Information on Bill C-384 - An act to amend the Criminal Code (Mischief against educational or other institutions)
House of Commons Hansard, May 14, 2008
Excerpts from Second Reading Debate..continued
(The House referred the Bill to Committee)
Mr. Borys Wrzesnewskyj
(Etobicoke Centre, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to rise and participate in the debate on Bill C-384, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (mischief against educational or other institution). This bill would create a new offence in section 430 of the Criminal Code to prohibit hate motivated acts of mischief against an identifiable group of persons at an educational institution, including a school, day care centre, college or university, or community centre, playground, arena or sports centre.
I would like to congratulate the member for Châteauguay—Saint-Constant for her initiative in introducing this bill and thereby raise attention of this type of hate crime in our society.
In discussing this proposed legislation, there are two main elements that should be underscored. First, the importance of fighting hate motivated crimes; and second, to provide protection to the educational and social places where ethnocultural and other identifiable groups gather.
These are places where people gather to joyfully share in cultural experiences, often passing on through generations the richness of our multicultural mosaic. These are institutions to which children are entrusted to be educated. Yet too often, those who would hate and cause violence target these very places of joy and education.
Canada is an open and welcoming society that has embraced multiculturalism as an underlying principle. Our multicultural mosaic is a shining example to the world of peace and harmony among all races, religions, ethnicities; in fact, humanity in its endless multitudes of variations. Unfortunately, there are those among us, individuals and groups, who would act to spread hatred and violence, even violence against identifiable groups.
In 2004 the pilot survey of hate crime was published by Statistics Canada. This study reported a total of 928 hate crime incidents.
Overall, 57% of these hate crimes were motivated by race or ethnicity. The second most common motivation was religion, which accounted for 43% of incidents. Sexual orientation was the motivation in one-tenth of the incidents.
Blacks and South Asians were among those most frequently targeted in hate crime incidents motivated by race or ethnicity. The majority of incidents by religion involved anti-Semitism followed by those targeting Muslims.
The most common types of hate violations included: mischief or vandalism at 29%; assault at 25%; uttering threats at 20%; and hate propaganda at 13%.
While statistics are important, I would also like to point out a number of examples of hate crimes against several communities, religious and educational institutions that make the case of supporting Bill C-384 even stronger.
On March 24, 2004, the Al Mahdi Islamic Centre in Pickering was intentionally set on fire. Its interior walls were spray painted with supremacist graffiti. On September 2, 2006, the Skver-Toldos Orthodox Jewish Boys school in Outremont was firebombed. On June 21, 2007, the community centre of the Kitigan Zibi Anishnabeg Algonquin First Nations community in Quebec was vandalized with swastikas and white supremacist graffiti. On March 11, 2008, RyePRIDE, a community service group at Ryerson University was vandalized with hate graffiti.
The study also concluded that young people, those between the ages of 15 and 24, experienced the highest rate of hate crime victimization. This rate was two times higher than the next age group. As well, it was educational and other community institutions that were the most frequent targets of hate crime propaganda.
Acts of vandalism motivated by racism, xenophobia, homophobia, and hatred of the other are more than simple acts of mischief. To the victims and the community to which they belong these are traumatic assaults on the very core of who they are and their place in society. It is an assault on the very values of inclusion, tolerance and pluralism that are at the core of our Canadian identity.
I would now like to address a gaping omission in our current hate crimes legislation. According to the 1999 General Social Survey, 18% of hate crimes were motivated by hatred of a gender. Yet, gender-based hate crimes, misogyny and misandry, are not covered.
As it is currently drafted, Bill C-384 only addresses acts of hatred or incitement to violence against an identifiable group based on religion, race, colour, national or ethnic origin or sexual orientation.
As Valerie Smith, a leading expert and advocate on the issue of violence against women, underscores, misogynistic acts of vandalism carried out against a girls' school or university women's centre would not be covered under this bill because it protects only those groups identified by colour, race, religion, ethnic origin or sexual orientation. Bill C-384 adopts a limited list of identifiable groups found in section 318 of the Criminal Code dealing with hate propaganda.
