Provencher MP Ted Falk calls it a big win for religious freedom. He says the Standing Committee on Justice decided Wednesday to restore section 176 in the Criminal Code, a section that gives explicit protections to clergy and parishioners taking part in religious services. Falk says the Justice Minister had originally planned to remove that protection. But he adds a strong lobby from people in Provencher and across Canada convinced the committee that it should be kept in. Falk explains what this means for our local churches.
"It means that the pastors, the clergy in Provencher will be able to go about conducting their business, visiting their parishioners and conducting services in a way that, should someoneintimidate, interfere or interrupt them, it would be a criminal offence. They can also continue to conduct worship services without the fear that people can come in and disrupt them without any consequences."
Falk says there were two key things that helped persuade the committee to put the protection back into Bill 51.
"First and foremost, was the overwhelming response from Canadians on this issue to both the Justice Minister and also to committee members, that it was important that that section remain in the Criminal Code. The other thing that was very important was that the committee listened to witnesses and they listened to witnesses with an open mind. The witnesses, from a variety of different faith groups, came and testified at committee that they need Section 176 to remain in the Criminal Code to give them the protection that they currently have."
Falk says this is a good example of people taking an active role in politics and helping to make positive change.
"I just want to really thank the various faith groups in Provencher that responded to the literature that we sent out and sent letters and e-mails and made phone calls to the Justice Minister, but also to committee members who ultimately made the decision to keep Section 176 in the Criminal Code."
Falk notes the Bill must still clear Third Reading and review by the Senate but he is confident it will be approved as amended by the committee this week.