Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of April 12, 2004
Hate propaganda bill stalled 'till after Easter
By ART BABYCH
Canadian Catholic News
The fate of legislation to add "sexual orientation" to the list of groups protected by the Criminal Code remains unsettled with a federal election call looming on the horizon.
Senators who support Bill C-250, the private member's bill opposed by many Canadians and religious groups including the Catholic Church, failed to give the bill third reading before the Senate began an Easter break until April 20.
If the bill, introduced by openly gay MP Svend Robinson, isn't passed before a federal election is called, it will die on the order paper as it has on two previous occasions. Prime Minister Paul Martin is expected to call a federal election before the end of April.
Catholic groups are among those who say the legislation will have a "chilling effect" on freedom of speech and religion and some Bible passages could be branded as "hate literature."
The current law protects victims of hatred based only on colour, race, religion or ethnic origin.
On April 1, the last sitting day before the Easter recess began, western Canadian Tory senators, Gerry St. Germain, and David Tkachuk, introduced amendments to the proposed bill, both of which would have removed the term "sexual orientation."
"The very fact representatives from all major faith groups - Catholic, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism - in Canada have sounded the alarm over the hate crime bill should say something to you," St. Germaine said.
But another Conservative, Quebec Senator Gerald Beaudoin said the bill "appears to be acceptable in strictly legal and constitutional terms." He noted that appeal courts in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec have agreed, "homosexuals have the right to marry."
Liberal Senator Anne Cools attacked the bill, calling it "pernicious and unprecedented." She said millions of Canadians are concerned that by "criminalizing speech - this is what this bill does - they will be subject to vexatious, menacing and malicious prosecution."