Canadian lawmakers pass pro-gay hate-crimes law
September 19 2003 12:00 AM ET
The Canadian parliament voted 141-110 on Wednesday to extend protections under Canada's hate-crimes law to gay men and lesbians, the Toronto Star reports. "It's been a good week for equality in Canada," said a teary-eyed Svend Robinson, Parliament's first openly gay member of parliament, outside the Commons. "I feel proud to be a Canadian." The change to the 1970 hate-crimes law was the culmination of years of lobbying by Robinson. The bill still requires senate approval. "What this bill is about, fundamentally, is sending a message to the gay bashers," he said. "It's about sending a message to those who promote hatred and violence and the death of gay men like Aaron Webster, who was beaten to death with a baseball bat in Vancouver."
The expanded hate-crimes law would ban the incitement of genocide or hatred against an "identifiable group," defined by color, race, religion, ethnic origin, or sexual orientation. Religious and conservative groups argued that the law threatens freedom of speech and religious freedom, suggesting it will classify parts of the Bible and portions of the Catholic catechism as hate literature. Justice Minister Martin Cauchon dismissed those concerns, saying there are enough safeguards against such prosecutions already in the Criminal Code and the Charter. He lauded the vote, saying it is "part of the government's position to protect sexual orientation. Tonight this is exactly what we did. We're talking about minorities. We offer them a much better protection as regards hate propaganda."