For this reason, it would seem prudent to amend the proposed legislation to ensure that hate targeting a gender group is also included, because as the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics shows, women and girls continue to be targets of hate crimes at disturbingly increasing rates. Because sex, the legal term for gender, is not included in the list covered by this proposed legislation, girls and women will not be protected under this law.
As further underscored by Valerie Smith, this legislation would be enhanced if the more inclusive definition found in Criminal Code subsection 718(2) were to be used.
In 1996 this law was amended to allow courts to increase a sentence where an offence was motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on race, national or ethnic origin, language, colour, religion, sex, age, mental and physical disability, sexual orientation or any other similar factor. There is no legal reason for Bill C-384 to use the limited list of identifiable groups found in section 318.
As section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms underscores, everyone has a right to equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination, and in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability.
In the spring of 2005 I was reviewing Canada's hate crimes legislation and I noted that there were a number of categories, identifiable groups. However, I was startled to find an omission. Gender was not covered. That spurred me to draft Bill C-254, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (hate propaganda), a private member's bill that is perhaps unique in the sense that all it entails is the addition of one single word to existing legislation, “sex”.
Returning to my colleague's Bill C-384, I think that besides increasing punishment of hate-based acts of mischief against an identifiable group, vulnerable groups also need assistance to better help protect themselves against these cowardly attacks. This would entail governments taking proactive measures to help defray the increased security costs that would have to be paid by vulnerable communities in protecting their institutions from hate-based attacks.
The current government has set up a pilot project with only $3 million in funding for the purposes of helping vulnerable communities to protect their institutions.
Canada's Jewish community estimated that it would require a minimum investment of $8 million to begin to upgrade the security surrounding its community centres and schools.
In many cases the communities whose institutions were attacked were forced to raise funds to repair and enhance security in their facilities. This has taken much needed funding away from the educational needs of children and youth.
In response, the leader of the Liberal Party announced in April that a Liberal government would create a $75 million fund to boost security at places of worship and community centres targeted by racist vandals.
It is my view that Bill C-384 is a worthy piece of legislation that should be supported by all members. It is also my view that Bill C-384 would be further enhanced by friendly amendments that would deal with gender-based acts of hatred.
When people talk of a future global village, I respond by saying that it exists here in Canada, in our urban centres. We are a shining example to the world of how humanity, in all of its variations, can live constructively and joyously in peace and harmony.
However, in our midst threats exist to our multicultural mosaic, to our Canada, a Canada which celebrates all of our diversities. With this legislation we will further diminish the ability of those who hate, who would do harm, and who would incite others to do so.
Mrs. Carole Freeman
(Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, BQ): (Excerpt from her comments)
... Bill C-384 is a first attempt at responding to the need for protection of these communities. That is why I carefully noted my colleagues' suggestions made in the speeches we just heard. I am referring to the suggestion by the hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine to have the bill include hate crimes committed against official language minorities as well the proposal made this evening by my Liberal colleagues to expand the groups covered by including those listed in section 718.2. These ideas should be studied in committee and my colleagues can be assured of my complete cooperation in this regard.
MPs call for better hate-crime laws
Monday, April 14, 2008
By Elizabeth Thompson
OTTAWA - Canada's criminal code must do more to prohibit hate-based vandalism against buildings used by religious, ethnic and sexual minority groups, members of parliament from three opposition parties said Monday.
At a news conference to announce their support for a bill tabled by Bloc Québécois MP Carole Freeman which goes to second reading this week, Liberal MP Marlene Jennings and NDP MP Joe Comartin endorsed the idea of making it an offence to vandalize any building or premises occupied by an indentifiable minority group.
Currently, the law only singles out attacks on places of worship or cemeteries.
The bill Freeman tabled does not include linguistic minorities or hate-based vandalism based on gender such as an attack on a women's clinic, however, Freeman said she is open to amending the bill to include those groups.
Notably absent from the press conference was any representative from the governing Conservative party.
