MP Milton Klein’s “Genocide” Bill
HOUSE OF COMMONS
The house resumed, from Friday, July 10, consideration of the motion of Mr. Klein for the second reading of Bill No. C-21, respecting genocide.
Mr. J. E. Walker (York Contre): Mr. Speaker, I want to thank those members of the house who last Friday, in an unusual move, gave unanimous consent to the request by the mover of this bill, the hon. member for Cartier (Mr. Klein), that this debate be carried forward to today’s sitting so that adequate time could be given to it without danger of its being talked out.
Just so there will be no doubt in anyone’s mind regarding our intentions as to the disposal of this extremely important subject, as co-sponsor of the bill I wish to tell the house that the acting house leader will be moving a motion that the said bill be not now read a second time but that the subject matter thereof be referred to the standing committee on external affairs. This will be done before six o’clock. I sincerely trust that all hon. members will agree to this procedure and allow this motion to be put before the hour of six o’clock this afternoon.
If there are hon. members, and I am sure there are, who wish to speak and are not able to do so before six o’clock today without killing the bill, then I believe their sincerity will lead them to realize that there will be the greatest scope for talking and thinking — maybe that should be reversed — once the matter is before the external affairs committee. My hon. friend from Cartier (Mr. Klein) in his calm and reasoned speech last Friday made it clear why the committee on external affairs is the proper committee to go into the whole matter.
Since last Friday’s debate, an excellent and thoughtful editorial has come to my attention in connection with the opening statement of the debate. I quote from a translation into English of the column “The Crime of Defamation” which appeared in Dimanche Matin of Sunday, July 12, 1964.
[The Acting Speaker.]
I have not tackled this problem from the viewpoint of its being just a problem of my Jewish constituents. To me it is a matter which concerns every Canadian citizen regardless of his race or creed because it was in an atmosphere of hate and distrust that the late President Kennedy was assassinated.
I think all Canadians must do some clear thinking about what is right and what is wrong, what is good and what is evil. As far as I am concerned, the current hate campaign is a very evil thing and I am committed to fight against it from the very beginning, before it has a chance to produce the conditions which allow would-be Hitlers and Stalins to gain a foothold.
People who forget the past are sometimes condemned to relive it. Spiritual terror usually precedes physical terror by the mad exponents of racial or group supremacy. I had hoped that by now some government would have found itself in a position to place proposals before this house which would have made unnecessary a debate on this Bill C-21, an act respecting genocide.
This is a matter about which I feel very deeply and I will be excused, I am sure, if I speak strongly on the subject. My remarks are directed at all members of this house and to Canadians generally when I say that governments at all levels have deferred long enough in finding a solution to vicious and intimidating attacks on groups of Canadian citizens. Fair comment is one thing but incitation to sedition is another. Surely, the legal talents of this country can come to grips with this problem and find the formula which will give protection and peace and comfort to all Canadians while at the same time
JULY 17, 1964
protect the traditional democratic right of free speech. Bishop Wilkinson recently said:
An extract from a recent editorial in the Toronto Telegram reads:
The Toronto Daily Star says:
Historically, a feeling of racial superiority has proven to be a latent emotion, explosive and violent when aroused, that lies just under the surface of the thin veneer of the civilized behaviour of society. It is time we put an end to the kind of soft compromise that makes allowances for this fault in our character. The protection of the principle of freedom of speech must not be extended to the point at which it condones licence to slander and to vilify and incite. Only at great peril can we remain indifferent to the persecution of groups of Canadians. The wreckers and soul destroyers are at work today and, as the Globe and Mail says: “We believe that these haters should be fought by all men of good will”. We are shocked when we frequently read in the dally press of citizens who stand idly by and watch a policeman getting beaten up in a street brawl, or a young woman mauled and raped while spectators watch with dulled eyes and senses. We Canadians all too often point the hypocritical
finger of shame at other nations who do not appear to handle their civil rights problems in the manner we think they should. It is time we took a look at our own backyard to make sure that we are setting the right kind of effective example.
We hear from the attorney general of the province of Ontario that there is no law under which prosecutions could be successful in dealing with the following kind of vicious appeal to our basest natures:
If there is no law against this kind of viciousness, Mr. Speaker, there should be and it is time we made one.
These enemies of society, these wreckers and destroyers of other people’s lives use freedom of speech to destroy other freedoms equally important — freedom from fear, freedom from persecution. The next step is the use of democracy to destroy democracy. The racists always use these methods. Surely the persecuted, the good citizens, deserve the same sympathy and consideration and freedom which apparently exists under the present laws for the rotten racists and their followers. These bestial unbalanced bitter people are using our laws to make fools of us all.
