1875, B'nai Brith is Canada's most senior membership-based Jewish organization. Through its league for human rights, it is the premier advocate for Canada's grassroots Jewish community.
B'nai Brith operates a hotline to assist the victims of anti-Semitism and racism on a daily basis.
We are here today to discuss Bill , whose aim is to close a gap in the Criminal Code by extending the legal protection from mischief afforded to houses of worship to a wide variety of other property critical to our community lives.
It is very hard to come by proper statistics in this matter, and the case law regarding how hate-motivated acts of mischief against religious sites are prosecuted is confusing. I will further elaborate on that shortly.
There is no question that this is a very well-intentioned bill, and it is indeed very heartening to see all-party support against the hate-fuelled bigotry that has been receiving more media attention over the last number of months. In fact, the backgrounds of the many diverse groups that have spoken in favour of this bill further reflects the multicultural nature of our great country.
Similarly, the Jewish community has always sought strong laws to protect all Canadians from all identifiable backgrounds from the purveyors of hatred. Although it may sound hard to believe, given our relatively small numbers in Canada, the Jewish community remains the most targeted community group of hate crimes in this country. StatsCan reported in 2013 that there were 181 hate-motivated crimes targeting the Jewish religion reported by police, or an estimated rate of 54.9 police-reported hate crimes per 100,000. By comparison, police reported 65 crimes motivated by hatred against the Muslim religion in 2013, representing an estimated rate of 6.2 hate crimes per 100,000.
Assuming that the Canadian Jewish population in 2013 was 350,000, and the Canadian Muslim population was approximately one million, taking the respective sizes of the two communities into account, Canadian Jews were approximately eight times more likely than Canadian Muslims to be the victims of a hate crime in that year.
B'nai Brith's annual audit of anti-Semitic incidents shows that anti-Semitism in Canada has remained relatively constant since 2011. With no active conflict occurring in Israel in 2015, 1,277 incidents were reported that year. Vandalism declined to a 15-year low in that year—we had 136 incidents reported—considerably off the five-year average.
Just yesterday in Toronto it was reported that units in a condo building, home to a large number of Jewish people, were the victims of anti-Semitism. Yellow Post-It Notes were slapped on some of their doors. Certain notes had pictures of Nazi swastikas, while others read, “No Jews”. Some of the residents also had their mezuzahs stolen. A mezuzah is affixed to the doorpost of every Jewish home and holds religious prayers from the Torah inside the case.
However, even with the amendments proposed by Bill , the proposed subsection would not apply to this particular hate crime of mischief because a private condominium is not within the scope of the properties being considered for amendment. Jewish individuals are perhaps somewhat unique in this way, as the mezuzah is a year-round religious act of self-identification at their home. However, a strong argument can be made that a hate crime at one's home is even more traumatic to the victim than one in a communal setting.
Recently, B'nai Brith tried unsuccessfully to lay charges in another mischievous act of bias against our community. Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East, or CJPME, had placed stickers promoting the boycott of Israel on items for sale in stores across Canada, a clear case of bias based on national origin. There have been to date no mischief charges laid, despite CJPME's actually filming themselves doing it, which is why we complained to police, since there was evidence in the video of the perpetrator. We wrote to the federal government in this matter and we are still awaiting an answer.
The police advised us that their hands were tied unless the store owners themselves were to complain, but that is not correct. Even though the store owner is the real victim in these instances, the entire Jewish community of Canada was victimized by these acts. Sadly, our community has been ignored in this case.
It is not enough for us to want justice to be done. Justice must be done, and justice must ultimately be seen to be done by all Canadians to retain high levels of societal support for our criminal justice system.
Generally speaking in Canada, the Criminal Code contains a number of different and long-standing offences to deal with the general topic of hate crime. It is a hate crime in Canada if an act is committed to intimidate, harm, or terrify not only a person, but an entire group of people to which the victim belongs. The act has to be motivated by hate, and can involve intimidation, harassment, physical force, or threat of physical force.
In February of 2016 B'nai Brith exposed an editorial in Al Forqan, an Arabic-language newspaper in Windsor, that described attacks against civilians in Israel as a sacred duty of jihad. No charges were laid.
