A bill to include sexual orientation in Canada’s hate-propaganda law was passed in the House of Commons yesterday by a 141-110 margin.
Bill C-250, sponsored by gay New Democratic Party MP Svend Robinson, has been described by some Alliance MPs and religious groups as a “fascist” measure that could criminalize anyone for reading quotes on homosexuality from the Bible or the Koran.
The bill won significant support from Liberals, Progressive Conservatives, the NDP and the Bloc Québécois. Joining the Alliance in opposing the bill were 41 Liberal backbenchers and seven Tories.
One group charged yesterday the law was passed as part of an effort to shut down the growing debate over the Liberal government’s draft same-sex marriage legislation, to be considered next year by the Supreme Court of Canada.
“Canadians who are speaking out against the redefinition of marriage are already being accused of ‘hate’ speech by homosexual activists,” said Brian Rushfeldt of the Canada Family Action Coalition. “When C-250 is passed into law later this fall, the activists will begin to insist on prosecution to silence their critics with criminal sanctions.”
Mr. Robinson said the criticism is unfounded.
“The suggestion that including gays and lesbians in a law that protects against violence and hatred would touch religious beliefs and the right to quote from the Bible is utterly without foundation,” he said. “What this bill is about is sending a message to the gay bashers, it’s about sending a message to those who promote hatred, and violence and even death of gay men.”
Other critics fear passing new laws that will be subjected to judicial interpretation.
“There’s a lot of distrust in general towards the judiciary right now, and it’s leading a lot of people to be very fearful of giving powers to the judiciary that aren’t necessarily defined specifically with regard to religious tolerance and religious freedom,” said B.C. Canadian Alliance MP James Moore, who broke from his party’s position yesterday to voice support for Bill C-250.
Mr. Harper said he’s “encouraged” by some amendments to the bill, which he said go some distance in protecting religious freedom.
But he said he still opposes the amendment because “homosexuality is such an inherently controversial issue there is a danger that this could have, if not tightly defined, very wide implications.”
Before taking effect, the bill must still be approved by the Senate and given royal assent.