Bill C-51 (2017): Laws on disrupting worship


The EFC is tracking Bill C-51, which clarifies the meaning of consent to sexual activity and updates the Criminal Code by removing outdated, redundant or unconstitutional criminal laws.

The EFC’s concern is with Clause 14 of Bill C-51, which removes the offences of interfering with clergy and disturbing religious worship meetings. Section 176 of the Criminal Code states:

176 (1) Every one who
(a) by threats or force, unlawfully obstructs or prevents or endeavours to obstruct or prevent a clergyman or minister from celebrating divine service or performing any other function in connection with his calling, or
(b) knowing that a clergyman or minister is about to perform, is on his way to perform or is returning from the performance of any of the duties or functions mentioned in paragraph (a)
     (i) assaults or offers any violence to him, or
     (ii) arrests him on a civil process, or under the pretence of executing a civil process,
is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years.

Disturbing religious worship or certain meetings

(2) Every one who wilfully disturbs or interrupts an assemblage of persons met for religious worship or for a moral, social or benevolent purpose is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction. 

This provision protects the ability of clergy to lead, and individuals to participate in religious services or gatherings without interference or disruption. The EFC is particularly concerned that this change will reduce protection for worshippers and places of worship at a time when hate crimes against religious communities in Canada are on the rise.

If you share these concerns, use this sample letter to let your MP know.

Bill C-51 will be reviewed by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights in the fall when Parliament resumes sitting. The EFC is consulting with interfaith partners on Bill C-51, as it will have implications for all faith communities. The EFC will raise these concerns with the Minister of Justice, and with Justice Committee and MPs this fall. We are also preparing resources to help Canadians express concerns with this section of Bill C-51 to MPs.