Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
June 9, 2003
Speech police gambit sets precedent
Religious groups fear legal impact of Robinson's bill
SPECIAL TO THE WCR
Canadian media are treating as a non-event a May 27 vote by the House of Commons justice committee, whose members include new Tory leader Peter MacKay, to send, unamended, a bill back to Parliament which, if passed into law, will constitute the most revolutionary legislative infringement of the supposed rights of free speech and freedom of religion in this country's history.
It seems to me strange that I couldn't find a word of news copy about the committee's rubberstamping the bill in searches of major news Websites. The only mention I turned up was in a Globe and Mail op-ed piece by the bill's author, NDP MP Svend Robinson.
It's unusual for private member's bills to go to committee - particularly ones tabled by opposition MPs, but it looks like Robinson's bill is being given the stealth express treatment by all parties save for the Canadian Alliance, despite the fact that thousands of Canadians have expressed deep concern over the its potential consequences.
"We are appalled by the misguided actions of the committee," commented Brian Rushfeldt, Canada Family Action Coalition (CFAC) executive director. "Our organization alone has received and forwarded over 60,000 letters calling for the defeat of this bill, and we know of thousands of other Canadians that have also voiced their disagreement."
Originally tabled as Bill C-415, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (hate propaganda), on Nov. 22, 2001, Robinson's private member's bill proposes expanding in subsection 318(4) of the Criminal Code the definition of "identifiable group" relating to "hate propaganda" with the inclusion of the words "sexual orientation." The bill resurfaced as Bill C-250 after Parliament's 2002 summer break.
Some may wonder why people are getting upset over what seems to be a small change in wording of an existing law. Here's why: As the Catholic Civil Rights League stated, "We are concerned that parts of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and Christian Bible could be labelled 'hate literature'."
A presentation to Parliament by St Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Moncton, N.B. noted: "Whereas there are numerous passages in the Bible which expressly forbid homosexual practices, and therefore the Bible itself, or the proclamation of its truths, could be construed as hateful."
In a similar presentation the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada noted that by some definitions, "literature becomes hate propaganda if it is used by someone to promote hatred against an identifiable group." Citing Leviticus 20:13, one of the Bible's harshest condemnations of homosexual behaviour, the EFC asks: "If this text is used by someone to promote hatred, will the Bible itself be considered hate literature? And if this passage is simply read in a church, would it be considered 'public incitement of hatred?'"
In his Globe and Mail op-ed, Robinson contends: "Some say my bill could result in the banning of the Bible, or other religious texts. This charge is without legal foundation. . . . Does (Alliance MP Vic Toews, who has vigorously opposed Bll C-250), a former attorney-general (of Manitoba) himself, seriously believe that any Canadian attorney-general would prosecute those who simply quote the Bible? "
Robinson is being disingenuous. I'm sure he's aware that in 2001, a Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission adjudicator ordered Hugh Owens and the Saskatoon StarPhoenix newspaper to pay $1,500 respectively in "damages" to each of three homosexualist plaintiffs, related to an ad Owens placed in the paper in 1997, that didn't even quote, but merely cited verse references, to Bible verses pertaining to homosexuality. And that was under "hate" laws we have on the books already!
"Owens would have been on safe ground had he not made references to the Bible," Ian Hunter, law professor emeritus at the University of Western Ontario, commented in the Globe and Mail.
"In human rights circles, the Bible is increasingly regarded as an insidious form of hate literature."
In the Saskatchewan Human Rights complaint these Bible verses were declared "disgusting" by gay and lesbian spokespersons.
Precedent and common sense notwithstanding, the Liberals, Progressive Conservatives, Bloc, NDP and their fellow-travellers in the nation's newsrooms, are apparently either oblivious to - or ideological proponents of - the threat Bill C-250 poses to every citizen who affirms traditional moral and religious standards of sexual behaviour.
CFAC President Roy Beyer points out that "the practical reality of 'human rights tribunals' and certain court rulings to date is to interpret the expression of opinion that homosexuality is immoral or wrong as 'hateful.' In a world of judicial activism coming from the courts, it's just a matter of time until the upholding or expressing of an opinion or belief that homosexuality is wrong, immoral or unhealthy will be considered hateful and thus a crime.""
SARS, Mad Cow, West Nile, and now the speech police. Canada is a distempered land this spring of 2003. Makes you wonder if it's time to bail.