Leader of the Bloc Québécois Yves-François Blanchet tabled a bill in the House of Commons that proposes to prevent the use of religion as a defence for hate speech on Monday. 

 Bill C-367 aims to  “eliminate as a defence…that a person, in good faith, expressed or attempted to establish by an argument an opinion on a religious subject or an opinion based on a belief in a religious text,” said Blanchet, who introduced the bill in response to rising antisemitism.

“It seems to me that a modern Parliament worthy of its name needs to address certain things that we are long overdue in addressing, things that perhaps never should have happened in the first place,” Blanchet said in the Commons. 

“There is a cost to living together and to living in harmony in society. That cost may simply be to refrain from giving inappropriate and undue privileges to people within a society who use them to disturb the peace and harmony, especially if those privileges enable people to sow hatred or wish death upon others based on a belief in some divine power. That is even more true in a country that claims to be secular or that claims that there is a separation between church and state. That is why it is high time that someone took action,” he continued. 

“I would ask the House to quickly support the act to amend the Criminal Code throughout the process in order to prevent the promotion of hatred and antisemitism.”

Blanchet then addressed the recent spike in antisemetic attacks on Montreal’s Jewsih community, “gunfire has been heard in Montreal over the past few days. Windows have been broken, and graffiti has been directed specifically against the Jewish community,” he said.

“There are fears that these actions were in some way encouraged by an exception in the Criminal Code that allows hate speech and the incitement of violence. Would the Prime Minister agree to remove the religious exemption from the Criminal Code?”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau agreed with Blanchet, saying that, “the rise in Islamophobia and anti-Semitism in Canada is alarming.” 

“The rise in acts of hatred is even more unacceptable. I strongly condemn the [Molotov cocktail] attack on the Jewish Community Council. We condemn all violence. We will be looking at my honourable colleague’s bill to see whether it can help combat hate and incitement of violence. This is a complex issue, but we are here to work constructively to protect Canadians,” said Trudeau. 

The suspect in the Molotov cocktail incident remains unknown. Before that, two Jewish schools in Montreal were also shot at overnight. No one was injured in the shootings and Montreal police have made no arrests in either case. 

Additionally, a Jewish school in Toronto had to be evacuated on Nov. 17, after the school received a bomb threat. On the same day, a Mosque in York region also had to be evacuated following a bomb threat as well. 

Blanchet said that his proposed bill is short and that he hopes that will help expedite its implementation, according to The Suburban

“I hope that we will get somewhere quickly, but we need to reach an agreement,” said Blanchet. “All that we need to do is remove the exceptions, two sections of the Criminal Code, which are used to excuse, permit and perpetuate hate speech. Does the Prime Minister agree that we should move quickly on a bill that is necessary and easy to pass in the House?”

Trudeau responded to Blanchet by saying that, “more things unite Canadians and Quebeckers than divide them. Obviously, our Criminal Code does not tolerate hate speech. Calls for genocide, public incitement to hate and the deliberate promotion of hatred are already prohibited. We will examine the legislative measure proposed by the leader of the Bloc Québécois carefully. We will be there, working to keep Canadians safe while respecting the free society in which we live.”