C-51 Call to Action: Defend Religious Freedom in Canada

July 14, 2017

 

I would like to take the time to reiterate my concerns with Liberal Bill C-51 and provide Canadians with ways in which they can voice their concerns.

For those who have not heard, Bill C-51 would, among other things, remove Section 176 from Canada’s Criminal Code – the only provision that specifically protects the right of freedom of religion from violence or disturbance.

Section 176 reads:

176 (1) Every one who

(a) by threats or force, unlawfully obstructs or prevents or endeavours to obstruct or prevent a clergyman or minister from celebrating divine service or performing any other function in connection with his calling, or

(b) knowing that a clergyman or minister is about to perform, is on his way to perform or is returning from the performance of any of the duties or functions mentioned in paragraph (a) (i) assaults or offers any violence to him, or (ii) arrests him on a civil process, or under the pretence of executing a civil process, is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years.

(2) Every one who wilfully disturbs or interrupts an assemblage of persons met for religious worship or for a moral, social or benevolent purpose is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.

(3) Every one who, at or near a meeting referred to in subsection (2), wilfully does anything that disturbs the order or solemnity of the meeting is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.

According to Statistics Canada, over a third of reported hate crimes in Canada were motivated by hatred of a religion. Repealing Section 176 would remove valuable protection for faith leaders and assemblies. It would set a dangerous precedent for something so important to Canadians.

In a climate where attacks on religious communities are increasing, explicit protections are necessary.

I recently spoke with LifeSite News about the effect a repeal of Section 176 could have on religious communities and religious leaders in Canada. As we have seen far too many times in recent months, religious freedom is increasingly under threat in Canada. It is too fundamental a right to be swept under the rug by any other generic provision in the Criminal Code. In fact, Section 176 has been used – as recently as June – to charge Katherine Spero for “disturbing religious worship” before evening Mass at Ottawa’s St. Patrick’s Basilica.

I would encourage you to read the entire article, available here.

When the House of Commons returns in September, Bill C-51 is expected to come up for review. The consideration of a bill at committee stage is one of the most effective opportunities to make your views known to the government and individual members of parliament on the committee.

Make your voice heard by doing any of the following:

1. Sign petition e-1192.

Sponsored by MP Tom Kmiec, the petition calls on the government to abandon any attempt to repeal Section 176 of the Criminal Code Act and stand up for the rights of all Canadians to practice their religion without fear of recrimination, violence, or disturbance. Sign the petition at www.keep176.ca.

2. Contact your Member of Parliament.

3. Contact the Minister of Justice by letter mail or e-mail:

The Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
284 Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0H8

Jody.wilson-raybould@parl.gc.ca

4. Contact the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights by letter mail or e-mail:

Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights
Sixth Floor, 131 Queen Street
House of Commons
Ottawa ON K1A 0A6
Canada

JUST@parl.gc.ca

Thank you again for your attention to this very important matter.

David Anderson, M.P.
Official Opposition Critic for International Human Rights and Religious Freedom