June 16, 2015

CPC

Wai Young

Conservative

Ms. Wai Young

Mr. Speaker, I want the member to know that I am an immigrant myself. I have worked with immigrant settlement agencies across Canada. I have worked with immigrant women and children across Canada for over 30 years.

I want the member to know that it is our government that has stood up for women and children and taken action on this. We have doubled funding for women's programs across Canada. We brought forward Bill S-2. We are bringing forward Bill S-7.

I would like to ask the member why his party, instead of using rhetoric, is not standing and voting for Bill S-7, because this is what would protect women and children in Canada.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act
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NDP

Mylène Freeman

New Democratic Party

Ms. Mylène Freeman (Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I would like to let you know that I will be sharing my time with the member for Vancouver Kingsway.

I would also like to acknowledge the work done by my colleague from Pierrefonds—Dollard. She is our party's critic for citizenship and immigration. She did excellent work consulting with organizations for abused women and with experts on the ground regarding violence against women and more specifically immigrant women. She was sensitive to these groups' needs. I also want to acknowledge all the work that she has done on this bill both in the House and in committee.

The NDP recognizes that it is absolutely necessary to address the problem of violence against women. I am talking here about all forms of violence. That is why we insist that it is necessary to have a national action plan to combat violence against women. Violence is truly devastating for all women, whether they are newcomers to Canada, aboriginal women, women with disabilities or young women. It is unacceptable for any Canadian woman to be in a vulnerable position just because she is a woman. As any women's organization in Canada can attest, we really need a national action plan to address violence against women and put an end to this problem.

The Canadian Network of Women's Shelters and Transition Houses has worked with many women's groups that advocate for and work with women in all kinds of situations across Canada to come up with an action plan and develop a strategy to end violence against women. I would like to share what Lise Martin, executive director of the Canadian Network of Women's Shelters and Transition Houses, said:

Canada needs a coherent, coordinated, well-resourced National Action Plan on Violence Against Women. The Canadian Network of Women’s Shelters has led a collaborative process with over 20 partners in the violence against women sector which has resulted in a blueprint for Canada’s National Action Plan on Violence Against Women and Girls. The Blueprint provides a roadmap of where we need to go and how to get there. M-444 is an important step in this direction.

Motion No. 444 was moved by my colleague from Churchill. The goal was to create a national action plan. The Conservatives voted against the motion. The Conservative Party is obviously not the party that is doing the most for women. Rather, it is the party that is halting progress in the fight to end violence against women.

It is not just the Canadian Network of Women's Shelters & Transition Houses, with all the work it has done, that is saying that the problem of violence against women needs to be addressed through a pan-Canadian strategy. I would like to quote Deepa Mattoo, who is a staff lawyer with the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario and an expert on early and forced marriages. She said the following:

Violence against women happens to women irrespective of their age, religion, background, education and class. It is important that we do not tackle the issues of violence in silos and have a broader inclusive strategy to tackle all forms of violence against women. It is also important that we remember that men and families need to be engaged in our strategies to tackle violence against women moving forward.

She also supported Motion No. 444 by my colleague from Churchill, which the Conservatives voted against, I must point out again.

Violence against women has reached shocking levels in Canada, especially among indigenous and racialized women, women with disabilities and women in the LGBT community. The call for a national action plan is coming from all major feminist organizations in Canada as well as the United Nations, which is calling on all countries to quickly adopt a national action plan.

However, Bill S-7 is a dangerous bill that could not only fail to protect vulnerable women and girls, but also make them even more vulnerable and more at risk of violence or negative consequences. Women who are victims of systemic, overt racism are often at higher risk for experiencing both poverty and violence. As well, racialized and majoritarian women have a hard time finding culturally appropriate anti-violence services, emergency assistance and housing. Immigrant women are often isolated from services to combat violence against women, and they are more exposed to violence than other women.

