Bill C-51 Call to Action: Defending Religious Freedom in Canada

November 01, 2017

As the Member of Parliament for Brantford-Brant, let me take this opportunity to reiterate my concerns with Bill C-51 that the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada introduced into the House of Commons earlier this year.

One of the purposes of this Bill is to streamline the Criminal Code of Canada by removing certain provisions that no longer have relevance in contemporary society. While I generally agree with many of the revisions, I would like to draw your attention to one clause in Bill C-51 that took me aback. Clause 14 of the new Bill proposes to remove the following section of the Criminal Code:

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.

By repealing this section, the Government will be removing the only provision in the Criminal Code that directly protects the rights of individuals to freely practice their religion, whatever that religion may be.

Statistics Canada indicates that over 33% of reported hate crimes in Canada were motivated by hatred of religion. Repealing Section 176 removes valuable protection for faith leaders and assemblies, as well as sets a dangerous precedent on a matter so important to Canadians.

At a time when news stories are increasingly reporting attacks on religious communities in Canada, this proposal greatly concerns me.

I, and all Members of Parliament, must be and should be standing up for the rights of Canadians to practice their religion without fear of recrimination, violence, or disturbance.

My office has already sent letters to every church and religious organization in our riding, alerting them to this issue and encouraging them to address their concerns directly with Government. Because this is such a fundamental right, we are also encouraging all Canadians to make your voice known by doing any of the following:

1. Sign petition e-1192.

Sponsored by MP Tom Kmiec, this 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 here.

2. Sign MP Rob Nicholson’s paper petition.

This petition calls on the Government to amend Bill C-51 by ensuring Section 176 remains in the Criminal Code to protect all religious leaders and faith communities. Here you can find the first two pages of the petition. Please print the second page as many times as you please, and collect as many signatures as you can from consenting Canadians who wish to voice their concern on this matter. Mail all original copies of the signed petition back to my office in Ottawa before January 2018. My address can be found on the “Contact” page. Remember, mailing Members of Parliament in Canada is free – no stamps are required.

3. Contact your Member of Parliament.

4. 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

5. 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 for your attention to this important matter.

Phil McColeman
Member of Parliament, Brantford-Brant