However, Freeman said she believes, given the Conservative government's positions in the past, that it will support her bill.
The Conservatives have not yet decided whether to support Freeman's bill.
However, Alykhan Velshi, spokesman for multiculturalism minister Jason Kenney, said the government has no lessons to learn from the opposition parties on the safety and security of Canadians and is proud of its record.
"The Bloc Québécois, Liberal Party and NDP should be ashamed of themselves for trying to politicize this very serious issue," he said. "The truth is it was a Conservative government that finally took concrete measures to protect communities at risk from hate crimes. Our Communities at Risk $3 million pilot program is the first-ever program to protect communities from hate motivated crimes."
Tougher hate-crime bill likely to pass
April 15, 2008
Canwest News Service
By Elizabeth Thompson
OTTAWA - When vandals attacked a Montreal Muslim school last year it took thousands of dollars to replace the school's shattered windows and months of counselling to help its traumatized students.
But no amount of money and no amount of counselling could completely erase the nagging worry that it could happen again -- or the knowledge that, under Canada's Criminal Code, the hate-based attack on their school carries no more penalty than spray-painting initials on a wall.
That's why Nabiha El-Wafai is among those who supports legislation tabled by Bloc Quebecois MP Carole Freeman that would amend the Criminal Code to prohibit hate-based vandalism against all buildings used by religious, ethnic and sexual minority groups.
Yesterday, all three opposition parties teamed up with representatives of a variety of religious and ethnic groups to show support for Ms. Freeman's bill, which is scheduled to go to debate tomorrow.
Bloc officials said if all goes well, the bill should make it through committee and a final vote by May or June.
With all three opposition parties in support, it will likely be adopted even if it doesn't get the support of the minority Conservative government, which would not say yesterday which way it will vote.
Currently, those convicted of mischief or vandalism can face sentences of up to two years while those convicted of vandalizing a religious building or cemetery can face up to 10 years in prison.
The bill provides for a penalty of up to 10 years for hate-based attacks on other buildings and areas belonging to identifiable minority groups -- from schools and daycares to community centres and playgrounds.
The bill would cover vandalism against ethnic, religious and sexual minorities, but not attacks on buildings associated with linguistic minorities such as francophones outside Quebec or anglophones in Quebec.
House of Commons Hansard - Excerpts
April 16, 2008
PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS
Mrs. Carole Freeman
moved that Bill C-384, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (mischief against educational or other institution) be read the second time and referred to a committee.
She said: Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I will be speaking today about my private member's bill C-384 at second reading. This is my first ever private member's bill in the House, and I am very proud of what it contains and its message. I am sure that my distinguished colleagues will understand the importance and scope of this bill and that, ultimately, they will support it.
Bill C-384 amends the Criminal Code to create a new offence to prohibit hate-motivated acts of mischief against an identifiable group at an educational institution. The term “educational institution” would cover a range of institutions or community places, such as a school, daycare centre, college, university, community centre, playground, sports centre and many others.
There are two fundamentals elements we must take note of. The first is the fight against hate crimes. The second is the protection of places recognized as belonging to identifiable groups. In my opinion, these are two very laudable goals that will benefit all of our communities both on the social and cultural level.
I want to start off by saying that we live in a society known for its openness to the other and to difference. Our tolerance is the envy of the world. It is reflected in the social harmony underpinning all of our communities. However, there will always be people or groups seeking to disturb that social harmony, to spread base, degrading intolerance.
In general, they carry out their plans using the vilest, most reactionary ideas and actions imaginable. Studies have looked at hate crime activity nationally. One of these, the Department of Justice's 1995 study, showed that 61% of 1,000 hate crimes reported to police were perpetrated against racial minorities. That same proportion showed up again in another study conducted in 2002.
Offenders' second favourite target is religious communities, and these crimes are typically committed by anti-Semitic groups.
The third and fourth most common motives for hate crimes were sexual orientation and ethnic origin. According to several studies, individuals'
reasons for committing hate crimes are varied.
