Letter to the Federal Justice Minister Martin Cauchon Regarding Bill C-250 – An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Hate Propaganda)

Monday, April 14 2003
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The Honourable Martin Cauchon, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
East Memorial Building, 4th Floor
284 Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A OH8

Dear Mr. Cauchon:

Bill C-250 – An Act to amend the Criminal Code (hate propaganda)

On behalf of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops I am writing to express our concerns about Bill C-250, a private member’s bill which is presently before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

As you know, the purpose of the Bill is to expand the definition of “identifiable group” relating to the area of hate propaganda in the Criminal Code to include any section of the public distinguished by sexual orientation. At present the groups included in the definition are those distinguished by colour, race, religion or ethnic origin.

The offences under the hate propaganda provisions of the Criminal Code include advocating or promoting genocide (section 318), and inciting or willfully promoting hatred against an identifiable group (section 319).

The Church considers hatred to be a sin. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states in article 2303:
Deliberate hatred is contrary to charity. Hatred of the neighbour is a sin when one deliberately wishes him evil. Hatred of the neighbour is a grave sin when one deliberately desires him grave harm.

The Church also teaches that every human being is created in the image of God, is known and loved by God and has inherent human dignity. Therefore, each human being, without exception, is entitled to have his or her life protected and human dignity respected.

It is well known that the Catholic Church teaches unequivocally that sexual behaviour between people of the same sex is morally wrong and in no circumstances can be approved. At the same time, Church teaching also requires unequivocally that persons who are homosexual “must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided ” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, article 2358).

Our concern with Bill C-250 is not about the objectives of prohibiting the incitement or wilful promotion of hatred or the advocacy of genocide. What troubles us is the possibility that someone who finds the expression of the beliefs of the Catholic Church on the sexual conduct of homosexual persons too blunt or too harsh will invoke the Criminal Code to silence the teaching.

We are aware that the supporters of this Bill suggest that this concern is without legal foundation but, given the challenges to religious freedom in the last few years, we are not willing to rely on these assurances. We are also aware of the defence in section 319 (3) that provides that no person shall be convicted of the offence of wilfully promoting hatred “if, in good faith, [the accused] expressed or attempted to establish by argument an opinion on a religious subject.”

Since the current provisions of the Criminal Code with respect to hate propaganda are thirty years old and predate the Charter, we suggest that it would be unwise to proceed with the amendment proposed in Bill C-250 by private member’s bill. Would it not be better for your Ministry to do the appropriate research to establish if this particular limit on freedom of expression is required and, if the answer is yes, to make sure that complementary amendments are also made to protect the freedom of Canadians to express their religious beliefs and Church teaching without fear of criminal prosecution?

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops hopes that the legitimate concerns of persons who are homosexual can be protected in a way that does not infringe on the well-established guarantee of freedom of religion. We ask you to consider carefully our very serious concerns about Bill C-250 and by way of copy of this letter ask members of the Standing Committee on Justice to do the same.


Sincerely,

Msgr. Peter Schonenbach, P.H.
General Secretary
Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops


CC Members of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights


For More Information Contact:
Deacon William Kokesch
Director, Communications Service

 

Last Updated on Friday, August 11 2006