May 28, 2015

CPC

Bruce Stanton

Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bruce Stanton)

The hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act
Sub-subtopic:   Motions in Amendment
Permalink
?

Elizabeth May

Green

Ms. Elizabeth May

First, Mr. Speaker, I almost feel I need to rise on a point of personal privilege on this, but since I have the opportunity to respond to the parliamentary secretary's question, I would like to state for the record—and he cannot contradict this, because it is fact—that since the moment I took my seat in this place, I have not heckled any member at all, not once, never. I found it gratuitous and insulting that he would begin his question by asking that I not heckle him. I have never heckled anyone, and I plan to continue in that practice.

Second, let me read the section that the hon. parliamentary secretary glossed over. Clause 293.2 reads as follows:

Everyone who celebrates, aids or participates in a marriage rite or ceremony knowing that one of the persons being married is under the age of 16 years is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years.

My attempt to make sure that this only applied to people 18 years of age and older was defeated at committee. On the face of it, the language “celebrates, aids or participates” is a very broad net and would include people who could well be under 18 with no capacity to have been found guilty of an indictable offence, but here they would be.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act
Sub-subtopic:   Motions in Amendment
Permalink
NDP

Carol Hughes

New Democratic Party

Mrs. Carol Hughes (Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I find the comments from the parliamentary secretary very disturbing on this particular issue.

We have to look at the title. I think it has been brought to light by the speaker so far that one of the words that is very problematic is the word “cultural”. From what we have seen with Conservatives' bills, which find themselves before the courts and they lose, for the most part, it is actually inciting racism and discrimination. Maybe my colleague could speak on that. When something like that is put forward, whether it is Bill C-51 or a national inquiry for missing and murdered indigenous women put forward by the NDP, the government keeps pointing the finger at the culture as opposed to looking at the systemic problem.

We have seen in the U.K. that there is an opportunity to actually invest in services. It is the same thing in Demark. People there say they need more services. This is the way to go.

I am wondering if my colleague can talk about how this legislation is inciting more racism and discrimination as opposed to dealing with it, as well as how important it is to invest in services that actually help victims.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act
Sub-subtopic:   Motions in Amendment
Permalink
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Elizabeth May

Green

Ms. Elizabeth May

Mr. Speaker, I agree entirely with my hon. colleague. This is part of a fabric. The member is certainly aware of it, as are a lot of us here, and it is disturbing.

Canada's greatness, and what makes this the best place in the world to live, is our extraordinary success in multicultural harmony. We enjoy the fact that people come here from all around the world. All of us here who are not first nations have come from somewhere else. It is not just tolerance, not just that we can put up with one another; we actually are enriched by the diversity, culturally.

Whether it was the fake controversy over a woman wearing a niqab to a citizenship ceremony, stirring the pot, or the Prime Minister in this place saying that the culture was anti-women, these kinds of comments that become anti-Muslim are unhelpful. This is unhelpful at a time when we should be, as the member suggests, investing in services, increasing the levels of communication, avoiding radicalization, and assuring those people, wherever they come from around the world, that they are welcome and respected here.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act
Sub-subtopic:   Motions in Amendment
Permalink
CPC

Costas Menegakis

Conservative

Mr. Costas Menegakis (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to participate in this important debate today.

In our most recent Speech from the Throne, our government indicated we would address the vulnerability of women in the context of immigration. The government committed to ensure that women and girls would no longer be brutalized by violence, including through the inhumane practice of early and forced marriage, on Canadian soil.

I am very pleased that our government is focused on strengthening the protection of vulnerable women in Canada's immigration system and on forcefully and resolutely supporting the rights of immigrant and newcomer women.

To do so, our government must ensure that Canada's immigration policies and practices are especially focused on strengthening the protection of immigrant and newcomer women. Indeed, it is deeply troubling that harmful cultural practices such as polygamy and forced and underage marriage still exist as a reality for some Canadian women.

That is why I am happy to note the government's proactive approach to date toward decreasing the vulnerability of immigrant and newcomer women.

For example, regulations put in place in recent years have made it much more difficult for people convicted of crimes that result in bodily harm against members of their family, or other particularly violent offences, to sponsor any family class member to come to Canada.

Better guidelines and training have been introduced to assist front-line officers in processing requests for exemptions based on abuse or neglect and in handling sensitive information related to abusive situations.

My colleague, the hon. member for Mississauga South, introduced a motion last fall in this very place to bar the recognition of proxy, telephone, Internet, and fax marriages for immigration purposes, because they may facilitate non-consensual marriages, and our government was proud to support this motion.