B'nai Brith has spoken out against Alfred Schaefer for online videos in which he glorifies Adolf Hitler, describes Jewish people as parasites, and accuses them of conspiring to eliminate the European race. No charges were laid in Canada. Authorities in Germany recently laid charges against Schaefer after B'nai Brith alerted German officials. There are many other examples.
The mischief section of the Criminal Code covers hate-motivated mischief to religious property in subsection 430(4.1) by defining specific property as religious, and provides for a harsher sentence than mischief involving other property.
The proposed amendments add gender identity or sexual orientation to the motivation for bias in subsection 430(4.1). The proposed new subsection 430(4.101) also proposes adding further properties to the definition in the subsection, so if a similar act of hate is committed against any building primarily used as a university or college, day care centre, community centre, or a seniors' residence, the punishment provisions of section 430 would also apply.
B'nai Brith is one of the premier providers of affordable housing for seniors in Canada, so better than most, we certainly appreciate the thought behind this bill on behalf of our more than 1,000 residents. But these questions remain: what will the potential impact be in the real world from these proposed amendments, and how will it keep people more safe from targeted acts of hate?
Some of the confusion in the application of the law is likely the result of section 718.2 of the Criminal Code, which encourages judges to consider whether the crime was motivated by hate of the victim's race, national or ethnic origin, language, colour, religion, etc. This section can be used to increase the sentencing provisions of general mischief.
Oddly, after an exhaustive search, we were able to find only a single case on Westlaw of anyone being convicted or sentenced under subsection 430(4.1), the existing religious property provision. In the case of Re Zehairi, the accused was convicted of uttering death threats and spray painting a number of churches under subsection 430(4.1). His trial was unreported, and he was found not guilty by reason of mental disorder.
There are also very few reported cases of mischief to property including aggravated factors as described in section 718.2. Some of those cases would not have access to the amended provision being considered by this committee, such as the case of R v. Mackenzie, in which the accused pled guilty to willful promotion of hatred and mischief after he spray-painted “Kill Muslims” and “Kill Syrians” in various areas of Calgary with large Muslim and Syrian populations. Paragraph 718.2(a)(1) was mentioned as an aggravating factor for the mischief offences in that case.
However, the confusion in terms of what charges are laid is illustrated well in the case of R v. Coleman, where the accused pled guilty to a variety of offences that took place in 2010, including spray-painting threatening messages on a mosque. He was convicted and sentenced for mischief with hate as an aggravating factor, but there was no charge under subsection 430(4.1) even though it clearly applied to the facts of that case.
Why aren't there more prosecutions of mischief to religious property on the record? There might be no instances of mischief to religious property in Canada. That would be wonderful, but I think we can all acknowledge this is not true. Perhaps local police forces and crown attorneys prosecuted under the general mischief section and used sentencing provisions as an aggravating factor because they believe perhaps it might be easier to obtain a conviction by not dealing with intent as an element of the offence.
It is very likely that there were guilty pleas made by accused, but we were unable to see this data because it is not recorded by any of the case law recording companies. Perhaps the number of incidents was low or accused persons were not caught or prosecuted. Perhaps police did not lay charges or evidence of hate bias was not put forward.
Another issue with the wording of this amendment is this. What does it mean to say that the impugned property has to be “primarily used for” in the various subsections? There are public schools that are used after hours by religious groups that rent out public space for, say, Sunday school programming. The public school is not primarily used for religious instruction, but certainly, if the amendments are to protect religious individuals and groups from hate, then why would it matter that a public school is not being primarily used by those individuals?
There are serious concerns about anti-Semitism and other forms of systemic racism in Canada. Canadians want to see charges and successful prosecutions when hate is a motivating bias in criminal acts towards identifiable minority groups. If this bill does not in actual fact increase the scope of the law to protect targeted communities from hate because subsection 430(4.1) as it currently exists is not being regularly used, then we must ask ourselves why we are considering these amendments. There may be very good reasons, and these amendments may, indeed, fill a true gap in the law, but it is not obvious from an analysis of the existing case law.
I do have some recommendations, but perhaps if there are questions later, I can get to those.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I'd like to thank the committee members for inviting me. I'd also like to thank Chandra Arya, the member who brought forward Bill , as well as all the members who supported it at second reading.
This legislation has been on the Jewish community's agenda for quite some time. Understandably, then, I would like to set the backdrop for Bill . Though in no way do I want to take any credit away from Mr. Arya for sponsoring the bill. Quite the contrary.
