I am sponsoring an e-petition from a constituent calling on the Liberal government to stop its efforts at repealing the only criminal code section that serves as a deterrent against willfully interrupting, stopping or breaking up a faith assembly including baptisms, mass, funerals, and many other religious assemblies.
So what's going on?
The Liberal government has moved a new law, C-51, to the Justice committee. Much of the proposed legislation is reasonable updating of the Criminal Code and better protections for victims of sexual assaults. However, they are also proposing to get repeal Section 176, an important section that protects religious freedoms.
Section 176 gives protection to clergy, regardless of faith, from having their services disrupted or being interfered with in performing their religious duties. This section also protects assemblies from having their religious worship disrupted.
Now you may be thinking that other parts of the criminal code apply or that municipal bylaws can handle this through fines. Not so. There exists laws against causing a disturbance, uttering threats, intimidation and incitement to hatred, true. But causing a disturbance at a theater or a soccer game is different from disrupting a religious worship or baptism or a funeral.
Police officers have greater protection in the criminal code and so do identifiable groups targeted for hate crimes. So why now remove the only protection found in our criminal law that specifically protects religious assemblies and their faith leaders?
An argument that the section is obsolete and no longer in use however very recently a women was charged in Ottawa with the crime, you can find more information here: https://www.ottawapolice.ca/en/news/index.aspx?newsId=10b726b5-27e0-4eee-b422-178e9672fb3d
As well, earlier this year, a Liberal MP proposed and passed a law that expands the protections against hate crimes to more types of religious property. Why are we now protecting property better than we are protecting people? That does not make sense.
Statistics Canada also recently reported an increase in hate crimes last year. So why would we reduce protections, at this time, for faith leaders and their assemblies in Canada when some of them are targets of criminal activity?
If you agree with me that religious services including worship, funerals, baptisms, and other ceremonies deserve to keep the protection they currently have under Section 176 then please sign the petition.