While it should be noted that the practice of forced marriage can also victimize men and boys, it disproportionately affects women and girls. Women and girls who are forced to marry someone against their wishes are almost always also beset by a list of other restrictions of their human rights, restrictions that deny them an education or the opportunity to find employment and limit their mobility. These are all abhorrent to our Canadian values of individual freedom for all.

Why are immigrant women particularly vulnerable to the harm caused by these practices?

For one, they are more likely to lack proficiency in English or French, which can be a barrier to accessing social services and information on their legal rights in an abusive relationship. They may also lack the economic independence to leave abusive situations, especially if they are underage.

Under Canada's settlement program for newcomers, the government also provides funding to a variety of organizations that offer programs and services that respond to the specific needs of permanent residents, including immigrant women and their families who may find themselves in vulnerable situations.

Also, both Canada's citizenship study guide, Discover Canada, and the Welcome to Canada orientation guide were recently updated to reflect the fact that Canada's openness and generosity do not extend to harmful practices such as forced marriage or other forms of gender-based family violence.

The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration and I have devoted a considerable amount of time meeting with individuals and representatives of organizations that provide services to immigrant women, as well as with victims of abuse, at a number of round table discussions across the country.

These important discussions focused on domestic violence, polygamy, forced marriage, the immigration process, and how to strengthen the protection of vulnerable women and girls.

I was also proud to participate in the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration study on strengthening the protection of women in our immigration system. We were fortunate to hear from expert witnesses and victims of so-called honour-based violence; yes, right here in our own country.

These discussions, of course, strongly informed Bill S-7, the zero tolerance for barbaric cultural practices act.

Bill S-7 is yet another example of the government's commitment to the protection of vulnerable Canadians, particularly newcomer women. These measures would do the following: render permanent and temporary residents inadmissible if they practice polygamy in Canada; strengthen Canadian marriage laws by establishing a new national minimum age for marriage of 16 years old, and codify the existing legal requirements for free and enlightened consent for marriage and for ending an existing marriage prior to entering another; criminalize certain conduct related to underage and forced marriage ceremonies, including the act of removing a child from Canada for the purpose of such marriages; help protect potential victims of underage or forced marriages by creating a new specific court-ordered peace bond where there are grounds to fear someone would commit an offence in this area; and ensure the defence of provocation would not apply in so-called “honour” killings and many spousal homicides.

Canada is a generous and tolerant country. However, I am sure that we would all agree that Canada's openness and generosity does not extend to underage and forced or polygamous marriage or other practices that deny gender equality.

In summary, the measures in Bill S-7 would strengthen our laws to protect Canadians and newcomers to Canada from barbaric cultural practices. The measures in Bill S-7 would provide protection and support for vulnerable individuals, especially women and girls, by rendering permanent and temporary residents inadmissible if they practice polygamy in Canada, by strengthening Canadian marriage and criminal laws in order to combat forced and underage marriage, and by ensuring that defence of provocation would not apply in so-called “honour” killings, and many spousal homicides. That is why this bill is so important.

As legislators, it is our duty to uphold the equality of men and women under the law. I would go so far as to say that this is a fundamental Canadian value. Nevertheless, we must recognize that thousands of Canadian women and girls continue to be subject to violence, and barbaric cultural practices still exist as a reality for many Canadian women. By supporting these measures and ensuring that they pass into law, Parliament would be sending a strong message that we will not tolerate any practices that deprive anyone of their human rights on Canadian soil. I have no doubt that everyone in this House would all agree that in our capacity as representatives of the people of Canada, we have an obligation to always support victims of violence and abuse, and to do everything we can to prevent such practices from happening in this country.

For all of the reasons I have outlined today, I urge my honourable colleagues to support Bill S-7. With that, I conclude my remarks on this bill today.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act
Sub-subtopic:   Motions in Amendment
Permalink
NDP

Ève Péclet

New Democratic Party

Ms. Ève Péclet (La Pointe-de-l'Île, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I would remind the parliamentary secretary that yesterday, when he had the opportunity to rise in the House to vote in favour of our motion to end violence against women, he sadly decided to vote against it.

I understand his speech, but I think it is a bit rich of him to point his finger at the NDP, which moved the motion his own government voted against. The biggest problem here is that while we are talking about victims, we are also making criminals of them.

The Conservatives did the same thing with Bill C-36 concerning prostitution. They said that women who worked as prostitutes were victims, but they forgot that their bill turned them into criminals. Then they proposed an amendment to their bill, but it still made criminals of the victims in certain circumstances.

