Open Letter to the Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper, Stéphane Dion, Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe



    TORONTO, March 4 /CNW/ -

    Gentlemen:

    As your parties examine policy positions and determine platforms in
anticipation of the next Federal election, we urge you to address a vital
public safety issue affecting half the population of Canada that can no longer
be ignored. We are referring to the omission in the Criminal Code provisions
on Public Incitement of Hatred that result in the complete exclusion of girls
and women as a group entitled to protection from such crimes. This puts the
Criminal Code at odds with Section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms
which specifically mandates that equal access to the protection of Canadian
laws be granted to girls and women. Currently, the Criminal Code provisions on
Public Incitement of Hatred only protect those identified by colour, race,
religion, ethnic origin and sexual orientation.
    Public incitement of hatred is prohibited in the Criminal Code because it
is an acknowledged contributing factor in encouraging violence and
discrimination against a target group. Omitting girls and women from the list
compromises their safety. There is no justification for it. It is a stark
piece of "unfinished business" and one has to seriously wonder why it is
taking so long to deal with it. Despite our longstanding advocacy in this area
we have yet to hear a rationale, plausible or otherwise, from any political
party for the reluctance to take action.
    In his book Race Against Time, Canadian humanitarian Stephen Lewis wrote,
"I would argue that this is what always happens where the rights and needs of
women are concerned: an inexplicable willingness to let things slide, an
inescapable drift to inertia."
    Will Canada continue to let this slide? The next Federal government has a
unique opportunity to right an egregious wrong. Making this change to the
Criminal Code sends a strong message that we as a society will no longer
tolerate this failure to protect half of our citizens.
    As a cross-sectoral coalition of organizations concerned with media
violence including the mistreatment of girls and women in the guise of
"entertainment," we urge you to make a public commitment to amend the Criminal
Code so that women and girls, as a group, are included in the provisions
dealing with public incitement of hatred.
    We request a written response from each party leader outlining what
action they will take on this issue if they form the next government of
Canada.
    We have identified our member groups below as well as groups that are on
record as advocates for this legislative change.

    Respectfully submitted

    Violence in the Media Coalition

    Members of the Violence in the Media Coalition:

    - Canadian Centre for Abuse Awareness
    - Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario
    - Ontario Catholic School Trustees' Association
    - Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association
    - Ontario Federation of Home & School Associations
    - Ontario Principals' Council
    - Ontario Public School Boards' Association
    - Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation
    - Ontario Student Trustees' Association
    - Ontario Teachers' Federation

    Adding women to the Public Incitement of Hatred provisions of the
Criminal Code has been recommended and/or supported by:

    
    - Polish Canadian Women's Federation (2007)
    - Canadian Teachers' Federation (2007)
    - Ontario Federation of Labour (2007)
    - Liberal MPs Yasmin Ratansi, Don Valley East (Ontario), Chair, Status of
      Women Committee, Judy Sgro, York West (Ontario), Past Chair, Status of
      Women Committee, Sue Barnes, London West (Ontario), Past Critic Public
      Safety, Sukh Dhaliwal, Newton-North Delta (BC), Lloyd St. Amand, Brant
      (Ontario), Omar Alghabra, Mississauga-Erindale (Ontario), Critic for
      Citizenship and Immigration (2007)
    - Bloc MP Nicole Demers, Laval (Quebec) (2007)
    - Liberal MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj, Etobicoke Centre (Ontario), introduced
      Private Member's Bill C-254 (2006, 2007)
    - James Flaherty, Progressive Conservative, Attorney General of Ontario
      (2000)
    - Michael Bryant, MPP, Ontario Liberal Party Attorney General Critic
      (2000)
    - Senior Legal Counsel, B'nai Brith League for Human Rights (1994)
    - Raymond Hnatyshyn, Minister of Justice (1987)
    - Law Reform Commission of Canada (1986)
    - Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women (1985)
    - Special Committee on Pornography and Prostitution (1985)
    - National Action Committee on the Status of Women (1983)
    





For further information:

For further information: Jeff Sprang, OPSBA Communications, (416)
340-2540; Larry Skory, ETFO Communications, (416) 962-3836 (office), (416)
948-0195 (cell)


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