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Religious Tolerance logo

Hate speech in Canada


Adding sexual orientation
to the criminal code. Part 2

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Reaction to the House of Commons vote:

bulletAn emotional Svend Robinson said:

"It's been a good week for equality in Canada. I feel proud to be a Canadian. What this bill is about, fundamentally, is sending a message to the gay bashers. It's about sending a message to those who promote hatred and violence and the death of gay men like Aaron Webster, who was beaten to death with a baseball bat in Vancouver."

When asked about whether the freedom of speech of some religious folks would be adversely affected by the bill, he said:

"It's a mask for homophobia for people who don't want to be honest about the real reason why they don't want to include sexual orientation in the law."

bulletJustice Minister Martin Cauchon said that the vote bill is:

"part of the government's position to protect sexual orientation....Tonight this is exactly what we did. We're talking about minorities. We offer them a much better protection as regards hate propaganda."

bulletPeter McKay, leader of the Progressive Conservatives, supported the bill. He said that it strikes reasonable a balance between the protection of minorities and freedom of speech.
bulletFormer Conservative leader, Joe Clark, also voted for it. He said:

"That kind of protection has to be extended to people vulnerable to those kinds of attitudes."

bulletNew Democratic Party leader Jack Layton drew a connection between hate speech and hate-motivated violence. He said:

"I have watched as the gay community has been attacked in downtown Toronto. In fact, an acquaintance of ours was killed. This is a huge issue and it needs to be addressed."

bulletCanadian Alliance Member of Parliament, Vic Toews, expressed unbelief at the Liberal support for:

"a dangerous bill that will toss fundamental Canadian freedoms out the window...Instead of passing a law that would ensure the protection of Canadians without curtailing fundamental freedoms, the Liberals have simply bowed down to the demands of certain special interest groups."

The "fundamental freedom" that he wants to remain unrestricted is hate speech directed at persons because of their sexual orientation.

bulletLiberal Member of Parliament John Effort voted against the bill. He said that the "good faith" provision of section 319 is "not good enough." He feared that "any preacher preaching from the pulpit" could be charged. 1

Six years have passed since the law was passed. As expected, John Effort's concern has not come to pass.

Amendment to the amendment:

Liberal Member of Parliament Derek Lee proposed an amendment to C-250 which was adopted. "It creates a defense from prosecution for opinions expressed 'in good faith' or based on a belief in a religious text" like the Bible. This appears to be a redundant alteration to section 319 of the criminal code. Section 319 already allows immunity from prosecution "if, in good faith, he expressed or attempted to establish by argument an opinion on a religious subject."

It seems ironic that religious institutions are the only groups in the country who want an exemption from hate speech and propaganda laws, apparently so that they can feel free to denigrate groups of individuals without any risk of being charged with a crime.

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Activity in the Senate:

In their article on 2003-SEP-23, Focus on the Family, Canada included a hyperlink to a list of Canadian Senators with telephone numbers and a postal address. 2,3 They encouraged their readers to write to senators expressing their disapproval of the bill.

On 2004-FEB-20, the bill was referred to the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. The Committee considered the bill on 2004-MAR-25. They passed it with no amendments.

The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada added a Daily Update to their website on APR-26. They wrote:

"With no election call over the weekend, it is difficult to see anything that will stop Bill C-250 from becoming law on Wednesday [2004-APR-28]."

"If this bill becomes law, we urge all Christians to be neither provoked nor intimidated by these new measures. Instead:
- Let us pray that police and government will prevent abuse of this law.
- Let us continue to express the call to holiness in Canada with gentleness and respect.
- Let us continue to teach and practice the full counsel of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, without fear." 4

The last point is curious, because Jesus Christ is not recorded as having mentioned either homosexual behavior or homosexual orientation. That is, he gave no "counsel" on the topic. In fact, according to surviving texts, he said very little about human sexuality at all.

On 2004-APR-27, the Senate voted to terminate debate on the bill, and to have a final vote on APR-28. At 3:30 PM ET, on APR-28, bill C-250 was passed. Few of the total contingent of 101 senators opposed the bill. The vote was 59 in favor, 11 opposed and 3 abstentions.

The bill was given royal assent by the Queen's representative in Canada on 2004-APR-29. It took immediate effect. It is now part of the legal code of Canada.

Expected impact of the law:

Few prosecutions are expected under this amended law. The main effect is expected to be an increased acceptance by the people of Canada that gays, lesbians and bisexuals are full citizens, and members of a protected class.

This bill is a major step towards recognition that heterosexuals, homosexuals and bisexuals all have normal, natural sexual orientations. In fact, one year later, same-sex marriage was legalized in Canada so that loving, all committed couples could were given the option to marry.

References used:

  1. Today's Family News, Focus on the Family, Canada, 2003-SEP-19.
  2. "Anti-hate law will have 'chilling effect'," Today's Family News, Focus on the Family, Canada, 2003-SEP-23.
  3. "Canadian Senators [sic] Ottawa Telephone Numbers," LifeSite, 2003-SEP-18, at: http://www.lifesite.net/
  4. "Current Initiatives," Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, at: http://www.evangelicalfellowship.ca/

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Home > Religious laws > Hate speech > here

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Copyright © 2003 to 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2009-AUG-10
Author: B.A. Robinson

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