This week, the MP for Winnipeg North sponsored a petition, which in effect, would amend the Criminal Code (s.318 (4)) to include vocations, in particular the police, to the definition of an “identifiable group”. Currently, those cited within an identifiable group in the criminal code include individuals who are distinguished by the public by “colour, race, religion, national or ethnic origin, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or mental or physical disability”.
Groups who have been identified in our criminal code have been so because it is recognized that they have historically, and continue to be targets for acts of violence, racism, discrimination, ableism, and even genocide simply for existing. It is insulting and senseless to compare a career choice to those who have experienced these brutal forms of oppression. It is even more troublesome that many of the communities, which the Member for Winnipeg North represents, have experienced these very forms of violence.
Police are not the only vocation viewed as being hated in society—lawyers, politicians, and others experience negative public perceptions. As legislators, it was our choice to run for office. We chose our vocation, knowing the level of criticism and scrutiny required by the public in order to ensure accountability, transparency and democracy. In effect, the petition would prohibit criticism to keep us, as legislators, accountable. This is troublesome, considering the power we have to make decisions that can forever impact lives in Canada and around the globe, and it is critical that individuals are able to hold us to account. This right is protected in our Charter; the freedom of expression and speech are fundamental freedoms protected in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
We have a charter for a reason and it is incumbent on us as legislators to uphold it. Freedom of speech is a fundamental right and I am committed to continue to protect this right. It is dangerous and an abuse of power to take actions that put legislators and other vocations above the law. As Allen Mankewich, resident of Winnipeg Centre so eloquently stated: “You can choose to be a politician or a police officer. Unlike being a disabled person, an experience that has left many individuals in my community poor as a result of ongoing discrimination and vile ablelism that we experience almost everyday.”
Do we want to live in a society where politicians can't be scrutinized? Where individuals with extreme levels of power are not held to account? There are fundamental rights in our society that we must protect. That is our job as legislators; to protect these rights in Canada and around the world.