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Bill C-51 update on Federal protections for clergy and religious service

Bill C-51 is an Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Department of Justice Act and to make consequential amendments to another Act, tabled in the House of Commons, June 6, 2017.

Under clause 14, the Bill proposes the removal of Section 176 (1, 2, 3) of the Criminal Code of Canada, which currently makes it an indictable offense to obstruct or cause violence to an officiating clergyman or minister as well as to disturb religious worship or gatherings. (see Federal Legislation Bill C-51)

This story by  Deborah Gyapong, Canadian Catholic News gives us news on one part of that...

OTTAWA – After an “avalanche” of letters and testimony from faith leaders, the Justice Committee has amended Bill C-51 to keep protections for religious leaders and worship services.

The committee amended the omnibus bill Nov. 8, the day after the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) released an open letter to the Justice Minister dated Oct. 31 from more than 60 religious leaders and groups urging the government to keep the Section 176 that protects religious leaders from being assaulted or obstructed in their work, and protects religious services from being disrupted.

“I was persuaded by the testimony of people who came before us, including His Eminence Cardinal Collins,” said Liberal MP Anthony Housefather, chair of the Justice Committee, said in an interview. Cardinal Collins testified via video conferencing on Oct. 30, along with the president of the CCCB Bishop Lionel Gendron of Saint-Jean-Longueuil and Bill Simpson, a criminal lawyer, who attended the session in Ottawa.
 
Read more at The Catholic Register.
 

For more information on this issue, see the Interfaith Letter on Bill C- (Legal Protections for Religious Practices) and related stories by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, and The Gospel Coalition Canada.

Legislation

2017 Legislation memo - Nancy Simms, national chairperson of legislation:

I send you greetings from British Columbia. As the days get shorter and the fall rains begin to spill out over our country, I would like to thank all of you for your prayers for those affected by wildfires. It has been quite the summer!

Along with the wildfires, over 900 members and guests were once again lit on fire through the Holy Spirit, and with the love of the League at the 97th annual national convention in beautiful Prince Edward Island. Four resolutions were adopted at the convention and two of them fall under the standing committee of legislation. They are Resolution 2017.04 Protection from Coercion of Conscience for Healthcare Professionals and Resolution 2017.03 Zero-Rated Status Under the Goods and Services Tax Provisions of the Excise Tax Act for Child Safety Products. Also, three motions related to Bill C-16 An Act to Amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code, which adds gender identity and gender expression to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination, were carried under the standing committee of legislation. All of these were printed in the fall 2017 magazine.

It is now time to reacquaint ourselves with the days that the House of Commons will be sitting and to research what parliamentary business will be happening this fall. The calendar for the House of Commons can be found at ourcommons.ca/en/sitting-calendar. This website also shows what bills are before parliament and what stage they have reached. It also shows how members of parliament (MPs) voted on a bill. Just click “Parliamentary Business” at the top and you will find all this and more.

You may be wondering, “Why do I need to know this?” The Executive Handbook explains that “Legislation is social justice in action. It is the carrying out of League resolutions to influence government policy.” So in other words, it is our job to be knowledgeable on what resolutions the
League has, what bills are before parliament, and if any of these bills relate to the resolutions.

Once this has been established, encourage members to contact their MPs urging them to vote as the resolution would request.

But there are so many resolutions and even more bills!! Where to begin? Don't get overwhelmed...maybe choose one or two resolutions per year that you feel passionate about and focus your council’s efforts on those. We can’t do it all, but if each parish council across Canada works on a few resolutions every year, the League will have put social justice into action and influenced government policy!

May Our Lady of Good Counsel continue to bless you in your work “For God and Canada”.
Nancy Simms
National Chairperson of Legislation

Federal Legislation Bill C-51

Federal legislation, Bill C51,  was introduced by the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada on June 6, 2017. This bill clarifies certain aspects of the Criminal Code of Canada and also repeals certain sections of the Code. Unfortunately clause 14 of the bill requests to remove section 176 from the criminal code.  Presently section 176 prohibits obstructing a religious leader from conducting a religious ceremony and it prohibits disturbing an assembly gathered for a religious, moral, or social purpose. The bill does not give an alternative for this section, therefore if the bill passes with clause 14 intact it would then not be illegal to obstruct a religious leader from conducting a religious ceremony or for individuals to cause a disturbance at an assembled gathering.

Thank you to Shirley Christo in Ontario for bringing this to my attention.

You will find below the related letter that Shirley sent to her MP. Shirley has given her permission for this to be sent as an example for members to use in writing their own MPs regarding this important issue.

Please send this info out to your diocesan legislation counterparts to encourage ALL members of the League to write letters.

Thank you in advance for your help in getting the word out to remove clause 14 from Bill C-51. – I realize that some of you may no longer hold the legislation chair, yet I have not been updated on the new directory. I ask that you please pass this on to the new chair. I have also blind cc’ed this to the provincial presidents so if you are a past president please forward this email to the new president.

God Bless,
Nancy Simms
National Chairperson of Legislation


Dear Ramesh Sangha,

I appreciate that you are representing our area of Brampton Ontario and all of the effort that you have put into your position as our MP.

I am contacting you to express my concern about clause 14 of Bill C-51 which was referred to committee on June 15, 2017.

While the rest of the bill is commendable in its cleaning up the Criminal Code, clause 14 removes an offence that is neither unconstitutional, obsolete, nor redundant. Section 176 prohibits obstructing a religious leader from conducting a religious ceremony and it prohibits disturbing an assembly gathered for a religious, moral, or social purpose.

Section 176 of the Criminal Code is valuable in its protection of assemblies from disturbances. It sends a clear message that communities should be allowed to gather for religious, social or moral purposes without fear of disruption either from individuals or disagreeing communities. In a climate where it seems like hostility to religious groups is growing, it is worth having explicit protections – which is what section 176 of the Criminal Code provides.

Are you sure that Canada’s Criminal Code provides the necessary protection from harassment for communities gathering together? I am concerned and would like to know why section 176 is being removed and ask for your support to keep it in place.
I look forward to hearing back from you .

Sincerely,

Shirley Christo
L6T 2V7
Ontario

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