The rationalizing has gone on long enough. For years the Canadian Jewish Congress has presented briefs to various governments asking that action be taken. They are doing a job for all of us. My hon. friend and colleague from Cartier who is sponsoring the present bill and with whom I am gratified to be jointly associated in his efforts is to be commended for taking this action.
We heard the Prime Minister (Mr. Pearson) today in his statement to the house upon his return from the commonwealth prime ministers’ conference, stress the need of an immediate beginning toward the solution of human and race relationships within the commonwealth. At this moment Canada is generally free of this problem, but there is a cloud on the horizon and I believe it should be dispelled now before it casts an ugly shadow across our beloved land.
I want to point out that there are flaws in the wording of this bill. I do not agree, for instance, with the severity of the automatic death penalty in clause 1. But the purpose and
HOUSE OF COMMONS
Intent of the bill is clear, and I urge this house, before six o’clock is called, to allow the subject matter of this bill to be referred for study to the standing committee on external affairs.
Mr. Stanley Knowles (Winnipeg North Centre): Mr. Speaker, I notice that there are two or three other members rising, so I will compress my remarks into a very few minutes. I want to say that we share completely the motives of this legislation. We agree with those who have said that it is not good enough just to outlaw actual genocide, the actual killing of people; we must go further and do something about the hatred and defamation of character that lead to the actual crime of genocide. We agree that the taking of human life is a crime. We also say that the defamation of character, the destroying of a man’s soul, is likewise a crime.
Therefore we are in sympathy with the motives of the bill introduced by the hon. member for Cartier (Mr. Klein). However, I am particularly glad that it was announced by the hon. member for York Centre (Mr. Walker) that we are not going to be asked to vote on the bill as it is now before us but, rather, that there will be a motion to refer the subject matter to a committee. I am particularly glad about that because, like the hon. member for York Centre, I cannot go along with the confirmation in this bill of capital punishment. It is not my purpose to indulge in a debate on that particular point, but I would like to take my stand on this question with three distinguished rabbis of the city of Toronto, just one of whom I will take time to quote, who had something on a very high level to say at a time when the whole world was concerned about a certain man, one Adolf Eichmann, who was found guilty of the crime of genocide.
Hon. members will recall the feelings there were at that time, and if ever a Jew was entitled to feel that capital punishment was in order, that entitlement was due to a Jew on that occasion. But listen to the words of Rabbi Feinberg. I have quotations also from Rabbi Stuart Rosenberg and Rabbi W. Gunther Plaut, but one quotation will do. Rabbi Feinberg said, in part:
I quote this from a clipping which I saved from the Toronto Globe and Mail of Saturday, December 16, 1961. I give the house this quotation because I feel these words of Rabbi Feinberg, along with the words of Rabbi Rosenberg and Rabbi Plaut are classical statements. I take my stand with them, and I hope that in the committee on external affairs when this matter is discussed there can be general agreement that the principle of this bill should be supported; but we do not go along with the idea of capital punishment.
Hon. Gordon Churchill (Winnipeg South Centre): Mr. Speaker, I am very much interested in the subject which is before us. I am not sure that I approve of the rushed method that is put in front of us now, without the opportunity for debate. I think a bill of this character should have a good discussion in the house rather than being shifted to a committee immediately. Surely there must be some way, by arrangement, of having the bill, if it is generally considered by the house of major importance, discussed on another occasion before being shifted out of this chamber to a committee.
The government whip has attempted to put people who want to speak on this bill in a rather awkward position if they spend any time discussing it. There will not be a single member of the House of Commons who does not approve of the law established against genocide and the convention that was ratified in this House of Commons 12 years ago in the month of May, and not March as it says in the bill. There was general agreement with regard to ratification of that measure on that occasion, but in the subsequent years nothing has transpired in the way of additional legislation and I can give the reason for that in a minute or two.
Now we have put before us a bill respecting genocide, as it is called, but from the statement made by the sponsor of the bill, the hon. member for Cartier (Mr, Klein) and the supporter of the bill from the Liberal side, the major item in the bill has to do with, as has just been said, the crime of defamation or, as the sponsor of the bill called it, group libel. I do not find that this is at all a part of the convention on the prevention and punishment of the crime of genocide. This does not put me in the position of being opposed to any measure which may be advanced to protect society against group libel or the crime of defamation. If our laws are not satisfactory in that respect, they should be amended. This is an instance, surely, where a
JULY 17, 1964
government should consider the matter very carefully and bring forward and take responsibility for any measure that it deems wise in order to meet the present situation.