I am more concerned about some of these reasons because they can easily result in mischief against educational institutions. Many people consider minorities to be scapegoats for ills that befall people and society. Others express their resentment of a minority's economic success. Some have inherited hatred and animosity from previous generations. Sadly, mischief-makers think that they have their society's tacit consent.
Nevertheless, we already have some legislative provisions to counter this kind of harmful behaviour. Initially, the definition of hate crime could be found in the sections in the Criminal Code on hate propaganda, sections 318 and 319, to be precise, which address advocating genocide, inciting hatred and wilfully promoting hatred against any identifiable group. The definition of “identifiable group” includes any section of the public distinguished by colour, race, religion, ethnic origin or sexual orientation.
In 1996, section 718.2 was amended to allow the courts to increase a sentence where an offence was “motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on race, national or ethnic origin, language, colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, or any other similar factor”. Thanks to this amendment, the courts can now consider hate an aggravating circumstance.
Section 430(1) of the Criminal Code pertains to the general offence of mischief and prohibits damage to property. Section 430(4.1) covers a subcategory of the offence of mischief: mischief relating to religious property such as churches, mosques and synagogues. But is this enough to protect identifiable groups?
Some might be tempted to believe that hate crimes against educational or cultural institutions are infrequent or are committed by only a handful of individuals in a specific area.
But when we read the headlines, we see that more and more acts of violence are targeting schools and community centres.
I would like to share three recent examples with my colleagues.
On August 28, 2007, the Euclide-Lanthier elementary school in Aylmer was the target of a hate crime when one or more vandals covered one wall of the school with two anti-francophone and homophobic messages. The parents were shocked and disappointed that people would write such things on their school. They rightly believe that their children do not need to read such crude language.
On July 18, 2007, the third fire in two weeks broke out at a Jewish summer camp in Val-David, adding to the group's concern. One or more suspects broke into five homes in this community and tried to set them on fire. They succeeded in completely destroying one and damaging at least two others.
On September 3, 2006, a Molotov cocktail was thrown into a Jewish school in the Outremont area of Montreal. For the second time in less than two years, a Jewish school in Montreal was the scene of a criminal act. In April 2004, a youth had targeted the library of the United Talmed Torahs elementary school in the Ville Saint-Laurent area of Montreal.
My colleagues will notice that I am using examples from Quebec to show that even a society as multicultural as ours, which has a low crime rate compared to the rest of North America, is no exception to the rule. Thus the need to create an additional offence specifically to address mischief against certain categories of buildings used or occupied by an identifiable group of persons.
Citing all the incidents that have occurred across Canada could have been a speech in and of itself, but that is not the purpose of my speech. I want people to understand the need to create this new offence against the educational institutions of identifiable groups. In my opinion, this would add another building block to tolerance and respect for our differences.
Second, the relevance of my bill is not just based on facts alone. It comes from a specific request from a number of organizations that defend identifiable groups. I am referring in particular to the Canadian Jewish Congress, which has been calling for this change to the Criminal Code for five years.
The need for this change has resulted in widespread support for my bill from groups and agencies from all walks of life. Promoting hatred against people is denying them a certain value as human beings and denying them the respect and dignity they deserve.
I want to acknowledge the support I have received from the Canadian Jewish Congress, whose director of intergovernmental relations, Éric Vernon, told me that more than 1,000 acts of anti-Semitism were committed in 2007 alone; Laurent McCutcheon, president of Gai écoute, who indicated that the gay community is still the target of aggressive behaviour and vicious comments; the president of Médias Maghreb, Lamine Foura, who pointed out that the Muslim community is a regular target of violence by certain individuals, as evidenced by the deplorable acts of vandalism committed in January 2007 against a Muslim school in Montreal; Dan Philip, president of the Black Coalition, who would like stronger legislation to allow all minority groups to live in peace without fear of threats and violent actions committed to intimidate them; and finally, Algonquin Chief Stephen McGregor, who told me about a sad incident involving an aboriginal cultural centre in Maniwaki, which was the target of racist graffiti.
