Svend Robinson is defending
 homosexual rights

The bill being submitted by Member of Parliament Svend Robinson would make it a crime punishable by up to two years in prison, to incite or promote hate against homosexuals.

But Robinson's attempt to end 'gay bashing' has brought warnings that pastors or imams could be thrown into jail for preaching homosexuality is evil and that their scriptures could be banned or confiscated.

Speaking to a House of Commons committee examining the bill, Robinson dismissed the claim.

"There's not an attorney-general in the country anywhere at any level who would consent to the prosecution of an individual for quoting from the Bible.” said Robinson who is himself a homosexual.

But opponents to the bill point to the Owens case in Saskatchewan five months ago, which involved having the right to quote the Bible in a newspaper advertisement against homosexuality. The judge ruled that the biblical passage “exposes homosexuals to hatred.”

"I'm concerned about the chilling effect of this kind of decision," said Vic Toews of the official opposition in Parliament, the Canadian Alliance.

Current hate-crimes legislation in Canada prohibits hatred on the basis of colour, race, religion or ethnic origin.

John Fisher of the homosexual-rights lobby group Egale, believes it is only a matter of time before sexual orientation is incorporated into legislation.

"I would suggest to this committee that the legislation as it stands, by being under-inclusive, by failing to protect a group equally needing protection, is unconstitutional," Fisher said this week.

He said homosexuals were more likely to be attacked than heterosexuals.

Robinson's bill has prompted a massive response from Canadians who have overwhelmed Parliament Hill with e-mails and letters to members of Parliament.

However, Liberals appear unsure how to handle the controversial issue.

On Thursday Liberal Justice Minister Martin Cauchon told the House of Commons that he supported the bill. But socially conservative members of the Liberal Party tried to shelve the bill on Wednesday.

Robinson successfully delayed that motion, and both sides are now looking to a final committee battle on 26 or 27 May. It is likely to determine whether the bill will die or proceed to broader consideration by Parliament.