Mr. Speaker, I will focus my comments not on the content of this bill, Bill C-16, but rather on what I believe is a deeply flawed, undemocratic process that has returned this bill from the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights to Parliament without hearing from any independent witnesses.
I am supportive of any initiatives that help protect persons from hate speech. I also absolutely agree that there can be no tolerance for bullying or violence of any kind for any reason. Parliamentarians and all Canadians have a responsibility to do their part to confront bullying, hate speech, and violence. My concern is that dissent of any kind will be construed as hate speech and could subsequently lead to Human Rights Tribunal hearings or, worse yet, criminal charges being laid. I am concerned that this bill would cause fear for many Canadians that they would not be able to even discuss public policy issues such as this one because they disagree with the government's imposed agenda.
I believe the government and the Minister of Justice directly owe Canadians a clear answer to the following question: What would the impact of implementing Bill C-16 be on immigrant groups and faith groups who may be at odds with gender fluidity concepts? Would they have the freedom to teach their children and practise their beliefs without being accused of hate speech or being accused of human rights violations? Yes or no?
Any law that limits legitimate discussion and debate of closely held beliefs presents a danger to freedom of expression, a fundamental value held dear by people across the political spectrum. The right to disagree is sacred to freedom in our society. It is the lifeblood of both new ideas and age-old protections. The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 18, 1948, states:
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either...in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
For me and millions of other Canadians who acknowledge the supremacy of God, as the first words of our charter affirm, there is the reality that our faith journey is the foundation of our world view. Freedom of religion is a fundamental right, and so it is of paramount importance that Bill C-16 would not infringe upon that fundamental freedom. Today we are debating at third reading a bill that proposes some very fundamental changes to definitions and principles of society. The imposition of a fundamental values system change of this magnitude must be given complete due process here in Parliament.
The current government promised transparency, openness, and accountability. The Liberals assured Canadians that things would be done differently. All members of this House are aware that the normal course of action for a bill that passes on second reading is to send it to the corresponding committee for study, calling of witnesses for input on the content of the bill with the potential for changes or amendments to be made before it comes back for third reading, and a final vote by Parliament. Yet here we are asked to vote on a very substantive bill without the benefit of committee discussion notes or the transcription of witness input to inform our decision. The government has chosen to shortcut the democratic process; a different approach for sure but not what Canadians should expect or have to tolerate from their government. This is a total disrespect of due process.
Those who may see this issue differently are simply being shut out of the debate. Of all the places that should encourage dialogue and debate, certainly Parliament should be at the forefront. Yet here we are choosing not to have an honest debate for fear that we might somehow upset the politically correct apple cart.
We have unfortunately already witnessed this chill on free speech at the University of Toronto as Professor Jordan Peterson is under constant attack for his refusal to use gender-neutral pronouns. Medical experts have lost their jobs not because of scientific knowledge or experience but because their views are out of step with current thinking.
Irene Ogrizek of Montreal wrote:
If Canadians who believe that gender exists on a spectrum are free to choose their words and reality, Jordan Peterson, as someone who interacts with them, has a right to choose his words and reality too, however objectionable that concept of equality might seem. Allowing one group to use freighted words like homophobe or racist or rapist to tarnish an individual’s reputation without proof violates a principle of fairness that some of us hold dear. If hate-speech is to be expanded in our criminal codes, and in Canada that seems inevitable, I suggest we include the egregious misuse of these accusations too. If we are to take the idea of diversity seriously, we can do no less for those who are falsely maligned.
I ask this again. Will parents continue to have their right to teach their children in accordance with their deeply held faith beliefs or will they be subjected to accusations of hate speech for simply living out tried and true principles which are informed by their belief in the supremacy of God, as affirmed in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms? Will faith leaders who teach their congregations to follow the principles clearly laid out in God's word also be subjected to accusations of hate speech, or will they be free to continue to practise with freedom as the UN Declaration of Human Rights declares?
I now echo the Right Hon. John Diefenbaker, whose view of Canadian freedoms expresses what we should all hold dear:
I am a Canadian, a free Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong, or free to choose those who shall govern my country. This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and all mankind.
In closing, I move:
That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following:
“Bill C-16, an act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code, be not now read a third time, but be referred back to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights for the purpose of reconsidering all of its clauses with the view to hearing from witnesses in relation to the impact of the bill on freedom of expression”.