Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 9, 2003
Anti-hate amendment goes back to Commons
By ART BABYCH
Canadian Catholic News
A controversial private member's bill that would ban expressions of hatred against homosexuals has cleared the committee stage intact and is a step closer to becoming law.
However, Bill C-250, introduced by NDP MP Svend Robinson, may not be voted on in the House of Commons until after the summer recess.
The proposed legislation would expand the definition of "identifiable group" in the hate propaganda section of the Criminal Code to include sexual orientation. Currently, the identifiable groups are those distinguished by colour, race, religion or ethnic origin.
An attempt by Canadian Alliance MP Vic Toews to stall the bill in the justice committee failed May 29 after Robinson filibustered until the time allotted for debate in committee expired. That sent it back to the House of Commons without an amendment.
Robinson is confident the Liberal-dominated Commons will pass the bill as it stands. But Andy Scott, the chair of the justice committee, has said the government could still introduce amendments "giving a better definition as to where religious expression ends and hate propaganda begins."
Some mainline churches, including Roman Catholic, are worried that the legislation could be used to silence the Church's teachings against active homosexuality.
"What troubles us is the possibility that someone who finds the expression of the beliefs of the Catholic Church on the sexual conduct of homosexual persons too blunt or too harsh will invoke the Criminal Code to silence the teaching," said the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops in a letter to Justice Minister Martin Cauchon.
But Robinson denies that his bill will affect freedom of religion. "Some say my bill could result in the banning of the Bible, or other religious texts," he wrote in a commentary in the Globe and Mail May 27. "This charge is without legal foundation."
He said the Supreme Court of Canada has laid out tough requirements for conviction. They include "willful intent to promote hatred."
"The (Criminal) Code also protects the defence of religious belief, and a requirement for the consent of the attorney-general for any prosecution," Robinson said. "Does Mr. Toews, a former attorney-general (of Manitoba) himself, seriously believe that any Canadian attorney-general would prosecute those who simply quote the Bible?"