ICYMI: Nepean MP Arya aims to boost maximum sentences for hate-based graffiti
2016/11/25 Leave a comment
I would expect this to proceed given both the history of such proposals, the number of incidents, and the post-Trump context:
As ugly and unsettling as the recent spate of racist graffiti in Ottawa and across the country may be, it could ultimately help rookie Nepean Liberal MP Chandra Arya in his campaign to crack down on hate-based property damage, vandalism and other acts of criminal mischief.
Under the current law, hate-based mischief against places of worship can result in a sentence of up to 10 years, compared to just two years for general mischief. (There are also special provisions for longer sentences for mischief relating to war memorials and cenotaphs, as well as cultural property.)
Later this week, Arya will get his first chance to convince his House of Commons colleagues to back his private member’s bid to allow similar sentences to be imposed in all cases where public property is targeted for such attacks.
Specifically, he wants to broaden the law’s provisions to include schools, universities, community centres, day cares, sports arenas, seniors’ residences and any other building or structure used for educational, social, cultural or sports-related activities or events.
His bill would also add gender identity and sexual orientation to the list of criteria used to determine whether an offence is motivated by “bias, prejudice or hate.”He tabled C-305 shortly after the House returned in September, and on Tuesday, he’ll rise in the House to kick off the first round of debate.
Although he is wisely unwilling to declare it a done deal, at least as far as making it through a critical second-reading vote to send it to committee, he told the Ottawa Citizen he’s “cautiously optimistic” that it will garner the support of both the House and the government itself.
In order to increase the likelihood of that outcome, which would virtually guarantee the bill’s passage through the Commons, he says he’s been “working closely” with Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould and her staff on possible changes to the wording, which could be done at committee.
Among the potential edits: Adding “gender expression” as well as gender identity to the list of identifiable characteristics, and tweaking the section on property damage to make sure the new rules would cover all public facilities, not just those associated with a religious groups.
As Arya points out, currently, the offices of the Ottawa Catholic School Board would be included under the hate mischief provisions, but he wants to make sure the same protections would be in place for the non-Catholic school board headquarters as well.
A spokeswoman for Wilson-Raybould was unwilling to say whether the minister would be encouraging Liberal MPs to vote in favour of the bill. “The government’s position will be public at second reading,” Valerie Gervais told the Citizen.
Arya isn’t the first to propose expanding the reach of hate mischief laws.
Similar private members’ bills have been introduced in previous parliaments since 2000, sponsored by a series of Quebec MPs from both the Bloc Québécois and Liberal caucuses.
Most recently, then-opposition Liberal MP Marc Garneau put forward a virtually identical bill in 2013, although his proposal didn’t include the addition of “gender identity.”
Historically, the initiative has found support within all parties, but ultimately failed to make it to the legislative finish line before dissolution.
Last week, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs launched a letter drive calling on all parties to support Arya’s bill.
“In the past week alone, a spike in antisemitic, racist, and anti-Muslim vandalism was reported in Ottawa, including at three synagogues and other religious sites in our nation’s capital,” it notes.
“Antisemitic graffiti was also reported in Montreal and Toronto. This shocking series of events should remind us of the dangers of hate and the need to ensure our laws are effective in protecting at-risk communities.”
Bill C-305 would “close the gap” and “ensure the law better addresses these terrible crimes,” it concludes.