Back when I was in your shoes and serving as my party's justice critic, the Jewish community approached me to have protective safeguards already available to houses and places of worship and cemeteries extended to community centres and schools belonging to the community.
They convinced me, so I put together a bill, which I was about to introduce when the 2006 election was called. I was defeated in the election, but Carole Freeman, a Bloc Québécois MP took up the charge and introduced the bill. After passing at second reading, Bill C-384 was referred to this committee. The 2008 election was then called, and Ms. Freeman lost her seat as well.
Between 2008 and 2011, a Liberal MP by the name of Marlene Jennings brought the bill back, this time as Bill C-451. It garnered widespread support from all parties, but Marlene, too, lost her seat in 2011.
During the 41st Parliament, Marc Garneau, now , reincarnated the bill as Bill C-510, but it was too low on the priority list to ever see the light of day.
It's been 10 years since the bill first came about, and we are here today to study it. Finally, there is light at the end of the tunnel.
The objective of the bill is fairly straightforward. It is to extend the protection already given to houses of worship and cemeteries to other buildings and structures used by communities at risk.
Our community, the Jewish community, has often been the target of vandalism. As Michael mentioned, Jewish Canadians are victimized by hate-motivated crime at a higher rate than any other identifiable group. StatsCan data shows that roughly three-quarters of these crimes fall under the legal category of mischief—broadly speaking the vandalism or destruction of property.
Vandalism of community centres and schools involves more than attacks on buildings. It reverberates throughout a community and throughout a city. It touches every member of a community, whether that person goes frequently to that place or not. That is why it must be seriously punished.
The extends the protection by defining the word “property” for the purposes of subsection 4.1 as being:
||a building or structure, or part of a building or structure, that is primarily used for religious worship...
||that is primarily used as an educational institution...
||that is primarily used for administrative, social, cultural or sports activities or events—including a town hall, community centre, playground or arena—, or...
||that is primarily used as a residence for seniors
I understand there are concerns about the bill's being too broad, more specifically about the groups afforded protection in subsection 4.1 and about which buildings would be covered. Let me tackle one at a time.
The fact is, the subsection is about mischief relating to religious property. I have heard concerns that extending it to cover buildings associated, for example, with the LGBTQ+ community would denature the subsection. We at CIJA have no problem extending protections to LGBTQ+ community buildings. Our longstanding advocacy in this area, including our deep involvement in support of —previously —brought forward by , speaks for itself.
I don't think the principle of inclusion with regard to the LGBTQ+ community is at issue. The question may be whether these protections should be included in the same subsection, thus changing its nature, or whether they should be extended to LGBTQ+ community buildings in a different subsection. To the Jewish community, the how/which subsection matters less than the what, namely that these institutions be covered and better protected.
As for the issue of the bill's being too broad regarding which buildings would fall under this subsection, I disagree. What about, for example, a synagogue, a mosque, or a temple that rents space in a mall? Shouldn't those be protected? How about the social services agency of a community that rents space in an office building? Today the Jewish social services agencies from across Canada are on the Hill, meeting MPs and ministers to discuss the issues around disability. They would tell you, and rightly so, that they would like and need their offices to be covered.
At a time when Sayyed al-Ghitaoui, an imam at Montreal's Al Andalous Islamic Center, who called for the destruction of the cursed Jews, imploring Allah to kill them one by one, and to make their children orphans and their women widows, has the support of his mosque; at a time when Igor Sadikov, a member of McGill University's student society sent out a tweet that read, “punch a [Z]ionist today”; at a time when—and this happened on February 6, 2017—someone hacked the attendance sheet of a children's swim team in Côte Saint-Luc, hosted by Google Docs, and filled it with murderous threats against the Jewish community, as well as several references to Hezbollah, a Lebanese terrorist organization, banned in Canada, that seeks the destruction of Israel;
At a time when six Muslim worshippers were so brutally gunned down while engaged in prayer, when a wave of hate vandalism hit many religious and community institutions in Ottawa, including the community centre where my sons work and the synagogue I am a member of, it is time to send a strong signal that anti-Jewish, anti-Christian, anti-Muslim, anti-Sikh bigotry, and all other forms of hatred have no place in Canada, that schools and community centres are as central to minorities' lives as houses of worship or cemeteries, and that mischief against those buildings should be seriously punished.
