Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to acknowledge the effort made by my colleague, who just advanced the clock in the House. I am very pleased that you heard the right time when he said it because it was a praiseworthy effort and it was very kind of him to speak to all of us in the House in French.
I am usually very happy to rise in the House to speak to different bills, whether they are government or private members' bills, as is the case this evening with the member for Nepean's Bill C-305. I will be very clear. I am unhappy to rise today not because of the substance of the bill, but because we have to pass a bill such as this one.
Sunday's tragic events in Quebec remind us that it is important to protect everyone living in this country from hate crimes. It is our role as parliamentarians to take action, as the member for Nepean is doing, so that we can intervene when such crimes occur.
Bill C-305 seeks to amend section 430 of the Criminal Code, which criminalizes the commission of mischief motivated by hate toward a group and targeting a religious property, be it a church, synagogue, temple or cemetery. Bill C-305 goes further, proposing to expand the scope of section 430 of the Criminal Code to include other types of property such as schools, other educational institutions, cultural or sports centres, seniors’ residences and other institutions.
As has been said, the bill could not be more welcome. It aims to fill a gap in section 430 of the Criminal Code. The fact is that, if a person motivated by hate against a particular group commits mischief against a religious property such as a place of worship, that person could be charged, prosecuted, and found guilty under section 430 of the Criminal Code. If the person is convicted he or she could be sentenced to a maximum of 10 years in prison.
On the other hand, if that same person, being motivated by the same hate against the same group, should commit the same mischief, but against a school, a recreational facility, or a residence for seniors, that person could not be charged under section 430 of the Criminal Code and would not be liable to a maximum prison term of 10 years. That person would probably be prosecuted under the general mischief provisions of the Criminal Code, and be liable to a maximum sentence of two years.
Later in my speech I will describe one very specific case where the person was not given a prison term for an act of hatred such as this. The sad fact is that certain hate crimes are committed on a regular basis. According to Statistics Canada, nearly 1,300 hate crimes were reported in 2014. These were just the crimes that were reported. Statistics Canada informs us that the vast majority of hate crimes are not reported. People would rather not report them. They would rather not draw attention to this sort of crimes, not make them public knowledge, not deal with them, with the result that the intolerable is tolerated, to the point that acts that are even more violent are unfortunately committed. In 60% of cases, the crimes reported involved mischief.
I would like to read some excerpts from an article published on l'Actualité's website on January 31 following the tragic events in Quebec City. The title of the article is “Hate Crimes Targeting Religion on the Rise in Quebec”.
The article says:
...since Sunday, the Centre for the Prevention of Radicalization and the Montreal police service have been receiving more calls than usual. Quebec's public safety ministry logged 93 hate crimes against all religions in 2014 compared to just 70 in 2010. Many of the crimes were mischief, which includes vandalism. The ministry was able to provide details about crimes against Muslims, but only for the past two years. It began keeping track of details about religion-related hate crimes in 2013 and reported that there were 20 hate crimes against Muslims that year. In 2014, that number increased by 15 to 35. According to Montreal police, hate crimes linked to religion are also on the rise. The police logged 55 in 2016 compared to 24 in 2013...
The article does not specify which religions were targeted, but I do not think that is what the debate is about. Whether they target a religion or a group, all such actions are totally unacceptable today. As I said, while many crimes or wrongdoings may not have been reported to police, not all wrongdoings that were reported led to criminal convictions.
The Montreal police service also indicated that it had received a number of calls early in the week from people denouncing hateful or Islamophobic comments on social networks like Facebook and Twitter. Some of those comments were even criminal in nature, including threats for example.
The good news is that since Sunday, people are paying more attention. People are reporting those comments; they are no longer tolerating them. Whether on Twitter or Facebook, on a church or a school, such comments should never be tolerated.
During that same period, the Centre for the Prevention of Radicalization Leading to Violence reported 14 hate incidents—targeting, for example, ethnic origin or sexual orientation—and 16 cases of Islamophobia, for a total of 30 cases. Of that number, only half were reported to police. Many people do not report hate crimes. “They are uncomfortable or nervous”, regrets the centre's director.
In Sherbrooke, in 2014, a local man committed hateful acts against a mosque and a store that sells halal products. He got a $500 fine for putting up signs that said, “no to Islam and yes to the charter”. He was referring to the Quebec government's proposed charter of values under then premier Pauline Marois. Worse yet, bullet holes were found in the windows of a grocery store owned by a Muslim in Sherbrooke. The individual was given a $500 fine and two years' probation.
More attention should have been paid to those incidents. They are indicative of a deep malaise and serious societal dysfunction. Those are things that needs to be addressed. Each of these incidents is important because we need to prevent them from escalating into a tragedy like the one that occurred on Sunday in Quebec City.
I rarely do this, but I would like to quote one of my colleagues opposite. The comments he made this week touched every member of the House. I would like to share the words of the member for Louis-Hébert with my constituents in Mégantic—L'Érable. His remarks were so eloquent that I will quote him directly. He said:
Today, I also want to ask their forgiveness, forgiveness for watching while, over the past few years, they were ostracized and stigmatized, while fear, mistrust, and hatred took root in the hearts of my fellow human beings. I did my best to do something about it, but I ask their forgiveness for not doing enough. Words have consequences, but so does silence.
I commend my colleague from Louis-Hébert for those remarks. As members of Parliament, we need to take note of what he said. Silence has consequences. As parliamentarians, failure to act in these situations also has consequences.
I am very pleased with the private member's bill introduced by my colleague from Nepean because it breaks that silence. It helps us, as parliamentarians, do what we can to put an end to the hateful acts that are occurring in our country.
Bill C-305 adds to what we, as parliamentarians, can do to counter hate crimes. That is why I want to commend my colleague and tell him that I fully support this bill.