They are doing the same thing today: they are making criminals of the people they say are victims. That does not work, and all the experts agree.

What facts or scientific studies do they have to show that making victims into criminals will improve the situation?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act
Sub-subtopic:   Motions in Amendment
Permalink
CPC

Costas Menegakis

Conservative

Mr. Costas Menegakis

Mr. Speaker, on the contrary, I take exception to the member's point. This bill would not do that. The zero tolerance for barbaric cultural practices act would actually send a clear message to individuals coming to this country that their harmful and violent cultural practices are unacceptable in Canada.

It is also unacceptable to have children who are born in Canada whose parents promised when they were born for them to be married to somebody. When they reach 14 years of age, they find themselves on an airplane going to a country they do not even know, or even within the community where they live, and forced to marry an individual with whom they have had no personal contact other than being promised to that individual when they were born, against their will.

These are abuses that are happening in this country. They are rooted in some cultures, and the member should be supportive of this legislation that would stop these atrocious acts from happening on Canadian soil.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act
Sub-subtopic:   Motions in Amendment
Permalink
LIB

Kevin Lamoureux

Liberal

Mr. Kevin Lamoureux (Winnipeg North, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, there are certain aspects of the legislation for which there is no doubt some limited support. However, there are also aspects of the legislation that have offended a great number of people. Using the combination of words “barbaric cultural” is one of the things that the government has been called to further explain. At the end of the day, it does raise some issues of some very strong racial background as to why the government chooses to use such strong wording. It would appear on the surface that the Conservatives are more concerned about having some sort of strong spun-out message coming from the Prime Minister's Office.

I wonder if the member could provide some explanation as to why the Conservatives felt compelled to use such strong wording in the title of the legislation, which is offending many individuals in our community.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act
Sub-subtopic:   Motions in Amendment
Permalink
CPC

Costas Menegakis

Conservative

Mr. Costas Menegakis

Mr. Speaker, I do not accept the premise of the question. The title does not, nor does the legislation at any point, name any particular culture. The fact of the matter is that certain practices are based and rooted in some cultures. We did not name one particular culture. We did not say it is a particular group that is guilty of these actions. However, these are actions that are defended by those who perpetrate these atrocious actions on their own children by pointing to their particular culture or tradition. This is why the word “cultural” is important.

In Canada, people should have the right to a consensual marriage, not something that is forced on them because they were told that it is somehow rooted in their culture.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act
Sub-subtopic:   Motions in Amendment
Permalink
LIB

John McCallum

Liberal

Hon. John McCallum (Markham—Unionville, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to speak on the bill. Since the parliamentary secretary has just referred to the word “cultural”, maybe that is a good place to begin. We in the Liberal Party proposed an amendment to remove the word “cultural” from the title, which would then read: zero tolerance for barbaric practices act. We thought it was totally unnecessary and offensive to some to include the word “cultural”. Whatever the government's intent might be, certain communities viewed themselves as being targeted by the use of this word. The word does nothing to enhance the content of the legislation, it is not necessary in any way, yet it is offensive to some. Therefore, I see absolutely nothing to gain, but something to lose, by keeping the word “cultural” in the title of the bill.

The government, through some convoluted argument, which I have heard several times and never understood because I do not think it makes sense, did not agree to that. Therefore, the word “cultural” remains. However, that is not sufficient enough for the Liberal Party to vote against the bill, because we mainly go by the content of a bill rather than by the sometimes ridiculous Conservative title.

In terms of the content, we have reservations in some areas, which I will allude to in a minute or two. However, overall, we think there is enough that is positive in the bill that we will support it.

I will go through the four elements in the bill, which are the provisions on honour killing, and related to that, the defence of provocation; polygamy; the age of marriage; and forced marriage. I think it is pretty well self-evident, and I cannot speak for other parties, but speaking for the Liberal Party, we regard all of these practices as undesirable things that ought to be totally illegal. Therefore, if the bill in some respects can define them better or make them more illegal, then we would be in favour.

Particularly, the two substantive items in the bill that we do like are: one, for the first time we have a minimum age of marriage at 16; and second, the innovation in the bill that it would be a crime to participate in a forced marriage. We think those are both advanced and we support those two items.

In terms of reservations, we think that the defence of provocation in the context of honour killing is really just a political show, because the lawyers who testified before us made it very clear that the defence of provocation would never be accepted by any court in this country in the case of an honour killing. Therefore, it is redundant and I think something the Conservatives brought in for political effect.

