reported that of the 928 hate crimes reported to 12 major police forces in 2001, only 8, or less than 1%, were reported as having been motivated on the basis of sex. Compare these statistics to the fact that 57% were reported to be based on race and ethnicity, 43% based on religion and 10% based on sexual orientation.
Other existing Criminal Code offences can be used to address the type of messages against women that motivate the proposed expansion of the hate propaganda offence. For example, subsection 163.8 of the Criminal Code prohibits making and distributing material, the dominant characteristic of which is “the undue exploitation of sex, or of sex and any one or more of the following subjects, namely, crime, horror, cruelty and violence.