January 1, 2003
Mr. Jack Layton
c/o Layton for Leadership
5 Adelaide Place
Toronto, Ontario M5V 2N7
Dear Mr. Layton:
Re: Bill C-250, An Act to Amend the Hate Propaganda Law
As you know, Svend Robinson introduced a Private Member’s Bill to amend the Criminal Code hate propaganda law to extend protection to people identified by their "sexual orientation". As you probably also know, "gender" is not included in the current law and so women and girls have no protection from hate propaganda either. These exclusions make the law unconstitutional because it does not match Section 15 of the Charter that guarantees everyone "equal protection and equal benefit of the law".
On October 29, 2002, I wrote Mr. Robinson pointing out that his Bill perpetuates the inequality already present in the hate propaganda law, and that, while changes to the law are desperately needed, they must be written to bring the law into line with Section 15 of the Charter and provide protection to all people of Canada, not just selected groups. In response, he sent me a form letter that didn’t even mention women.
I was quite shocked that a federal member of parliament would introduce such a blatantly discriminatory and unconstitutional piece of legislation, and I fully expected him to say the Bill would be amended to conform to the Charter. Since he is not inclined to do that, I am writing to get your commitment to demand such an amendment if you are elected leader of the NDP.
By way of background, I recently applied to the Court Challenges Program for funding to challenge the exclusion of women from the hate propaganda law. You may recall the controversy over the appearance at Skydome of the misogynist rap performer, Marshall Mathers (Eminem), in October 2000. Ontario Attorney General, Jim Flaherty, attempted to have Mathers stopped at the border because of a complaint I filed with the Toronto Police Hate Crimes Unit about Mather’s appearance. Approval of the Attorney General is required to proceed with a prosecution under this law, and Mr. Flaherty was advised that this wouldn’t be possible because women are excluded from the hate propaganda law.
Unfortunately, Court Challenges refused to fund the case, but I am continuing to work with a law firm in an effort to bring this challenge forward. It should be noted by everyone concerned about hate propaganda, that when this challenge makes it to court, the law could be struck down in its entirety, which would leave all groups in Canada unprotected. That is not my intention -- my intention is to have the law amended to provide women and girls with the rights guaranteed to us by the Charter, but not delivered by politicians, including Mr. Robinson. But that situation could happen, and if it does, the blame will rest squarely with federal politicians who have refused to amend the law to conform to the Charter despite repeated recommendations.
I realize that if you win the NDP leadership, you won’t be a member of parliament until elected, but you will surely be able to request that legislation proposed by the NDP treat all people equally and conform to the Charter. Personally, I’m deeply offended that I even have to make this suggestion because of a Bill written by a Canadian politician. I am quite frankly very tired of being considered invisible by politicians on this issue, not as equal as other vulnerable groups, and unworthy of protection from hate propaganda. Every woman in Canada should be incensed that we are accorded so little respect and consideration on this issue.
So, the question for you is this: will you demand an amendment to Bill C-250 to make it conform to Section 15 of the Charter, so that it provides protection to all people, including women and girls?
I would appreciate a response at your earliest convenience.
P.O. Box 90598
Markham Eglinton Post Office
Toronto, Ontario M1J 3N7
cc: Svend Robinson, M.P.
Scott Newark, Special Counsel, Office for Victims of Crime
Priscilla de Villiers, Office for Victims of Crime
Cynthia Watson, Watson McMahan
Melanie Cishecki, Executive Director, MediaWatch