I also think that the Conservatives' definition of what would constitute acceptable provocation is inappropriate. The crimes they listed included fairly minor things, such as theft, and we think the crimes should be more major. The minister seemed to agree with that, but he did not understand that the bill did include minor crimes. That is one thing in the bill that we would like to see changed, but it is not enough to cause us to vote against it.

On polygamy, there was some discussion as to whether there should be a definition of polygamy, because if someone is not allowed into the country because of polygamy or deported because of polygamy, it might be a good idea to have a definition as to what it is. One can see the scope for abuse of people's rights if the offence for which they might be charged is not properly defined.

On the age of marriage, according to the bill, if a person is 16 or 17 years old, marriage would be allowed with parental consent, and parental consent alone would be sufficient. However, we thought that if we are into a world of potential forced marriages, then parental consent might not be sufficient. If it is a forced marriage, then the consent of the parent would be a part of that forced marriage scenario, which we want to stop.

For this reason, we propose that there be some judicial mechanism, which I believe exists in some provinces, in addition to parental consent in the case of the marriages of 16- and 17-year-olds.

In essence, what I am saying is that there is enough that we like in this bill to make us think it is worth supporting overall, but there are various things that we would add to the very long list of other things that the Conservatives have done with which we disagree. Should we become the government at some point, I suppose we would add these items to the already long list of things done by the Conservative government that we would want to undo. The list is a very long one.

Just in the immigration area, for example, approximately 99% of the content of the Citizenship Act constitutes additional hurdles and barriers that we would want to remove. However, in the case of this particular bill, we think that there is enough merit in it that we in the Liberal Party will vote in support of it.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act
Sub-subtopic:   Motions in Amendment
Permalink
CPC

Diane Ablonczy

Conservative

Hon. Diane Ablonczy (Calgary—Nose Hill, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for a very well reasoned and sensible response to the bill. He has some good suggestions and has raised some reasonable concerns. That is the kind of debate we should have.

I sat on the public safety committee this morning. We heard an expert on terrorism and radicalization tell us that there are materials being distributed in Canada today that say that beating women is an act of kindness and love and that women owe a duty to their husbands, a duty that includes obedience and not withholding intimacy.

There are documented activities taking place in our country that are not only physically dangerous to women but also hostile in a very cultural sense.

I would ask my colleague why we need to avoid the world “culture” when clearly there are cultural dimensions to this danger to women.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act
Sub-subtopic:   Motions in Amendment
Permalink
LIB

John McCallum

Liberal

Hon. John McCallum

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her comment. I also commend her for her eloquent S. O. 31 statement on the occasion of her impending departure—not too soon, but at some point. She showed that we can fit a lot of content into 60 seconds. It was a very excellent statement.

I also like the first part of her comment, when she said that some of the things that I said were reasonable—

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act
Sub-subtopic:   Motions in Amendment
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LIB

John McKay

Liberal

Hon. John McKay

That is so unusual.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act
Sub-subtopic:   Motions in Amendment
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CPC

Chris Alexander

Conservative

Hon. Chris Alexander

It is because he is supporting it.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act
Sub-subtopic:   Motions in Amendment
Permalink
LIB

John McCallum

Liberal

Hon. John McCallum

Mr. Speaker, notwithstanding some reservations.

I think perhaps where I differ most acutely is on this word “cultural”, because I see it as being offensive to communities and because we do not gain anything by its inclusion.

If we look at the groups who are offending society in areas of polygamy and other bad things, we see they are not just Muslims. There were Jewish groups in the news for that. There were fundamentalist Christian groups based in British Columbia. There are a number of different religious groups or sects, or whatever we want to call them, that are guilty of these crimes, but only certain groups take offence to the use of the word “culture”, thinking that it is directed at them.

From a practical point of view, if the word offends some people but does not add anything to the final product, why put it in? I would say to take it out.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act
Sub-subtopic:   Motions in Amendment
Permalink
NDP

Ève Péclet

New Democratic Party

Ms. Ève Péclet (La Pointe-de-l'Île, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I will ask my colleague the same question that I asked the parliamentary secretary because I believe that the problem here is the criminalization of victims.

We have debated a number of bills in the House of Commons describing a person as a victim, but criminalizing them at the same time. I do not understand. I know that he briefly spoke to that in his speech.

