Canada's blasphemy law is under review by the Minister of Justice and could be repealed as part of broader justice reform.
Jody Wilson-Raybould made the commitment in her response to a petition signed by nearly 7500 people calling on the government to repeal section 296 (the prohibition on blasphemous libel) of the Criminal Code.
The petition was launched by freethought groups across Canada, including the BC Humanist Association, in June and was signed by over 1000 people in the first day. The petition was tabled in the House of Commons in December and the government presented its response on Monday.
Ian Bushfield, Executive Director, BC Humanist Association:
This is a promising response. Canada has become a beacon for tolerance and civil liberties during these tumultuous times. We will continue to press the Minister and the Government to repeal Canada's blasphemy law as a signal to the world of the importance of freedom of expression.
The BC Humanist Association will continue to monitor the government's review of the criminal justice system and press for the repeal of Canada's blasphemy law.
The Government's Response
The government is committed to maintaining a fair, relevant, and accessible justice system for all Canadians.
In her mandate letter, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada has been asked to conduct a broad review of our criminal justice system. The Minister’s overarching goal is to ensure our legislation meets the highest standards of equity, fairness, and respect for the rule of law as well as the Constitution of Canada.
The crime of blasphemous libel, although included in the original Criminal Code of 1892, has not been the subject of a reported legal case since 1935. In 1979, a charge of blasphemous libel was laid in Ontario in a case involving the showing of Monty Python’s Life of Brian, but the charge was stayed.
Blasphemous libel, along with numerous other provisions of the Criminal Code, are presently under review by the Minister and her officials. The Minister looks forward to addressing these provisions in the course of her mandate.