The NDP opposed Bill S-7 at second reading in the House of Commons and it moved a motion to change the focus of the bill. This motion called on the government and the House to:

(a) strongly condemn the practice [of violence against women and forced marriages]; (b) increase funding to organizations working with potential or actual victims; (c) consult with women, communities, organizations, and experts to form a true picture of the issue and to identify the best ways to address it; (d) allow women with conditional permanent resident status to remain in Canada if their partners are deported due to polygamy or forced marriage; (e) invest in information programs tailored to immigrant women; (f) develop culturally appropriate training programs for service providers dealing with immigrant women such as the police and social workers, as well as officers of the Canada Border Service Agency and the Department of Citizenship and Immigration; (g) restore funding to Status of Women Canada; and (h) implement the NDP's national plan for a strategy to address violence against women.

This motion was moved by my colleague, the hon. member for Pierrefonds—Dollard and it is essentially the NDP's position and strategy for addressing forced marriage and the violence committed against these women.

The studies by the Senate and the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration brought to light several concerns about Bill S-7 in particular. The NDP tried to amend the bill to change the offensive short title, as my colleague mentioned this morning in her speech. It also wanted to ensure that victims would not be penalized by some of the measures in Bill S-7. Unfortunately all the amendments were rejected by the Conservative majority on the committee.

As I said, the first amendment would have deleted the short title, the zero tolerance for barbaric cultural practices act. The NDP really wanted to change it. Unfortunately, the amendment was rejected. Violence against women is clearly barbaric, but is it cultural? No, violence affects all women, as my colleague explained so well this morning.

Second, we proposed deleting the clause that would allow an immigration officer to refuse entry to Canada to people seeking to live here or visit Canada or to deport people if they are suspected of practising polygamy in the past or present or planning to practise it in the future. In committee, lawyer Chantal Desloges really stressed that there is currently no definition of polygamy. That is clearly a huge flaw in the bill.

Third, we called for the removal of the provision criminalizing an individual who attended a forced marriage. It is not hard to understand why. The purpose is to protect victims. This measure would increase social pressure and stigmatization, discouraging witnesses and victims from reporting forced marriages out of fear that their friends and family would end up with a criminal record.

Many experts working on the ground believe that Bill S-7, like other poorly thought-out bills from this government, risks making the victims we say we want to protect even more vulnerable. I do not understand why the government does not heed these warnings and why it is going ahead with a bill that, clearly, instead of helping women, is making their situation even worse. As my colleague mentioned this morning, we approved of parts of the bill. We absolute agree that there is a problem of forced marriages and women who are victims of sexual violence.

It is a problem we have to address, but unfortunately this wrong-headed bill is only going to expose these women to further violence.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act
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CPC

Diane Ablonczy

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to my colleague opposite and was struck by some things I want to ask her about.

She said we need an action plan. I have been a minister of government, and I always used to say that programs are no substitute for actual results, and that spending is no substitute for getting some value for the people we are trying to assist. I heard the member say she will not support action but wants an action plan. This bill is an action plan.

Then the member said that the New Democrats had some amendments they wanted and that, unless they can get it perfect in their own view, they will not take any action. Would it not be better for the victims, the vulnerable people we are trying to protect with this bill, if we took this good action and then the New Democrats could argue for more or work for more later? It seems extremely short-sighted to hold everything up because, for good and sufficient reason, some of their amendments were not taken.

The member is saying that she and her party have a problem, but she is making all kinds of excuses not to take action. Why would that be?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act
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NDP

Mylène Freeman

New Democratic Party

Ms. Mylène Freeman

Mr. Speaker, we have a serious problem and it is the current government that is not taking action. Rather, it is bringing these bills forward that are marginalizing and driving further underground the women who are experiencing violence.

The experts tells us that women and girls on the ground want to be protected from violence, whether psychological, physical or otherwise, but they do not want to be put in a situation where they have to see their families prosecuted. This criminalization is not really the solution.

Community representatives and the witnesses who appeared before the committee were clear. We need a Canada-wide strategy to address violence against women.

