Minister of Justice Jody Wilson-Raybould today introduced a bill to repeal Canada's blasphemy law. The bill would also remove other outdated and unconstitutional provisions of the Criminal Code, strengthen protections for victims of sexual assault and require new government bills to include a Charter Statement explaining its impact on Canadian's rights.
Section 296 of the Criminal Code states that anyone who publishes a "blasphemous libel" could face up to two years imprisonment. In 2016, nearly 7500 Canadians signed an e-petition calling on the government to repeal the law. In her response, the Minister promised to address the provision as part of the Liberal's election commitment to reform the justice system.
Ian Bushfield, Executive Director, BC Humanist Association:
We continue to see people subjected to investigation and prosecution for blasphemy from Jakarta to Dublin. Today's news is a good step toward Canada joining the ranks of Denmark, Malta, Iceland and England and Wales who have all abolished their blasphemy laws in the past decade.
This bill is a step towards upholding freedom of expression and freedom of religion. We urge all MPs and Senators to rally behind this bill and ensure its speedy passage through Parliament.
As Canadian Journalists for Free Expression points out, repealing the blasphemy law is necessary as it likely contravenes the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, blasphemy laws are often used to persecute vulnerable minorities and theocratic states around the world point to our law to justify their own.
Read the government's explanation for Bill C-51 (not related to the previous anti-terror legislation).