Religious language in Criminal Code too narrow, says Wilson-Raybould | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Religious language in Criminal Code too narrow, says Wilson-Raybould

October 18, 2017 - 3:12 PM

OTTAWA - Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould says the fact that it is against the law to disrupt a clergyman or minister — but not an imam or a rabbi — is one of the reasons she wants to modernize the Criminal Code.

This spring, the Liberal government moved to rid the Criminal Code of sections that are redundant or obsolete.

That includes challenging someone to a duel and fraudulently pretending to practice witchcraft.

One of the changes proposed in Bill C-51 that is facing some criticism would remove a section that makes it a crime to use threat or force to obstruct a clergyman or minister from celebrating a worship service or any other duty related to his job.

The current law also says it is an indictable offence to assault a clergyman on his way to, or returning from, performing those duties.

Wilson-Raybould says these activities are already covered in other sections of the Criminal Code and that the charter protects religious freedoms.

But she also says the language is outdated because it refers only to Christians and male clergy.

"I know and am confident that Canadians can continue to practise their religious faith without fear of violence and disturbances," Wilson-Raybould said Wednesday as she appeared before the House of Commons justice committee to discuss the bill.

"It is limited to individuals or clergymen or ministers in the Christian faith and it's not inclusive of other religious leaders," she said. "There are other provisions that will adequately capture all of the activity that potentially could take place."

Conservative MP Rob Nicholson noted the provision was used as recently as April, when someone was charged in connection to vandalism of a religious statue at St. Patrick's Basilica in Ottawa.

Conservative MP Michael Cooper says a related provision against disrupting a worship service, or a gathering intended for a "moral, social or benevolent purpose" is also on the chopping block, even though that language is more inclusive.

"It says nothing about Christianity," Cooper said at the committee meeting.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2017
The Canadian Press

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