I encourage all members of Parliament to continue to support Bill and to pass it without delay.
Thank you very much.
Thank you, Mr. Mostyn and Mr. Marceau, for your testimony. I certainly agree with your presentations, that this bill is certainly a well-intentioned piece of legislation. I believe it closes a gap in the Criminal Code.
Both of you alluded to the fact that in recent years we have seen a string of incidents in which people have been targeted in not only their homes, their synagogues, and mosques, but also their schools and their community centres. We saw the fire bombing of the United Talmud Torah school in Montreal. We saw a few month ago in Ottawa a string of incidents that included two synagogues, as well as a mosque, but these incidents also included a Jewish teaching centre and the Ottawa Muslim Association.
The offences were motivated by the same hate. They were an attack on entire communities to perpetuate fear. The nature of the crimes that were committed at each of those sites was similar. Yet, depending on where certain acts of vandalism occurred, they may be subject to the general section or the specific section of the Criminal Code, with very different penalties—one up to a 10-year sentence, the other for up to two years. I certainly agree that there is an inconsistency and that this legislation would help close that inconsistency.
In the wording of proposed subsection 430(4.101), if you look at paragraph (a), it refers to a place of “religious worship—including a church, mosque, synagogue ”, and so on. But after that, if you look at paragraphs (b), (c), and (d), there is no mention of religion, so it's not necessarily limited to a religious education facility or a religious administrative building or community hall or a Muslim or Jewish seniors' residence, for example.
Do you have any thoughts on these three paragraphs and how they would expand coverage well beyond the existing purpose of the subsection related to religious property?
I appreciate the committee's co-operation, and thank you, Mr. Chair.
First, let me pick up on two comments that were made by my colleagues, Mr. Bittle and Ms. Khalid. I do think it's poignant that you're here today, especially given some of the issues that we have been debating today and will continue to debate in the coming weeks around religious discrimination and the need to call it for what it is. I want to commend Ms. Khalid for bringing her motion.
Let me take a moment, as well, to say that the incident of anti-Semitism in North York hits very close to home, Mr. Mostyn. You know that my riding is very close to that neighbourhood and I work very closely with the community there. I was quite alarmed and disturbed to see that incident. Hopefully, the authorities will be able to pursue their investigation vigorously.
The government's position is generally supportive of the objectives of this bill and it's precisely because of the reasons that I just articulated. The original intent of subsection 430(4.1) was to identify mischief relating to religious property. That subsection expressly articulates a number of building structures where, if the mischief occurs, it would attract a stiffer sentencing regime.
My colleague, Mr. , private member's bill, Bill , would seek to expand both the grounds, as well as the categories of buildings and structures, that would attract this stiffer sentencing regime.
In general, the government supports those objectives. Where we would offer some additional comment for the purposes of the committee's deliberations is related to the categories of secular buildings to which this sentencing regime would apply.
If one goes back and reflects on the original intent of Parliament around subsection 4.1, there was a focus on religious property. That is not to say that there aren't other categories of buildings and structures that are used for other purposes. I think Monsieur Marceau provided some testimony regarding, for example, the JCC community centre that is not used primarily for religious purposes, but where there should be an appropriately stiff sentence following conviction, if it were targeted for mischief or hate speech.
Our response to this is that, certainly, under subsection 718.2, a trial judge or sentencing judge could consider, as an aggravating factor, the cultural and other identities that should attract additional protection and denunciation in the context of that particular phase of the trial process. Assuming that the categories of buildings remain focused on those buildings used primarily for religious purposes, it doesn't rule out that a sentencing judge could use their discretion to sentence someone appropriately and more stiffly in the JCC hypothetical case that you provided.
The other thing that I would point out, Mr. Chair, is that I appreciate Mr. Mostyn's comments regarding the attempt to clarify what should be the appropriate threshold for triggering the stiffer sentencing regime under Bill . I also appreciate his suggestion that we move from using “primarily used for” to “substantially” or “regularly used”. My only comment is that I think that on reflection, “substantially” or “regularly” might be even more subjective than “primarily used for”. I think that as the committee reflects on where these amendments should land, hopefully that evidence will be helpful.