Why is it that, in some debates, the Liberals condemn the Conservatives for wanting to make criminals of the victims and in others they support the fact that the victims will be criminalized and, therefore, marginalized and unfortunately left to fend for themselves with no help?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act
Sub-subtopic:   Motions in Amendment
Permalink
LIB

John McCallum

Liberal

Hon. John McCallum

Mr. Speaker, we could say that the victims are criminalized to some degree, and we could debate that. However, I have confidence in our justice system. We have special proceedings for youth, for those under 18 years of age. In that case, the system can act judiciously.

For example, take the case of a young man who is 17, and thus a minor, who participates in the forced marriage of his sister. Perhaps he should be treated as a criminal. It seems to me that we could debate the issues raised by the member. Nevertheless, we want to vote for this bill.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act
Sub-subtopic:   Motions in Amendment
Permalink
CPC

Bruce Stanton

Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bruce Stanton)

Before we resume debate, it is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Québec, Consumer Protection; the hon. member for Beauport—Limoilou, the Environment.

Resuming debate, the hon. Minister of Citizenship and Immigration.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act
Sub-subtopic:   Motions in Amendment
Permalink
CPC

Chris Alexander

Conservative

Hon. Chris Alexander (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, of course in this debate we are again hearing from the Liberals that they would like to take the word “cultural” out of the title because, as we have heard throughout many months of debate in this place and outside of it, the Liberals still accept that there is a possible defence of violence against women and girls in the name of culture.

We believe there is no such defence. We believe there is no such defence in the name of tradition or in the name of honour. Violence is violence. It is a crime, and we will not stand for that amendment or any of the others that would water down this important bill.

It is not surprising that this kind of proposal continues to come from the Liberal Party, because over 13 years in government it did nothing on these issues. Instead of waking up to the issue of human smuggling, the Liberals listed bringing exotic dancers to Canada, not in the hundreds but in the thousands, as a legitimate occupation under our temporary foreign worker program. Many of them went into the sex trade and many of them went into exploitative roles. We ended that and we are proud of it.

If I can throw members' minds back nine years, it was in 2006 that this process of reforming Canadian immigration began. We inherited backlogs and abuse. We still see an unwillingness from the Liberal Party of today to acknowledge that there had been abuse and that the residency rules for citizenship for permanent residents had been flouted. The immigrant investor program in effect brought some money as loans to provinces and territories but brought very few people to Canada, because there was an industry of consultants and lawyers who systematically sought to ensure that large populations of people could pretend they were living in Canada when in fact they were elsewhere. This was unacceptable. It was unacceptable to leave the immigration consultants' world unregulated, as the Liberals did not just for those 13 years in government but for decades.

That is why I am proud, as I know everyone is on our side, to be speaking to the zero tolerance for barbaric practices bill at report stage, not only because of its own merits but because it builds on a solid and wide legacy of achievement by this government over nine years.

Not only have we legislated to protect women and girls in the spousal program in our refugee streams across the board, but we have also legislated to remove foreign criminals faster from this country to make sure our asylum system is not open to abuse and to make sure that human smugglers do not have the incentive to bring people to our shores on unsafe journeys of the kind we see in the Mediterranean today, where thousands are dying every month. Those risks are unacceptable.

Canada's generosity should not be generating new risk or putting people's lives at risk in new ways. We should be saving lives. That is exactly what we have been doing since these reforms came into effect, even as we have been strengthening the value of Canadian citizenship and restoring the pride that Canadians have always had, a pride that was threatened after the reforms the Liberals brought forward in 1977.

We have reformed every economic immigration program we have. The Liberals pointed to the federal skilled worker program, our flagship program, as their top achievement in immigration, yet it took six to eight years for people to come through that program, even at the beginning of our time in government, because it was very difficult for us to act in a minority situation. We have brought it to the point where last week I met someone in British Columbia who had been processed under express entry as a federal skilled worker in two weeks. That person gained the opportunity to be selected to come to Canada through a comparison that was made of her skills and education with those of other candidates. That is the way we need to go and that is the way we have gone.

We ended the failed immigrant investor program and replaced it with a start-up visa for entrepreneurs, the first in the world. We replaced it with an immigrant investor venture capital pilot program, which is bringing larger-scale resources into the venture capital sector, which has so much potential to bring a whole new generation of start-up companies through the various stages of growth and expansion to be major employers in Canada. We also launched the action plan for faster family reunification and the super visa.

