Changes to Criminal Code

by | October 25, 2017


Scott Douglas Jacobsen

According to The Canadian Press, the Canadian Criminal Code (Government of Canada, 2017) is too narrow, as in exclusive to too many:

Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould says the fact that it is against the law to disrupt a clergyman or minister — but not an imam or a rabbi — is one of the reasons she wants to modernize the Criminal Code.

This spring, the Liberal government moved to rid the Criminal Code of sections that are redundant or obsolete. (National Post, 2017)

Bill-C-51, as proposed, may lead to the removal of one section of the Criminal Code. The section is about making “it a crime to use threat or force to obstruct a clergyman or minister from celebrating a worship service or any other duty related to his job.”

At present, an assault on a clergyman on travels to or comes from such duty is an indictable offence.

Wilson-Raybould stated religious freedoms are protected in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom and other sections of the Criminal Code. Presumably, the removals make the protections less redundant.

Based on the language, the Justice Minister sees reasons for change too, as in the references to males only and Christians. The reasoning is the restricted inclusivity and explicit exclusivity of the statements towards, for example, women and other faiths – and those without a formal religion.

Rob Nicholson, a Conservative MP, used the provision in the Criminal Code in April of this year. There was, apparently, a charge of vandalism of a St. Patrick’s Basilica (Ottawa) statue (Pringle, 2017).

Regardless of the vandalism, which I deplore and condemn as well as the Christian members of community in Ottawa near St. Patrick’s Basilica, the provision for more inclusive statements – to give a ‘face lift’ to the Criminal Code – seems apt.


Government of Canada. (2017, October 13). Criminal Code. Retrieved from

Pringle, J. (2017, June 12). Charges laid after St. Patrick’s Basilica vandalized. Retrieved from

The Canadian Press. (2017, October 18). Criminal Code too narrow on religion, says AG. Retrieved from

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About Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. Jacobsen works for science and human rights, especially women’s and children’s rights. He considers the modern scientific and technological world the foundation for the provision of the basics of human life throughout the world and advancement of human rights as the universal movement among peoples everywhere. You can contact Scott via email, his website, or Twitter.

One thought on “Changes to Criminal Code

  1. Ian Bushfield

    Section 296 (blasphemous libel) obviously needs to die a quick death and so far it seems like everyone’s on the same page there.

    The proposed repeal of Section 176, which is what Wilson-Raybould is referring to here, is one the religious right has gotten up in arms over. I almost would have missed it if not for their outrage! Ultimately I’m glad it’s on the chopping block and I included it in the BC Humanist Association’s submission to the Justice Committee to repeal.
    The Minister’s comments are informative on the subject – and I fully agree that it singles out Christian clergy over others but we must push them even farther as providing these protections to religious ministers over secular professions or humanist leadership is arbitrary and wrong.
    But even worse with this section is the legal history of how it’s been used to suppress religious dissidents from challenging orthodoxy and dogma in their own congregations. As atheists, I say we ought to stand behind those who refuse to toe the line – their rights to expression and religion must be protected as they’re often the ones marginalized by authority.


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