Twenty-nine years ago, I was elected to North York city council, and the first committee I was put on was the North York race relations committee. Everywhere in my progress in elected office, until here, we've talked a lot about race relations, we've talked about hate, and we've talked about these things. I supported your motion, Mr. Marceau, in 2006, and Ms. Freeman's, Ms. Jenning's, and Mr. Garneau's. As such, I'm sad to see that we're dealing with this issue today when we have already tried to deal with it so many other times. Clearly, you have to close every loophole and do everything you can to possibly.... One is to educate people, to talk about what respect is, and all of those reasons.
I can only wonder what kind of world we would live in if.... I know that, for the last 29 years, there have been a lot of people in our country working on these issues, sensitizing each other to the needs, and so on, of other communities, whether it's in response to a school that gets vandalized by hate crimes or any building, period. I think some folks have a built-up hatred in them, and it won't matter if it's a mosque, or a temple, or a synagogue; they'll just find a place to plaster their terrible message.
Anything we can be doing to bring in enforcement and things to make people pay attention.... We've got to send out that much more positive message to the world, which is a much more respectful one. There are those people who just don't get it, because they have their own malice, so I think having, if it closes the loophole and tightens it up every little bit more, is one more thing that needs to be done.
I just found it odd that I end with the committee today, and you're dealing with this issue. It makes me sad that in our country we're still having to deal with that kind of anti-Semitism. North York is my city, and we're still dealing with it. It takes each and every one of us to push back. Bill is another little step in closing any opportunities and sending that message that this kind of stuff is not acceptable.
We'll put all the support we can behind the police department, because it's a very difficult issue for them to be able to get enough evidence to actually lay charges. I think we need to do that.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today.
And to our colleagues who presented before, it's great to see the solidarity between communities talking about such an important issue of hate and bias in our country.
I believe that the proposed amendments to Bill are important to the preservation and protection of Canada's increasingly diverse, multicultural, and pluralistic identities, especially as we increasingly express and make visible our diverse identities and values directly through our public institutions.
As emphasized by member of Parliament Randall Garrison, I believe Bill should not only include sexual orientation and gender identity, but also gender expression, as prohibited grounds for the offence of mischief, which aligns with the current changes proposed by Bill , which includes both gender identity and gender expression as prohibited grounds of discrimination.
Transgender individuals experience some of the highest rates of violence, discrimination, and prejudice in our society. Unfortunately, in Canada we have no way for law enforcement to track, charge, or specifically prosecute hate or discrimination that is motivated by gender identity or gender expression. Trans lives matter and are worthy of protection. This critical absence must be addressed.
It is vitally important to recognize and protect the LGBTQ community in similar ways as other cultural, racialized, or visible minority communities that are vulnerable to hate, prejudice, and discrimination because of an identifiable characteristic of a person. Much discrimination against LGBTQ people is based on their gender expression and the assumptions that are made as to what it means to be stereotypically male, female, or to be perceived as neither.
It has been said that homophobia and transphobia are one of the most powerful weapons of sexism, misogyny, and privilege in our society. LGBTQ individuals are often considered to be invisible minorities because they may not reveal their true identities unless they feel safe. This is why the LGBTQ community organizations, like pride or rainbow centres, and growing cultural celebrations, such as pride festivals, and specific LGBTQ-identified neighbourhoods or enclaves are all critically important safe spaces. These safe spaces are often visibly marked with rainbow flags to indicate inclusion, acceptance, and support. Indeed, it was a remarkable historic moment to witness the rainbow pride flag raised over Parliament Hill last June. This was a strong and visible signal to the world that Canada supports our LGBTQ communities both at home and abroad.
The challenge of the proposed amendments in Bill will be in establishing clear definitions as to what is meant by administrative, social, cultural, or sports activities or events. For example, many hate crimes and incidents happen in specific LGBTQ-identified neighbourhoods and at community or social events. Places like Church Street in Toronto, Davie Street in Vancouver, and Saint Catherine Street in Montreal all represent clearly identified and civically supported LGBTQ neighbourhoods.
Would these areas receive the same protection that is proposed by Bill ? I believe clarity is needed to ensure that these and other important community gathering places, such as pride festivals, which can draw tens of thousands, or in the case of Toronto and Montreal and Vancouver's pride festivals, hundreds of thousands of people.