I am not sure that a private member’s bill such as this, with regard to which the intention is to refer it to a committee, is necessarily the best way of dealing with this matter. I think the external affairs committee could, without a bill being before it, discuss the convention on the prevention and punishment of the crime of genocide which was before that committee 12 years ago, and could quite reasonably ask the government what it is going to do about it, if anything. But here we are now, being rushed into a position of referring to the external affairs committee a bill ostensibly dealing with genocide and actually dealing with a different subject.
I would like to have the full 40 minutes, of course, to deal with this subject, but in the private members’ hour we have only 20 minutes and we have to restrict our remarks very, very seriously. Anybody interested in this subject should refer to the proceedings of the standing committee on external affairs which met in May, 1952, when this subject was discussed at some length. They should refer to Hansard of May 21, 1952, when there was a very good debate in the House of Commons on the subject of genocide. Having made that preparation I think people would be in a better position to deal with the bill as put before us. There is a third reference which perhaps should not be overlooked, and that is a debate in the house of commons at Westminster on July 23, 1962 dealing with the genocide convention which at that time had not been ratified by the United Kingdom.
I draw attention, Mr. Speaker, to these matters in order that members of the House of Commons may be able to consider this matter perhaps a little more fully than was suggested to us a few moments ago. I would hope that some device could be arrived at to bring this subject before us again on private members hour, or alternatively it could be raised separately from the bill in the external affairs committee. Third, the real subject matter of this bill could be divorced from genocide, with which it is not actually concerned, although the sponsor of the bill in his statement — and I use his own words as reported at page 5357 of Hansard, said:
I did not discover that in the reading which I did several years ago of the debate which occurred in the committee of the
United Nations when they were drafting the convention, but I do not say that that is not necessarily the case and perhaps it is from group libel that eventually you get to the actual physical destruction of a race.
Before I give an opportunity to somebody else to speak, Mr. Speaker, may I point out that in the bill there are errors other than the ones which have been drawn to our attention. It is not written into the convention that genocide is restricted to a member of a group. The convention uses the plural always, and where this bill says “a member of a group” it is not in conformity with the convention itself, which speaks of “members of a group”. So you are not dealing with the killing of one person. You are not dealing with doing mental harm to one person. It is killing or doing mental harm to more than one person.
On the question of mental harm the present Prime Minister (Mr. Pearson), who was secretary of state for external affairs in 1952, in the House of Commons on May 21 of that year, as reported at page 2442 of Hansard, set out what the government and the House of Commons generally considered to be the meaning of the words “mental harm”. This came about through our discussions in the committee on external affairs, and I would quote his words in just a short paragraph on page 2442:
I think that has to be kept in mind as well as some of the other matters which will be coming before us.
That, Mr. Speaker, very briefly, is part of the submission I should like to make in regard to this particular bill.
Mr. MacNaught:&NBSP; Mr. Speaker, I think it IS the desire of all hon. members that this bill be debated further. I would therefore move, seconded by the Minister of Justice (Mr. Favreau):
Mr. Knowles: Do you not need unanimous consent?
Mr. MacNaught: Yes, of course. I thought we had unanimous consent for this.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Batten): Is it the pleasure of the house to adopt the motion?
HOUSE OF COMMONS
Business of the House
Mr. Churchill: Mr. Speaker, before agreeing to the motion, why could not the government allot an extra hour next Friday? After all, you will recall that when we debated capital punishment we allowed two days. I think, for that subject. Why not allow an extra hour and let the government surrender an hour because of the importance of this matter, and make private members’ hour last two hours next Friday?
Mr. Thompson: Mr. Speaker, I believe we should allow for more time on this bill because a number of us would like to speak on it but have not yet had the opportunity to do so. Therefore we would be in favour of what has been suggested by the Solicitor General (Mr. MacNaught), or we would consider some other alternative which would give us an opportunity for further debate.
Mr. Knowles: Mr. Speaker, why do we not do exactly what we did a week ago today? Let the bill retain its position on the order paper so that it will again be called a week today, the same as it was today.
Mr. MacNaught: Yes, that is practically the effect of my motion.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Batten): Is it agreed that Bill No. C-21 retain its position on the order paper?
Some hon. Members: Agreed.
Mr. Gelber: Mr. Speaker, may I call it six o’clock.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Batten): Order. The hour allotted to the consideration of private members’ business has expired.
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