An amendment to a section of a Criminal Code that would add the offence of mischief relating to religious property passed unanimously with all party support on May 10, 2017.
Bill C-305, known as An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (mischief) was introduced by Liberal MP Chandra Arya in 2016 as a private member’s bill and was intended to amend subsection 430(4.1) of the Criminal Code which deals with damages to property due to crime motivated by hate based on religion, race, colour and national or ethnic origin. The bill expands the scope of buildings to which the subsection applies – from property primarily used for religious worship to property used for educational purposes, administrative, social, cultural or sports activities and events, as well as seniors’ residences.
Currently, if an individual is convicted of mischief (including vandalism) against a place of worship, the maximum penalty for the crime is 10 years. However, if the same individual were to vandalize a religious school, a religious recreational centre or religious day care, the punishment for the same crime would only be two years in prison. This is the exact same crime and it is motivated by hatred for an identifiable group, but the penalty is dramatically different.
Bill C-305 aims to fill a gap in the section of Criminal Code by recognizing that mischief motivated by hate which targets people of a religious faith or a religious group don’t occur only at places of worship, but also at religious schools, religious community centres and religious seniors’ facilities.
The passing of the bill coincided with the release of B’nai Brith of Canada’s 35th edition of the Annual Audit of anti-Semitic Incidents, a definitive study on anti-Semitism in Canada, which revealed that anti-Semitic incidents in Canada increased by 26%, making 2016 the worst year on record for anti-Semitism since B’nai Brith began publishing the audit.
As in previous years, the Jewish community, which makes up less than one per cent of Canada’s population, was disproportionately targeted for hate crimes.
From vandalized cars, spray-painted anti-Semitic graffiti, anti-Israel boycotts and outright physical assaults, there were a total of 1,728 anti-Semitic incidents documented in Canada last year, including 11 instances of violence against Jews.
The B’nai Brith findings are in line with the Toronto Police 2016 Hate Bias Crime Statistical Report, which revealed that last year, as in every year since 2008, Jews continued to be the most targeted community in Toronto for hate crimes. In 2016, the Toronto Jewish community, which makes up 3.8% of the religious population in Canada’s largest city, was victimized in approximately 30% of the total hate/bias crimes while the Muslim community, which makes up 8.2% of the population was victimized in approximately 15% of the hate/bias crimes. 17% of the attacks were directed at members of LGBTQ and 15% were directed at the Black community.
In 2016, hundreds of anti-Semitic graffiti were spray-painted across Canada, including a rabbi’s house in Ottawa, a kosher deli in Montreal, and a Jewish Center in Dollard-des-Ormeaux, Quebec.
Ilana Shneider is the co-editor of CIJnews and the founding executive director of Canada-Israel Friendship Association, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the mutually beneficial, long-standing diplomatic, economic and cultural ties between Canada and Israel. She can be reached at [email protected]