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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Tougher hate-crime law proposed

When vandals attacked Montreal's École Les

Jeunes Musulmans Canadiens last year, it took thousands of dollars to replace the school's shattered windows and months of counselling to help its traumatized students.

But no amount of money and no amount of counselling could completely erase the nagging worry that it could happen again or the knowledge that under Canada's Criminal Code, the hate-based attack on their Muslim school carries no more penalty than spray painting initials on a wall.

That's why Nabiha El-Wafai is among those who supports legislation tabled by Bloc Québécois MP Carole Freeman that would amend the code to prohibit hate-based vandalism against all buildings used by religious, ethnic and sexual minority groups,

"I think a bill like that could be perfect," El-Wafai, head of the school's primary sector, said in a telephone interview. "If there is a law that would protect places like schools, it could make people who think of committing such acts back up before doing it."

El-Wafai said adopting the bill would send an important message to communities like hers that the Canadian government cares about their welfare.

She's not alone.

Yesterday, members of all three opposition parties teamed up with representatives of a variety of religious and ethnic groups to show support for Freeman's bill, which is scheduled to begin debate tomorrow.

Bloc officials said yesterday that if all goes well, the bill should make it through committee and a final vote by the House of Commons by May or June. [Link]

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