Last Wednesday marked a victory for religious freedom in Canada.
The Liberals had introduced Bill C-51, An Act to Amend the Criminal Code in June of this year. The act was meant to modernize certain aspects of our criminal justice system.
When the Conservative Shadow Minister of Justice, the Hon. Rob Nicholson, reviewed the Bill, he was shocked to find that it sought to do away with Section 176.
This section makes it a crime to unlawfully obstruct, threaten or harm a religious official before, during, or after they perform a religious service. It also makes interrupting or disturbing a religious service a crime.
Conservatives believe that this additional protection for religious services was crucial to the free practice of religion in Canada.
Thankfully, after receiving thousands of letters from concerned Canadians all across our country, the Liberal members on the Committee finally agreed with our position that Section 176, the protection of religious officials and religious freedoms, should remain in the Criminal Code.
As a Christian and Co-Chair of the Canadian Chapter of the International Panel of Parliamentarians for Freedom of Religion or Belief (IPPFoRB) this issue struck close to home.
In the words of the Right Honourable John G. Diefenbaker,
“I am a Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong, or free to choose those who shall govern my country. This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and all mankind.”
Freedom of religion or belief is fundamental.
Along with freedom of association and freedom of speech, freedom of religion is foundational to our society. More than the freedom to practice your religion publicly, it is truly about the ability of each individual to think freely, and to act upon their conscience. Religious beliefs frame the way individuals interact with the world around them.
Fundamental to that freedom is the ability to worship without fear.
In a climate where attacks on religious communities are increasing, explicit protections are necessary. These protections defend the freedom to worship for members of every religion, be that Muslim, Buddhist, or Christian.
I am thankful that so many Canadians believed the same, and that they took the time to tell the government about their beliefs.
I hope this information has been of interest to you.
Have a great weekend everyone.