Bill C-51 Update: Defending Religious Freedom in Canada

November 09, 2017

As the Member of Parliament for Brantford-Brant, I am happy to provide you with an update on Bill C-51 that the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada introduced into the House of Commons earlier this year.

Clause 14 of Bill C-51 proposed to repeal Section 176 from the Criminal Code of Canada, which makes it a crime to unlawfully obstruct, threaten or harm a religious official before, during, or after they perform a religious service. It also makes interrupting or disturbing a religious service a crime.

On November 8, 2017, my colleague, the Honourable Rob Nicholson - Member of Parliament for Niagara Falls and the Opposition Shadow Minister for Justice - proposed an amendment to Bill C-51 at the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. The amendment sought to keep religious protections (Section 176) in the Criminal Code of Canada.

I am pleased to inform you that this amendment was adopted and the Government has finally agreed with our position on Section 176: the protection of religious officials and religious freedoms should remain in the Criminal Code. We were successful with the support of tens of thousands of Canadians across the country.

At a time when hate crimes against religious communities in Canada are significantly increasing, explicit protections are necessary.

Disturbing a religious service is a very serious offence and should not be treated as a mere mischief charge. Religious freedoms and protections are fundamental to Canadians, and I’m proud to stand up for and support religious freedoms for all faiths.

Please know that moving forward, Conservatives will continue to stand up for the rights of all Canadians to practice their religion peacefully and lawfully without fear of recrimination, violence, or disturbance. 

In the words of the Right Honourable John G. Diefenbaker,

“I am a Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong, or free to choose those who shall govern my country. This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and all mankind.”

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

Phil McColeman
Member of Parliament, Brantford-Brant