Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to speak on Bill C-305, an act to amend the Criminal Code (mischief), and even more pleased that I will be seconding the bill that my colleague, the member for Nepean, has put forward. I have had the pleasure of working with my colleague in the past, through parliamentary friendship groups and discussing a number of other issues. I have seconded the bill for many other reasons as well though. The bill is a strong response to hateful acts, like the tragic shooting in a Quebec City mosque this past weekend.
As a mother of three, my children were taught that Canada is a country of multiculturalism and acceptance. Multiculturalism and religious freedoms are core parts of Canadian identity, although there are those who have a different world view.
Multiculturalism and pluralism are still challenged today. There are those who believe they can scare people into falling backward into the past. I know that at this time some leadership candidates for the Conservative Party are promoting ideas that would only divide Canadians. I have long been proud that multiculturalism has stood in the face of that view. It has been part of our national fabric for decades.
Multiculturalism is why people move to Canada. It is a country of harmony where people can freely start new lives and raise families. It is at the core of what attracts people from other countries to want to build a life here in Canada. In my riding of Brampton South, my office often gets calls from people all over the world asking us how they can move to Canada.
While countries in other parts of the world try to shut down their borders to Syrian refugees, Canada has opened its borders and homes to let them in, and we worried about how fast we could take them in. Never forget that our inclusive, remarkable country today was only possible because of immigrants. Canada is the nation of multiculturalism. It is not just a country of tolerance, but a country of acceptance. Acceptance is important, where those of different faiths, cultures, and ethnicities can coexist with one another without any fear of discrimination.
The acts we have seen recently do not make a difference, despite how the offenders hope they might. These acts do not reflect the Canada that Canadians know and love. Some of the recent heinous acts we have seen in various communities have been committed by youth, under the age of 18. I am baffled to see that there are people, particularly youth, that are getting the message that it is okay to promote messages of hate and racism at synagogues, mosques, and schools. I do not want my children to live in a world where they cannot feel safe in their country because of their cultural and religious background.
I want to tell a quick story about one of my volunteers, who is also a constituent of my riding. Stephanie identifies herself as a Canadian of Chinese Vietnamese descent. As a child, she was a target of bullying and racism among her peers in day care and elementary school, simply because she was the only student who did not look like them. She hated going to school because she felt that she was not safe, at a place where she should feel safe. She told me it all started to turn around when their class had a day where they learned about each other's cultures and really grasped multiculturalism. Over time, most of her peers started to treat her better. There are always a few outliers who do not change.
Bill C-305 understands that we need to be conscious and respectful, and to defend our brothers and sisters of different ethnicities, religions, and various backgrounds.
People are not born racist or hateful. It is taught, and people can unlearn it as well. I come back to it because these recent acts in the region sadden me, hearing that messages of hate are being spread in a country where people should be free to be who they are away from intolerance, bias, and hatred. Hate speech and hate-motivated mischief is the line between our right to freedom of speech and unfiltered hatred.
This should not be tolerated in Canada. These acts have used the symbols of hateful regimes of the past to scare people. In Canada, such a great, welcoming, open, free country, our citizens should not walk in fear in our communities.
It causes fear in communities such as my own, and it means that parents have to explain to their children very difficult things about what is going on. Kids are told sometimes to be vigilant for people who might want to hurt them just because of their identity and how they pray. We have seen this hate before, and we must work together to combat it. This is why this bill would take the next step, in focusing on the next issue.
Bill C-305 expands the definition of mischief to also include other places as well, particularly buildings established by a religious community, which were previously not included. This would ensure the equal protections and equal benefit of the law without discrimination. These are the principles—particularly freedom of religion and protection of that freedom by the government—echoed within the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We need to firmly state the message that hate crimes such as ones in the vein and spirit of what we have recently seen in Quebec City will not be tolerated in Canada.
These institutions, gathering places, and places of worship that we would protect in this bill are the fundamental backbone places in each of our communities. In each of our ridings, we can point to places that make a real difference in bringing together our various communities: a park where communities gather, like Chinguacousy Park in my community; an educational institution like Sheridan College in my riding; or any number of landmarks we can point to.
We need to stand up for those groups who are being discriminated against and the culture of fear overall. In a world where many live in fear, Canada can be a beacon. This government stands up against that fear and that approach. This optimistic spirit drives our ministers and our Prime Minister to be more open. We cannot stand idly by. This is our opportunity to stand up and speak out. We are not making false choices like pitting safety and free speech against one another; we are making a choice where everyone wins.
I am glad to see support from around this House so far on this bill. I would like to commend all the groups who were involved in working on this bill. For years, the discussion around safe space has been happening, and this bill would make a real step forward on this. This bill has been supported by a number of important groups, and I want to take a moment to recognize them:
The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs; the World Sikh Organization of Canada; Coalition for Progressive Canadian Muslim Organizations; Canada India Foundation; Canadian Rabbinic Caucus; Association of Progressive Muslims of Canada; Baha'i Community Canada; Multicultural Council for Ontario Seniors; Ukrainian Canadian Congress; Ghanaian Canadian Association of Ontario; Presbyterian Church in Canada; Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama'at Canada; Armenian National Committee of Canada; Canadian Polish Congress; Jamaican Canadian Association; Reconciliation Canada; Anglican Diocese of New Westminster; Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver; Vivekananda Vedanta Society of British Columbia; Temple Sholom, B.C.; International Society for Krishna Consciousness, Vancouver; and Akali Singh Sikh Society, Vancouver.
This bill speaks up in favour of those whom some would want to silence. This bill is something I think this Parliament should be very proud to pass into law. Again, I want to commend the author of this bill on his work to advance this discussion. Together, we can make a real difference for Canadians by voting for this. I encourage all my colleagues to think of those places in their community that they want to protect when they cast their ballot on Bill C-305. I know I will when I stand and vote yea on this bill.