But apart from organizations that defend the rights of identifiable groups, I am pleased to have received the support of two members who are well known for their fine contributions to the work of Parliament, the hon.
member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine and the hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh. I greatly appreciate their support, which demonstrates the solidarity that parliamentarians can enjoy when a cause deserves to be moved forward.
This strong support surrounding the need to amend the Criminal Code to combat hate crimes more effectively says a lot. It shows us that we need to act as quickly as possible so that the Criminal Code can reflect the needs of our communities as much as possible. I would remind the House that, basically, hate crimes cause disproportionate harm to the individual and the entire group he or she identifies with. Let us imagine for a moment all the psychological harm caused by the destruction of a community space linked to one's identity.
This largely demonstrates why crimes motivated by hate are often more violent than crimes committed with other motives.
Most importantly, hate crimes invariably cause collateral damage to our communities. That is perhaps the most devastating consequence, because it leads to division within our communities.
As I was saying earlier, in a society like ours, we expect all groups to live together in harmony and equality. From that perspective, hate crimes are an abomination that literally deny all the fundamental values we espouse.
I will close by reiterating that Bill C-384, by creating a new offence involving mischief against educational or other institutions, will send a clear message that our society does not tolerate acts of violence against places that are occupied by or used by identifiable groups. That goes for all groups, without exception, including homosexuals, Muslims, Jews or any other group.
In short, we will send a message that we, as parliamentarians, will not tolerate violent acts motivated by the hatred of one group or community.
This new offence will allow us to punish not only the material damage to the building, but above all the morally unacceptable nature of the feeling of hatred that motivated such action towards an identifiable group.
Moreover, Bill C-384 provides a perfect opportunity for the Conservative government to turn words into action. Recently, I was reading some of the Minister of Public Safety's news releases. Every time he visited an institution which was the target of a hate crime, he expressed his indignation and his sympathy for the affected community. Unfortunately, his government has not yet done anything to curb this kind of mischief.
The time is now. He should take this opportunity to act on his ideas. My bill addresses the problem he himself has condemned. All I am asking for is his government's strong support in order to move this bill through the legislative process quickly.
Communities whose educational institutions have been affected by malicious people will always be able to count on the Bloc Québécois and its members to understand their concerns and fight for them.
I would therefore invite all of my colleagues and all parties to wholeheartedly support my bill. This is a step in the right direction. It supports our sense of openness and confirms loud and clear that we believe in the benefits of harmonious social integration.
Hon. Marlene Jennings
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to participate in this debate. I would like to congratulate my colleague for Châteauguay—Saint-Constant for her valiant effort in bringing this bill before the House. The objective of the bill is praiseworthy and necessary, particularly as we approach the fourth anniversary of the bombing of the United Talmud Torah elementary school in Montreal. Hate attacks against cultural communities in Canada continue. Allow me to provide an overview of certain recent incidents.
In September 2006, the Skver-Toldos Orthodox Jewish school for boys in Outremont was firebombed a few hours after the end of the school day.
In January 2007, the Jeunes Musulmans Canadiens (JMC) school in the Saint-Laurent—Cartierville borough was vandalized. Twenty windows were broken and a school bus damaged. That was not the first time the school had been vandalized.
In June 2007, the Kitigan Zibi cultural centre was vandalized and damaged. White supremacist symbols and slogans were painted on the walls of this Algonquin cultural centre.
In March 2008, vandals covered the door to the gay lounge at Ryerson University with homophobic graffiti, including the slogan “Gays must be exterminated”. The incident occurred one month after a gay student was attacked on campus.
I will not read out quotes to the House on the hate crimes reported in Canada, since I think my colleague from Châteauguay—Saint-Constant painted a good picture.
I would, however, like to bring up a point about these statistics and data. Usually the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics collects data on hate crimes. Unfortunately, since the 1999 study, there have been no national data on hate crimes. The centre has not collected any data on the subject, so we have only partial data. We get information from police forces or cities that collect data on hate crimes. I think it is very important to update our data on hate crimes.