Sadly, these celebrations of diversity also make them prime targets for hate and extremism. While mischief or crimes to property are one of the most common forms of hate crimes in Canada, most hate crimes against the LGBTQ community are not to property, but directly target individuals in the form of physical and sexual assaults and murder. Indeed, recent hate crime statistics indicate that of all the reported hate crimes committed in Canada, those targeting the LGBTQ community are among the most violent in nature and require serious medical attention. It's not one stab wound, but 40, as these individuals are not seen as persons, but as objects to be destroyed.
Sadly, only one in 10 hate crimes is ever reported to law enforcement. By attacking vulnerable individuals, most hate crimes are designed to instill fear and terror into entire communities. They strike at the very heart of what we believe an inclusive democracy should be, which is to live one's life openly, without threat or fear.
The proposed amendments to Bill raise several further questions. Will commercial spaces, such as LGBTQ-identified businesses, be protected under the legislation? Places like bars and nightclubs have been important and historic spaces of refuge and resistance for the LGBTQ community. In some cases they were the only safe spaces that existed in many communities.
Our modern pride movement is said to have emanated out of the police raids at the Stonewall Inn, an infamous bar in New York City. And now thanks to one of the final acts of president Obama, it has been recognized as the first national LGBTQ monument in the United States. Stonewall marked the beginning of a newfound source of community identity and activism. Those fateful riots in June of 1969 are the reason why many pride festivals are held around the world today.
The recent Pulse nightclub tragedy in Orlando, which took the lives of 49 innocent people and wounded 53 others, occurred in a gay-identified nightclub. This is another very recent and tragic example of the extreme hate and violence still directed at the LGBT community. There have been more than 25 documented directed attacks on LGBTQ-identified spaces, where people came to find community and love, but where they were met with hate and death.
Perhaps rather than the piecemeal amendments to the Criminal Code of Canada, all of which are well intended to address hate and prejudice, it's time for a different and more comprehensive approach. In Canada, law enforcement agencies still do not have a common operational definition of hate crimes, which causes challenges in police investigations, reporting, and the accurate collection of important national data. This is why there should be a specific hate crime section and universal definition included in the Criminal Code of Canada.
For example, a possible uniform definition might be this: A hate crime is an offence committed against a person or property, which is motivated in whole or in part to harm or instill hatred towards an identifiable group based on real or perceived race, national or ethnic origin, language, colour, religion, gender, gender identity, gender expression, age, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, or any other similar factor.
The addition of a specific hate crime section in the Criminal Code of Canada, which could be in similar form to the current section on terrorism, section 83.01, and the education and application of this new hate crime section by police agencies and justice officials would ensure that Canada's diverse communities understand that our government not only advocates and supports peaceful co-existence between communities, but it also enforces the full extent of the law against hate-mongers and extremist groups whose goal is to attack diversity and difference and tear away at Canada's very social fabric.
While the proposed amendments to section 430 are important, hate is not only a crime against property. Rather it disproportionately impacts people, many of whom are the most vulnerable in our society. We must do more to protect and support our most vulnerable and marginalized communities. One look around the world shows us that hate and extremism are on the rise. The question is this. What will be our response to this growing threat? As we recently and tragically witnessed, Canada is not immune.
We must do more to protect our diverse communities. We must do more to give law enforcement the appropriate tools to adequately investigate, track, and prosecute hate-motivated crimes, regardless of whether they attack property or persons. It's time for us to have a much broader conversation about hate and extremism in Canada.
I hope this private member's bill will do just that.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today, and for having us here to discuss this important bill.
I want to begin by saying that I don't usually spend my time parsing out bills and exploring in depth that kind of work in building policy. I work in a community centre. I've spent 30 years of my life working in the LGBT queer and trans communities, volunteering for community-based organizations, and now as a paid employee, the executive director of the Pride Centre of Edmonton.
Our agency serves approximately 5,000 unique individuals every year, and in our outreach program we provide education to the larger community, to more people than that every year. We deliver our programs to government, not-for-profits, schools, churches, seniors centres, businesses in the broader community, and places of all kinds.
It's also important to know that I am a retired clergyperson, so I have a deep understanding of the connection between faith and the LGBTQ community, and the social construct of faith and its importance in the life of all communities. In my 20 years of active ministry, I served only two congregations. One was in the inner city of Edmonton, which was made up largely of homeless people, mostly indigenous. The second congregation was queer and trans and we met in other spaces that we shared. Most of the time that I was in those congregations, we did not use traditional worship space. We rented ad hoc, we met by the grace of others, and certainly we occupied spaces that would not necessarily be described in this bill.
