Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights has proposed amendments which I humbly accept. It is my understanding that the government will support the amendments to Bill C-305 that were passed as the proposed changes are consistent with our government's stated commitment to diversity and inclusion. The amendments would protect additional groups and ensure consistency with other provisions of the Criminal Code, and address over-breadth.
I am honoured to have received support from many religious and community organizations all across the country. Organizations representing the Jewish faith, the Islam faith, Sikhs, Hindus, and Christians have overwhelmingly supported Bill C-305. LGBTQ2 groups have also been strong supporters of this bill. It is my hope that this bill and, optimistically, soon a law can bring some peace of mind by acting as a strong deterrent against these acts of hatred.
Hate crimes happen in small towns and large cities. They involve everything from simple graffiti to brutal murders. They may be called hate crimes, bias crimes, civil rights crimes, or ethnic intimidation. All these crimes are committed because of race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or against other recognized groups.
Canada is an inclusive nation. We welcome people from all over the world, irrespective of race, religion, colour, or creed. Regardless of where people are from, what nationality they are, or what they believe, they will be treated with respect in Canada.
Although bigotry may be as old as humanity itself, the term “hate crime” is a new one, as is the idea of special treatment of these offences. The term “hate crime” came into common use during the 1980s, but the term is often used retrospectively in order to describe events which occurred prior to that era. From the Roman persecution of Christians to the Nazi slaughter of Jews, hate crimes were committed by both individuals and governments long before the term was commonly used.
We had certain dark episodes in our country: the Chinese head tax; the internment of Ukrainian, Japanese, and Italian Canadians during the First and the Second World Wars; our turning away boats of Jewish and Punjabi refugees; our own history of slavery; “No Irish need apply”; “We don't speak French here, so speak white”; the discrimination faced by Greek and Portuguese Canadians in Toronto and other places.
The same rhetoric that led to a “none is too many” immigration policy toward Jews in the 1930s and 1940s is being used to raise fears against Muslims today. There has been discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity for a very long time. The Criminal Code once described gay men as “criminal sexual psychopaths” and “dangerous sexual offenders”.
In the 1960s, we deployed the RCMP to investigate suspected homosexuals. This discrimination still exists in Canadian society today.
While Bill C-305 would not solve every issue related to racism and discrimination, it would take important small steps in protecting those most vulnerable, strengthening the Criminal Code, and acting as a strong deterrent.
In my speech today, I will refer to an excerpt from the book Hate Crimes: Causes, Controls, and Controversies, by Phyllis Gerstenfeld. She writes that the birth of hate crimes in the United States was in 1977 when a neo-Nazi group called the National Socialist Party of America wished to hold a demonstration in front of the village hall in Skokie, Illinois, which had a huge, large Jewish population, many of whom were Holocaust survivors. One organization that paid special attention to this was the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, a group that combats anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry. Alarmed by increasing anti-Semitism and frustrated with existing federal and state laws, it drafted a model ethnic intimidation statute in 1981.
Together with allies, such as the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the National Institute Against Prejudice and Violence, and the Southern Poverty Law Center, it began lobbying states to pass the statute. When it was passed, the model statute contained four provisions. The first of these is institutional vandalism, aimed primarily at people who targeted cemeteries, community centres, and places of worship. Bill C-305 would also deal with this provision, with proposed amendments to the Criminal Code.
Hate-based mischief can have a long lasting impact on the community. A recent study by the Department of Justice stated that the commission of a hate crime is against not only the individual but the entire community. It quoted David Matas who said that people live in community, their Rights are exercised in community. The study further stated:
With victims of hate crime, it is important to consider that the impact on the community is particularly devastating, as hate crimes are “message crimes in that the perpetrator is sending a message to the members of a certain group that they are despised, devalued, or unwelcome in a particular neighbourhood, community, school, or workplace”.
As well, it is important to consider that the impact on the individual victim may result in the victim rejecting the aspect of themselves that was the target of the attack or associating a core part of their identity with fear, loss, and vulnerability.
Since introducing this bill eight months ago, there have been a considerable number of high profile hate-related incidents. Right here in Ottawa, hate-based motivated acts were committed against synagogues, a Jewish community centre, a rabbi's private home, mosques, and a church. Then there was the horrific shooting at a mosque in Quebec. Whenever these things happen, it is important for each and every one of us to stand up united to condemn these acts.
The intent of the bill is consistent with our commitment to ensure equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination, in keeping with the charter. It is also consistent with a clear message that hate crimes will not be tolerated in Canada. Bill C-305 would take a strong step in making our neighbourhoods and communities a safer place to live. Think of the strong message we would be sending to all Canadians that not only select people but all people in Canada can feel safer knowing that Parliament has taken concrete and strong measures to protect them.
Once again, I would like to thank all members for their continued support of Bill C-305.