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Advocacy group calls for an end to Canada's "blasphemy law"

Calling the law old and antiquated, secular advocacy groups in Canada want the “blasphemy law” to go.

It comes following the terrorist attack in Paris, France, where masked gunmen entered the satirical magazine of Charlie Hebdo and murdered a third of its staff.

Otherwise known as Section 296 of the Canada’s criminal code, it states “everyone who publishes a blasphemous libel is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years.”

First introduced in 1892, it hasn’t been used to prosecute someone since 1935.

“We feel that it’s time that Canada stepped up and show we don’t support blasphemy laws, we don’t support those forms of violence and the attempts of groups to silence individuals,” said Eric Adriaans, National Executive Director of the Centre for Inquiry.

Adriaans says abolishing the law would show the world we are a leader in free speech and human rights.

“We would stand behind what we’re saying, in that we don’t tolerate a blasphemy law,” he said.

He believes most Canadians don’t realize it’s still on the books because it hasn’t been used in a long time.

Adriaans tells 660News, he read a paper online from a Canadian legal expert that warns it’s not dead and can be pulled out at anytime.

The legislation is based on a British law that has since been repealed, Ireland’s blasphemy law is still in effect, many others though have gotten rid of their own legislation.

“If you’re going to protect religious minorities, atheists, humanists, people who are Christian, people of any religious background than you can’t have a blasphemy law on the books, it’s just incompatible,” said Adriaans.

The Centre for Inquiry and Humanist Canada has drafted a letter to Justice Minister Peter MacKay that will be sent out Thursday in order to seek his support.

“Faith-based attacks are happening on an individual basis because they don’t like the fact someone has offended their religion,” he said. “Whether you’re hiding behind a thuggish mask or a thuggish blasphemy law, it’s the same thing, forcing people to follow your beliefs.”