As part of my volunteer work, I was fortunate to work with the board of Egale Canada, and for five years I was the chair of their national trans committee. During that time, the Egale study “Every Class in Every School” was undertaken, and it was released in 2011. It was the first study of its kind and exposed astounding statistics related to harassment, violence, and the perceived lack of safety. In addition, the study found that Caucasian youth, both LGBT and non-LBGT, experienced significantly less physical violence and harassment—8% compared to 13% of aboriginal students and 15% of youth of colour. This is significant because there is an aggregate effect, or a kind of double whammy that they experience. They are at risk not only because of their gender or sexual orientation but also because of their ethnicity.
In 2014 the Trans PULSE study on trans people in Ontario found even more alarming statistics related to trans and non-binary people. But significantly, the research showed that the experience of discrimination can result in exclusion from social spaces, unemployment, avoidance of health care, and poor mental health. The study also revealed the impact of intersecting oppressions such as one's trans identity, gender, and being part of a racialized community, and it produces the same aggregate effect.
Although physical assault and violence are not what's being addressed in Bill , the experience of hate-motivated mischief is likely to have the same aggregate effect, where multiple categories of identity intersect. Research also indicates that LGBTQ people worry more about being victims of discrimination than do others, and research shows that in fact we anticipate it in our lives, often on a daily basis. The resulting minority stress has a collective impact that is particularly noticeable when there is an incident of violence, harassment, or mischief.
In the past five years I've seen “fag” and “homo” sprayed on a vehicle in my neighbourhood, notes posted on windows and doors using slurs about all kinds of people, vehicles burned, and windows broken. They were my windows. The other side of that coin is the impact of acknowledging the reality of our vulnerability and our value as citizens.
The inclusion of rights and the validation of LGBTQ identities at legislative levels empowers and strengthens queer and trans people, both individually and collectively. I've seen this in my life over and over again, from the decriminalization of homosexuality in 1969, which is when I was just coming out, to the amendment of the Human Rights Act in my home province of Alberta to include gender identity and gender expression in December of 2015.
In reading , I am uncertain exactly which buildings and which contexts this amendment might address, or perhaps should address. I know that hate-based mischief has the same result regardless of where it happens, whether it is in a religious setting, a community centre, a women's organization, a community group of indigenous folk or people of colour, a gathering place for queer and trans people, or posted on the door of a senior's room in a seniors' facility.
This kind of legislation sends strong messages. To those who enact legislation against hate-motivated mischief as a society, it says we reject this kind of action. It may not stop the action, but it says it's not okay, that it is unacceptable. To the vulnerable, the message is much stronger: it's that we matter, and that's really the most important thing of all.
Thank you for your time today.
Thank you, both, for travelling to Ottawa. It's really important for us to have your perspective from the LGBTQ2 community and also a perspective from the west, particularly from Alberta and Edmonton.
During my recent community conversations, I met researchers across the country. In Vancouver, I met with the Stigma and Resilience among Vulnerable Youth Centre, known as SARAVYC. I asked a direct question. “How can we save the lives of queer and indigenous youth? How can we stop suicides?” Jennifer, one of the researchers, took out a research study and said, “Here's the proof. We need safe spaces and we need symbols.” What youth need to know is that there's a space where they can be safe to be who they are, but they need the symbols that identify that those safe spaces exist. They need the kind of pride flags and trans flags that you have on Camp fYrefly, on the iSMSS office and the pride centre, and what Vancouver City is now doing with all of its rec centres, having safe spaces there. These are important, but, as you mentioned quite eloquently in both your remarks, that then turns those spaces and those gatherings into targets.
What's important for me to know and what I would like to ask you is, how do we, not just with legislation but with other tools at our disposal, attack some of these issues?
Kris, you were very blunt that we need a wholesale review. You don't have to take my word for it. The last 2013 data from StatsCan shows that 16% of hate crimes were motivated by hatred based on sexual orientation. That makes our community the third most targeted after race and ethnicity, and religion. I applaud Mr. Arya for including this and going this far.
Kris, my question for you, Mr. Wells, is what would the substantive and symbolic impacts for the LGBTQ2 community be if sexual orientation and gender identity were added to this section?
Then I'll have a question for Mickey and a question for both of you.