Yesterday in Parliament – Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Nov 23, 2016 | Uncategorized

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House of Commons

Bill C-305 – Hate Crimes

Private Members Business

Mr. Chandra Arya (Nepean, Lib.)  moved that Bill C-305, an act to amend the Criminal Code (mischief), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Closing a critical gap in the Criminal Code has long been a CIJA priority. Currently, vandalism and other hate mischief against a religious site, such as a church, synagogue, mosque, temple, or cemetery, is a specific offence with significant penalties. But this designation does not extend to schools or community centres associated with an identifiable group. Sadly, many of these sites are targeted for hate crime.

Bill C-305 will close this gap – which is why CIJA has been engaged with MP Arya on this vital piece of legislation.

You may read the entire transcript of debate here but we’d like to flag some important highlights, including references to CIJA:
Mr. Chandra Arya (Nepean, Lib.)It is heartening to note the near unanimous support I have received from all sections of society. Every person has expressed his or her support and encouragement. In particular, I would like to acknowledge the support I have received from a diverse group of religious and ethnic organizations. I would like to recognize and thank the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs for its ongoing support and its efforts to mobilize the stakeholders.

I would like to thank the following organizations that have pledged their support for Bill C-305: the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, World Sikh Organization, Coalition of Progressive Muslim Organizations, Canada India Foundation, Canadian Rabbinic Caucus, Association of Progressive Muslims, Baha’i Community of Canada, Multicultural Council for Ontario Seniors, Ukrainian Canadian Congress, Ghanaian Canadian Association of Ontario, Presbyterian Church in Canada, Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at of 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 of British Columbia, International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) of Vancouver, and the Akali Singh Sikh Society of Vancouver.

Mr. Chandra Arya (Nepean, Lib.)The intent of Bill C-305 is consistent with our government’s commitment to ensuring 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.

This rationale is well explained by the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, or CIJA. This organization has highlighted the recent spike in anti-Semitic, racist, and anti-Muslim vandalism that was reported in Ottawa, including at three synagogues and other religious institutions in our nation’s capital.
CIJA argues that the current law is deficient, since it only designates as a hate crime mischief committed against a religious site such as a church, synagogue, mosque, or temple. In its view, this designation should be broadened. To quote from its website:Hate-fuelled criminals do not distinguish between synagogues, community centres and schools. Neither should the law.

I believe that this principle is a worthy one, but I have questions about the potentially broad scope of the proposed crime. For example, would it include structures such as sports arenas, like the Rogers Centre in Toronto? Would it apply to a coffee shop used regularly by a university Spanish club or to an office building occupied partly by government? As it is currently worded, it appears that the bill could potentially capture numerous unintended buildings and spaces. As a result, the offence could become over-broad and potentially vague.

Mr. David de Burgh Graham (Laurentides—Labelle, Lib.)In its current form, Bill C-305 seeks to expand this to include schools, day care centres, colleges or universities, community centres, and playgrounds.

The LGBTQ community is one of the most targeted groups when it comes to hate crimes. While Parliament has previously passed legislation to protect these groups, section 430 (4.1) currently does not recognize hate-based mischief against one’s sexual orientation or gender identity. The current law only recognizes bias, prejudice, or hate based on religion, race, colour, or national or ethnic origin.
Bill C-305 seeks to include these two groups. It is the sponsor’s hope that with the passage of Bill C-305, our neighbourhoods will be a safer place for the LGBTQ community.
I believe the bill is very important for making progress in fighting hatred and hate crimes, and I really congratulate the member for Nepean for his hard work on this, for bringing this forward. When we look at the results of the bill, we see a wide number of stakeholders have come out in support of this. We have heard from the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, the World Sikh Organization, the Coalition of Progressive Canadian Muslim Organizations, the Canada-Indian Foundation, the Canadian Rabbinic Caucus, and so on and so forth. This is a wide breadth of support for a very important bill to address hate.
Where I grew up in rural Quebec, there used to be signs on places that said, “No dogs, no Jews”. Hatred is a real thing. It is a thing that has to be fought. It has to be fought against and protected from. I think this is a really nice step and I really encourage the member for Nepean to go forward with this, and I am looking forward to the second hour of debate.Please consider adding your name to a letter calling on all MPs to support C-305.


Bill C-16: Trans Rights

Senator’s Statements

Hon. Donald Neil Plett: Colleagues, last week Bill C-16, gender identity and gender expression, passed third reading in the other place without a recorded vote. This came on the heels of the Justice Committee refusing to hear from witnesses on this legislation. That’s right, colleagues, no public hearings.

We should be so confident in the legislation that we bring forward, and certainly in the legislation we pass, that we are willing to have it withstand a thorough and rigorous vetting process.

