Speech – 2016.11.22 – Bill C-305 – Hate Crimes

MP Len Webber in the House of Commons



C-305 – Hate Crimes

November 22, 2016

Mr. Len Webber (Calgary Confederation, CPC): Madam Speaker, I am pleased to be able to rise today to contribute to this important debate on Bill C-305, which aims to amend the section in the Criminal Code dealing with mischief. Currently, there are four specific offences listed as hate propaganda offences or hate crimes in the Criminal Code of Canada. There is advocating genocide, public incitement of hatred, willful promotion of hatred, and fourth is mischief motivated by hate in relation to religious property.

The proposal before us today intends to strengthen the penalties and the convictions for hate crimes that target property. Damage to property is the most common form of hate crime. These crimes can range from graffiti to the complete destruction of a building through fire. Sadly, we know that the main targets for this type of crime are schools, places of worship, community and cultural centres, seniors homes, and even memorials. Places of worship, as I mentioned earlier, are already covered by existing legislation, but we need to close the gap and address the realities of hate crime. This is why the bill proposes to include, along with religious property, day cares, schools, community centres, seniors residences, and playgrounds.

The statistics are startling. One half of police-reported hate crimes are based on race or ethnicity. Another quarter are based on religion. Sixteen per cent are based on people’s sexual orientation. Sixty per cent of these hate crimes are non-violent mischief targeted at property. This proposed bill would help police and the courts by giving them a stronger tool to crack down on this type of criminal activity in our communities.

I am sure I speak for all members of the House when I say that there is no place in Canada for hate. We are a peaceful and compassionate society as a whole, but that can never be taken for granted. We have a societal duty every day to defend the country and the way of life we have taken so long to build and defend. At the same time, we have to recognize that we are not perfect as a society. Things that were tolerated in the past are no longer tolerated as we have become more enlightened. As little as a generation ago, it was common to have the LGBTQ community targeted. As a society, we have taken a stand to say this is not what we want in Canada. We now have an intolerance for those who target people based on whom they love. We have an intolerance for those who target our indigenous communities, but we can still do more.

Another part of this proposed legislation seeks to broaden the definition of mischief as it relates to those acts motivated by bias, prejudice, or hate based on gender identity or sexual orientation. Sadly, a sizable portion of the population still hates others simply because of the colour of their skin, the nature of their worship, or the gender of the person whom they love.

I am not naive. I know that passing legislation such as this would not fix the backward thinking and prejudices of folks like them. However, it would allow us to deal with bad apples within our community. Hateful actions hurt more than just those they target. They affect the entire community. They divide communities. They foster mistrust among neighbours and make us all feel a little less safe and less secure. These criminals are misguided. They think that their criminal actions will only hurt those whom they hate. However, they often make victims of those they purport to protect in the community.

I will digress for a moment to make a general comment about hate. The recent American election seems to have raised the issue of hate speech again. I will not go on about this, but I will say that hate is not limited to any one political stripe or any one nation. I have seen it from both ends and in the middle. As a society, we can do better here in Canada. Hate for fellow citizens is alive and well in all ridings, including my own.

I receive thousands of responses from constituents on a regular basis, as we all do in this House. I am saddened by the very small but consistent number of hateful responses I receive.

These comments are occasionally targeted at me, but usually at others in our community. These venomous and toxic comments are targeted at others, based on their skin, their god, their sexual orientation, their political affiliation, or anything that makes them different from the writer. These spreaders of hate know their comments are not welcome in the community, though. They never provide their names. They hide, cowardly, in their anonymity.

I simply mention this because folks ought to know that their other opinions rarely count for anything in my books, when accompanied by their hateful comments. If they have something constructive and valuable to say, it is best said intelligently, without all the hate.

This is not the first time that this legislation has come before the House. I applaud those who tried to bring these issues forward in the past and did not give up.

Societal change does not happen overnight. Change is a difficult concept for some and a dream for others. I do not doubt for a second that every single person here has been the target of hate, at some point. When members were the target of hate, it resulted in a lasting memory. It left a deep emotional scar, I am sure. It made them mad. People need to take these memories and the emotions they created and channel that energy into fighting hate in all its forms.

This legislation could be a valuable tool to our law enforcement in dealing with hate crimes in our communities. It would make it easier to get convictions and deal with this problem.

Before I close, I want to encourage all Canadians to challenge hate at the source. If we have friends, family members, or co-workers who engage in this type of thing, we should take a moment to let them know that they do not speak for us.

People may be amazed to find that many of these spreaders of hate are incredibly insecure and when they find out that they are alone in their thinking, it can provoke perhaps a moment of personal reflection and perhaps even change. Our silence in situations like this is taken by them as tacit approval of their behaviour. Our silence is seen as agreement with their thinking. We should not let them speak for us.

Recently, we commemorated Remembrance Day.

Tens of thousands of Canadians fought hate. They gave their lives to put down those who sought to reshape human existence through hate. They gave their future so that we could have one. There could be no greater dishonour to their memory and their sacrifices than for us to give up on the fight against hate.

Yes, we have the freedom to speak our mind in Canada, but that freedom was found in the fight against hate. Let us not forget that.

I am reminded, in cases like this, of a certain saying, “If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem”.

I and many others in this House are supporting this proposed legislation because we want to be part of the solution when it comes to fighting hate in our communities.