We will never hear a Liberal mention any of these initiatives. They deny that they even exist, that 75,000 parents and grandparents have come to Canada in only three years or that 50,000 visitors have received super visas, the right to come to Canada for up to 10 years and to be here for up to two years at a time, with health insurance paid by the inviting party. It is a revolution in the ability of families to choose the right tool to allow them to come together for family occasions, for births, for weddings, and for anniversaries here in Canada. It has been of enormous benefit, as anyone who speaks to newcomer groups knows.

We have also enhanced our refugee programs, not just by agreeing to take 10,000 Syrian refugees this year, next year, and in the following year but also by focusing on the resettlement of the most vulnerable the world over. We see that with our current target of 23,000 Iraqi refugees, many of them from vulnerable religious and ethnic minorities, over 20,000 of whom are already here.

We also launched the federal skilled trades program, which is very much needed and very much overdue, and created the Canadian experience class, which invites those who have already studied and worked in Canada, who have the experience and have proven themselves in our market, to come to Canada. Some 23,000 will do so this year.

We have also extended the provincial nominee program seven times beyond what it was under the Liberals to make sure that immigrants are going to every province and territory, to larger communities and smaller ones, to meet the needs of employers and meet the needs of this growing country.

Immigration is not an end in itself. This country is based on it, absolutely, but immigrants want to work. They want to be part of a successful economy. That is the opportunity this government has given. We have strong immigration programs because we have shown the ability to manage this economy strongly, to return to balance, to keep this a low-tax jurisdiction for jobs and growth, to attract international investment, and to open markets. That is what is attracting newcomers to this country.

We select them on the basis of their skills and experience while respecting the principle of family reunification, while being more generous to refugees than we have ever been on a sustained basis, and while strengthening the value of our citizenship. It is economic prosperity. It is the responsibilities of citizenship, which include the dedication newcomers have, in very large measure, to the rule of law and to justice in this country. It is our duty of protection to those in our immigration programs and those beyond our shores who would dearly love to come here.

What would Bill S-7 do to enhance this?

It would make polygamists inadmissible to Canada. Second, it would raise the national minimum age for marriage to 16. Third, it would require those marrying to dissolve all their previous unions. Fourth, it would require those marrying to give their free and enlightened consent and to ensure that it is truly enlightened. Fifth, it would criminalize active and knowing participation in forced marriage or the removal of a person from Canada for the purpose of underage or forced marriage. Sixth, it would limit the defence of provocation to cases where the defendant was him or herself the victim of a indictable offence punishable by up to five years' imprisonment. In other words, one could only cite provocation, once Bill S-7 becomes law, if one had been the victim of a serious violent crime. Seventh, it would establish access to peace bonds to prevent forced marriage, underage marriage, or removal for those purposes.

This is about the protection of women and girls. This is about ending domestic violence. This is about joining up with the work John Baird did as foreign minister to partner with United Nations agencies and countries around the world to end forced and underage marriage.

It is astonishing that the NDP would oppose every aspect of the bill. It is typical that the Liberals would be strongly in opposition to the bill at the start and then, once they saw how strongly Canadians supported it, would migrate over to our position while hiding behind the fig leaf of wanting to change a single word to show that somehow they have a principle and a policy to stand on.

Liberal ambiguity on immigration, Liberal inability to apply the rules, even of their own ill-conceived programs before 2006, gave this country a legacy of decades of darkness and abuse in immigration. This Conservative government spent nine years cleaning that mess up. We have ended abuse, we have curbed vulnerability, and we have taken criminality out of our immigration flows, and Bill S-7 is a fitting capstone to a proud legacy of achievement for this government.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act
Sub-subtopic:   Motions in Amendment
Permalink
NDP

Carol Hughes

New Democratic Party

Mrs. Carol Hughes (Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, what he is saying is preposterous. After 10 years in office, the Conservative government is basically taking Canada in the wrong direction again.

There are already laws that make most of what he is talking about illegal. He knows that when it comes to allowing people to come to Canada, whether on visas or as permanent residents, the government already has the power to deny people. If the government knows that people are practising polygamy and it does not want them in Canada, it has the authority to do that.

Canadian criminal law provides for a lot of the actions he is talking about. Uttering threats is covered in the Criminal Code under section 264.1. Aggravated assault is under section 265 and in section 268 for bodily harm. There is sexual assault, and the list goes on and on. We already have laws. The Conservatives are just trying to pull the wool over Canadians' eyes. They are promoting discrimination and racism, as I said a while ago.

If they are so serious about dealing with violence against women, why is it that they will not call for a national inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women? Why are they not investing in shelters for people? Why are they not investing in housing for people? It is shameful.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act
Sub-subtopic:   Motions in Amendment
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May 28, 2015