Dear Friends:

Click image to download a copy of Bill C-51.

I wanted share with you my concern over a Bill that the Government of Canada has recently introduced into the House of Commons, Bill C-51. One of the purposes of this Bill is to streamline the Criminal Code of Canada by removing certain provisions that no longer have any relevance in contemporary society. While I generally agree with many of the revisions, one clause in Bill C-51 took me aback. Clause 14 of the new Bill proposes to remove a general prohibition against interrupting religious services or interfering with members of the clergy.

This section that the Liberal Government wants to remove reads as follows:

  • 176 (1) Every one who
    (a) by threats or force, unlawfully obstructs or prevents or endeavours to obstruct or prevent a clergyman or minister from celebrating divine service or performing any other function in connection with his calling, or
    (b) knowing that a clergyman or minister is about to perform, is on his way to perform or is returning from the performance of any of the duties or functions mentioned in paragraph (a) (i) assaults or offers any violence to him, or (ii) arrests him on a civil process, or under the pretence of executing a civil process, is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years.
    (2) Every one who wilfully disturbs or interrupts an assemblage of persons met for religious worship or for a moral, social or benevolent purpose is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.
    (3) Every one who, at or near a meeting referred to in subsection (2), wilfully does anything that disturbs the order or solemnity of the meeting is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.

By repealing this section, the Liberal Government will be removing the only provision in the Criminal Code that directly protects the rights of individuals to freely practice their religion, whatever that religion may be. At a time where news stories are increasingly reporting attacks on religious communities in Canada, this proposal greatly concerns me. In fact, while the government claims that this section is obsolete and it is actually being used right now in a criminal case in Ottawa.

Bill C-51 has already begun making its way through the House of Commons, but because the House is adjourned for the summer there is time to make your voice heard. Please contact your Member of Parliament and the Senators in your region to let them know that you do not support any diminishment of protection for religious freedom and that they should not support this section of Bill C-51. You can find the contact information for your Member of Parliament here. In addition, you may wish to contact the Minister of Justice with your concerns as well. She can be reached at the following address (no postage required):

  • The Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould
    Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
    284 Wellington Street
    Ottawa, Ontario  K1A 0H8

Please be sure to share this information with as many people as you are able and encourage them to contact their Member of Parliament as well.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

SAMPLE LETTERS

Sample letter to the Minister of Justice, Hon. Jody Wilson-Raybould

The Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
284 Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0H8

Dear Minister:

I have recently been made aware that you are proposing to remove section 176 from the Criminal Code. This section makes it a criminal offense to willfully disturb or interrupt an assembly of persons gathering for religious worship, or for a moral, social or benevolent purpose.

I understand that the purpose of Bill C-51 is to eliminate laws which are redundant, obsolete or contravene the Charter of Rights, however section 176 does not meet these criteria. Rather, it serves the important purpose of confirming and protecting religious freedoms in Canada, which are under attack in many parts of the world.

I and many others are extremely concerned that removing section 176 from the Criminal Code will in fact diminish protections for such gatherings.

I respectfully request that you keep section 176 in the Criminal Code so as to retain clear protections for groups that gather for religious, social or moral purposes.


Sample letter to your Member of Parliament and Senators from your region

Dear (insert your MP or Senator’s name here):

I have recently been made aware that the government is proposing to remove section 176 from the Criminal Code. This section makes it a criminal offense to willfully disturb or interrupt an assembly of persons gathering for religious worship, or for a moral, social or benevolent purpose.

I understand that the purpose of Bill C-51 is to eliminate laws which are redundant, obsolete or contravene the Charter of Rights, however section 176 does not meet these criteria. Rather, it serves the important purpose of confirming and protecting religious freedoms in Canada, which are under attack in many parts of the world.

I and many others are extremely concerned that removing section 176 from the Criminal Code will in fact diminish protections for such gatherings.

I respectfully request that you work to keep section 176 in the Criminal Code so as to retain clear protections for groups that gather for religious, social or moral purposes.