In its 1999 report, the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics established the important link between data collection on hate crimes and the fight against hate crimes. To be successful, we need to have reliable data on the people in question, the facts of the situation, the circumstances, the location of the crimes, the frequency of the crimes, the number of victims and the perpetrators of the crimes. The data will define the problem, the target and the causes, and will help ensure the law is obeyed. Answers to these questions are important to evaluate the needs of victims and communities and to determine what action the police should take.
The 1999 study came to three major conclusions. First, hate crime victims are less satisfied with the actions taken by the police than those who were victims of other types of crimes. Whereas 29% of victims of other types of crimes were dissatisfied with police responses, the proportion jumped to 47% for victims of hate crimes.
Second, young people are the main targets of hate crimes. Persons between the ages of 15 and 24 had experienced hate crimes the most, with a rate twice that of the next highest age group.
Third, 30% of incidents targeted public institutions, often educational institutions.
Legislation is required to address these issues, to increase the consequences of hate motivated crimes, to deter potential criminals from targeting our cultural communities.
We need to demonstrate that there are serious consequences for hate driven acts of mischief, and Bill C-384 accomplishes just that.
Racist, xenophobic or homophobic acts of vandalism represent more than simple mischief. They are traumatic assaults not only on the victims of crime, but on society at large. Thus, by increasing penalties for hate motivated mischief, Bill C-384 represents an important step in bringing justice to those who violate not only the laws of the land but also the values of pluralism and tolerance that all Canadians hold dear.
Bill C-384 would make it an offence to commit an act of mischief against an identifiable group of persons at an educational institution, including a school, day care centre, college or university, or at a community centre, playground, arena, or sports centre.
It expands upon legislation which, as my colleague from the government side mentioned, was passed in 2001, which made it an indictable offence punishable by a maximum of 10 years in prison.
Currently those convicted of mischief or vandalism against educational institutions can face sentences of only up to two years. This bill, by grouping these vicious attacks in the same category as attacks against religious buildings or cemeteries, would increase the maximum sentence from two years to ten years.
In its present form, the bill only addresses acts of mischief rooted in ethnocultural, sexual, racial and religious prejudices. It might be appropriate to amend the proposed legislation so as to include hate targeting linguistic minority communities. Amending the bill to include discrimination based on language would send a strong message of support to our linguistic minority communities across Canada.
The relevance of including our official languages linguistic minority communities is that this very week the Regional Association of West Quebecers received an email from a group which threatened to put, and I quote, “lead in their heads”, in French, “du plomb dans la tête”.
In addition to increasing punishment for acts of mischief against identifiable groups, there is also a need to help vulnerable groups protect themselves against attacks. This would require the government to offset the increased security costs incurred by vulnerable communities in guarding their institutions against hate crimes.
The current government has created a pilot project which is financed with some $3 million. This is good. It is a step in the right direction, but it is a small step.
In 2004 Canada's principal Jewish organizations estimated that it would take approximately $8 million to undertake minimum investments to upgrade the security of their infrastructures, schools and community centres.
Officials from the Taldos Yakov Yosef school, which was attacked in September 2006, had to launch an appeal to raise $150,000 for repairs and security enhancements to that private Orthodox Jewish school.
It was precisely because of my concern with these increased costs incurred by victims of crime, who through no fault of their own were having to fork the bill to ensure the security of their institutions, that in 2004 I wrote a letter to the then prime minister, to the then deputy prime minister, and to the then minister of justice recommending the creation of a national fund for security infrastructure and training for communities with a high risk of victimization by hate crimes and terrorist attacks.
I am proud that last week the Leader of the Opposition, on behalf of the Liberal Party of Canada, announced that a Liberal government would invest $75 million in a fund designed to protect at risk communities. That announcement represents the culmination of vigorous study and consultation by the Liberal Party's task force on cultural communities at risk, which was chaired by my colleague from Thornhill. The task force consulted with the communities that are most at risk at being victimized by hate crimes.
In conclusion, I support Bill C-384.