Madam Speaker, I know that I have only 10 minutes to address two issues. I hope that I will be able to do so in so little time, and if I am, that will be quite an accomplishment.
I believe generally in the principle of equality. I believe that Bill C-41 is a good bill in general. It deals with substantive matters of sentencing and matters that we treated openly in the campaign.
However, the most troubling part of the bill deals with section 718.2(a)(i). I find it troubling because this section of the bill, which is a very small paragraph in an omnibus bill, attempts to treat the whole matter of hatred in a very superficial way.
This section has been presented as a means toward combating hate crimes by toughening sentences where it was not the case in the past. It gives members the impression that hate crimes are somehow going unaddressed in terms of our legal ability to respond effectively to the rise in crime and the incidence of hate crime.
The Canadian Bar Association before the justice committee made it extremely clear that without exception there were no examples where one could prove that people who committed hate crimes, whether against an individual or a person belonging to a group of individuals, did not have the book not thrown at them. It is with regret that I suggest the piece of legislation in section 718.2 is nothing less than redundant.
The level of support for the concern about the bill falls into two areas. My fellow colleagues from the government side will be able to speak about their concerns with reference to sexual orientation. My concern is of a much grander nature. It deals with the fact that we are saying in the country and in the bill that hatred is only significant when the characteristic of the individual is taken into account. I would submit that misses the very point on which hate crimes ought to be based.
Hatred is hatred. It is no more or less significant given who it is directed against. It should be a principle not only of Parliament but a fundamental principle of Canadians in general that hatred is something we should repudiate at every turn.
I thought I would at some point be able to bring forward Motions Nos. 6 and 7 to the justice committee. One of the motions would delete the clause after the words hate, biased and prejudiced. Those words make it so that hatred is more significant if it is only based on race, national or ethnic origin, language, colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation or any other similar factor. I do not know what any other similar factor is. Perhaps I could have an appropriate explanation of exactly what that means, but I say with some certainty that a judge reading any other similar factor would have difficulty trying to understand just what is meant.
I have looked to various applications of the legislation and where it will have its greatest impact. If we are serious about changing hate crimes, particularly as our red book suggested in terms of hate propaganda, ought we not to be correcting sections 318 to 320 of the Criminal Code rather than treating hatred in a rather cavalier fashion, in a rather superfluous or superficial fashion under an omnibus bill on sentencing?
If I had been given the opportunity to speak or provide some amendments based on good advice to the government during the committee period, I would have put forward the concern some hon. colleagues have expressed that other forms of hatred manifested against certain individuals would not be covered under the legislation.
I presented to the hon. member for Portneuf the prospect of hate based on language. I am pleased to see that it is here. Unfortunately I had to do that indirectly.
One of the things I noticed is that my position and reservations on this bill were expressed and reinforced by the Barreau du Québec. According to the Barreau, Canadians do not want a restrictive two-tier justice system that protects only some segments of our society.
On the other hand, some people have argued that there is no indication that the courts have been lenient with offenders motivated by hatred for these segments, groups or individuals in our society. In their opinion, as judges already have considerable latitude in the sentencing process, they often use this latitude to impose tough sentences for crimes they deem detrimental to society.
According to the amendment proposed by the Barreau, if the evidence submitted to the court shows that the offence was motivated by prejudice, the judge may feel that the aggravating circumstances surrounding the crime call for a tougher sentence.
Although I respect the Barreau's position, I am quoting these comments for the hon. members opposite, especially those from the Bloc Quebecois, because the Barreau du Québec, which represents all lawyers in the province, said that what was needed was a general rather than specific principle.
I am extremely concerned that the legislation, in its attempt to address hate crimes, will leave people out. I am not sure what motivates one to write legislation such as this, particularly section 718. However, if it has anything to do with political correctness, might I suggest that in exchange for political correctness we respond to actual legal need? Hatred is a very serious problem that ought to be treated more seriously in more appropriate legislation.
How serious can we be about nibbling around the edges? I am concerned about ensuring that we have a fair system of justice for all. The legislation almost ensures that in Canada we no longer can claim to have a justice system for all.
We are saying that it is more important for some hatreds to be treated more significantly if the person who happens to be the unfortunate victim of hatred is part of the listed group. I have cited language. I could also cite the physical appearance of people. The hon. member for Wild Rose referred to fat people.
This is a very political environment. Perhaps we could talk about hatred based on political considerations, people who hold political views that are different from others and who have been the subject of hate. How in this bill, how in this amendment, are those people going to find equal protection before and under the law?
The charter says that we are supposed to provide equality for all individuals. My reading of this section suggests that only some people, those who happen to constitute a part of this list, will be protected.
Many other concerns have been raised in the past about whether the legislation will be able to in some way thwart or deter someone from committing a hate crime. Those who are filled with hatred do not read omnibus bills on sentencing to find out what their punishment will be.
What they will know is that in every single instance without exception the justices and the good people of this nation who prosecute these issues have been able to find without exception that when someone commits a crime based on hate it is always treated as an aggravating circumstance. If this list forms the basis under which the law would find an aggravating circumstance, those left out could be considered crimes committed for which the judge would find at the point of sentencing to be of a mitigating factor.
We need equality of treatment when it comes to hatred. We need to make sure that we use the proper instruments to protect it and to protect those who have been its victims in the past and its victims in the future.
Not much more can be made more true than the fact that individuals from coast to coast expect from Parliament fairness and equality before the law. Bill C-41 is a long bill. It is an exhaustive bill. We must treat hatred in its proper perspective.
I urge all members to support my motions, justice for all.