Political correctness authoritarians have narrowed the scope of acceptable thought and discourse in academia and, by extension, the general public. However, we as legislators and public policy-makers should not be afraid of the difficult conversations. In fact, it is outrageous and irresponsible to do so. Legislation that has serious implications on freedom of speech — and, for the first time in Canadian law, compelled speech — cannot be passed so flippantly without thorough public discourse, debate and consideration.

I want to challenge my colleagues in the Senate Chamber to give this legislation its due diligence. As University of Toronto Professor Jordan Peterson said recently on this issue, we need to decide that speaking and acting in truth is imperative. Once we decide that we will not engage in manipulation of facts, regardless of the results, if it is based on telling the truth, that is always the best possible outcome.

I challenge my colleagues not to be silenced by the baseless character assassination, not to be silenced by those who want to throw out labels of bigotry and new phobias dreamt up every other week in social science departments in order to silence dissent.

Those who find this legislation to have some merit but are afraid to speak in its favour because they find the topic “difficult,” and those who behind closed doors are vehemently opposed to this legislation but are not willing to speak to it publicly, please, by all means, let your voices be heard.

We are the chamber of sober second thought. We are legislators and policy-makers. It is our duty to look at fact, at science and at truth. A difficult and controversial topic with profound consequences should not generate less debate; it should generate more debate.

I want to ensure all of the outraged individuals who have emailed and called our office that the Senate will do a better job. When the House of Commons puts its electoral viability ahead of difficult conversations about policy, it has failed. Colleagues, let’s not fall into the same trap. Let’s have the difficult conversations. Let’s do our jobs. We owe it to Canadians.


Question Period

Hon. Linda Frum: My question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate.

Leader, earlier this month when Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion met in Toronto with a group of 60 Iranian- Canadians to hear their views about re-engagement with Iran, the meeting was carefully stacked with pro-regime advocates rather than a representative sample of Iranian-Canadians. Iranian- Canadians include some of the most tragic victims of the Ayatollah’s regime and their grim record of global terrorism and domestic repression.

My question to you, leader, which I hope you’ll pass on to the minister, is this: Before he proceeds to re-open diplomatic ties with Iran, will the minister consult with the family of Zahra Kazemi, the Canadian woman tortured and murdered in Evin Prison in 2003? Will the minister consult with the Alberta-based sister of Canadian resident Saeed Malekpour who has languished in Evin Prison since 2008 on trumped up charges? Will the minister consult with the 30,000 Syrian refugees who have sought asylum in Canada who have lost everything they love and possessed to Iran’s proxy war against the Syrian people? Will the Minister consult with the Toronto family of Howie Rothman, the Canadian rabbi murdered by an Iranian-sponsored terrorist with an axe blow to the head?

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): I thank the honourable senator for her question and for her ongoing work in this chamber and outside the chamber on bringing to our attention human rights issues in Iran as was done with the motion earlier this fall.

I will take her question as a representation and bring it to the minister’s attention. But I would, in doing so, emphasize to all senators that according diplomatic relations to a country is not an endorsement of a country’s human rights record or other policies. In fact, it is a way of engaging a country on a wide range of issues, including issues in which there are differences of views and differences of treatment of human rights. That was one of the advantages, frankly, that Canada enjoyed in Iran until the previous government withdrew diplomatic relations.

I know this because of my time in the Department of Foreign Affairs, and frankly in my discussions with our colleagues in the United States who themselves benefited from the presence of Canadian diplomats in Iran in terms of their understanding of the government of Iran and as we sought with our allies to manage some of the difficult issues that are brought to us through the various engagements of the Government of Iran on global issues.

Senator Frum: Leader, can I also challenge the government to read closely the UN General Assembly Resolution on Human Rights in Iran that Minister Dion welcomed last week. I am troubled by the unprecedented amount of praise for the Iranian regime contained in this resolution. This flies in the face of the fact that Iran continues to be among the worst perpetrators of human rights violations in the world.

Why did Minister Dion not condemn the UN for this undeserved praise for Iran’s human rights’ record in the recent UN resolution?

Senator Harder: Again, I thank the honourable senator for her question. The comments made by the foreign minister stand on their own merits. I, of course, will, as I indicated earlier, bring to the minister’s attention the concerns expressed by the honourable senator.

I again want to repeat that engaging with the Government of Iran is an enlightened policy of the government to ensure we are actively involved with and able to communicate our concerns with the Government of Iran, are able to promote Canadian interests in our engagement with Iran, and are working with our allies who have been so engaged with the nuclear issue in Iran that Canada can participate with our allies in appropriate consultations and strategies.

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