A national action plan to put an end to violence against women is not something that can be put together very quickly and cannot be put together in the next month before an election plan. What we need to do is sit down with organizations across the country and build a plan that has clear targets and is coherent, so that we stop doubling our efforts and actually get to the problem. Rather than throwing money or bills at it, we need to address the problem of violence against women in this country.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act
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LIB

Adam Vaughan

Liberal

Mr. Adam Vaughan (Trinity—Spadina, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, one of the challenges we see with much of the legislation that is tabled by the government is that it addresses the problem after the incident. It deals with it in reaction, as opposed to in terms of prevention. Surely this House and this country would be better served if the women of Canada had access to affordable housing, affordable child care, jobs that pay equally, and a platform on which to build their lives rather than the government constantly taking care of issues after the fact with such measures as the DNA database for missing and murdered indigenous women or the parental controls that it is now advocating through this oddly named bill.

Would the member care to respond?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act
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NDP

Mylène Freeman

New Democratic Party

Ms. Mylène Freeman

Mr. Speaker, this gives me an opportunity to talk about something that I wanted to address in my speech but could not because I ran out of time.

That is why a national action plan to combat violence against women must go hand in hand with an action plan for safe and affordable housing. Giving women access to decent, safe, affordable housing is one way to prevent violence. It allows women to leave a violent relationship and live in a safer neighbourhood, and it reduces the stress associated with a lack of money. A long-term national housing strategy is therefore an integral part of an action plan to end violence against women. Such a plan also requires stable ongoing funding for organizations and support for counselling, assistance and trauma services on the ground. All of these things are needed to prevent violence against women.

Unfortunately, the Conservatives do not understand that all of these things are necessary in order for women to live in safety.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act
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NDP

Don Davies

New Democratic Party

Mr. Don Davies (Vancouver Kingsway, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand in the House today to speak and bring the perspective of the constituents of Vancouver Kingsway to this important debate.

I want to start by talking about something that I think all members of the House agree on and that comprises the fundamental aims of the bill. I support the intent of the bill, which is the fight against polygamy, forced marriages, and underage marriages. I, like every member in the House, believe strongly that all violence against women and children is unacceptable and that much remains to be done to prevent and combat these crimes. No woman, or anybody really, should be subject to gender-based violence, including the practices of forced marriage and underage marriage.

I have been in the House almost seven years and, at our best, we as members of Parliament come together and have respectful dialogues about different perspectives that can be brought to bear on some of these complicated problems. I have also been in the House when I think the worst of debate has occurred, which is when we engage in ad hominem attacks and when we substitute base accusations for careful and reasoned analysis.

We have seen examples of that when someone stands in the House and accuses members of standing with the pornographers if they do not support legislation, or of siding with the terrorists if they do not support legislation. I have heard in the House already today the member for Vancouver South suggesting that those who may have some problems with the way the bill is framed somehow have their commitment to standing up for the rights of women and children called into question. I think that is disrespectful and regrettable.

This is a bill that, while well-intentioned and, broadly speaking, aimed at something that all members of the House share as a laudable goal to be dealt with by the House, has some significant and some profoundly important problems. That is why we stand in the House today to voice those problems with the bill, as a good opposition ought to do in a British parliamentary system.

I also point out that the New Democrats, the Liberal Party, and the Green Party at committee tried to improve the bill and address the deficiencies and make the bill stronger and better and submitted some 11 different amendments that would have allowed every member in the House to stand up and support the bill unanimously. As is typical and all too common and regrettable with the Conservative government, it rejected all 11 of those amendments and, even worse, something we are seeing all too often with the government, without any real honest consideration of those amendments. That is very unfortunate.

I will start with one of the main problems with the bill and that is the title: zero tolerance for barbaric cultural practices act. Now, I am trained as a lawyer and I started reading law in 1985. I am very familiar with the titles of legislation, and the typical practice in Canadian legal history is that bills are titled in a neutral way to capture the essence of the bill. What I have seen for the first time in the history of Canada is that the government began early in its term to politicize and sensationalize the titles of bills. Frankly, that is also extremely regrettable. It may be politically beneficial for the moment for that particular party, but it does a disservice to the profound importance and respect we all should have for legislation in this country.

As is said, words matter, and the title “zero tolerance for barbaric cultural practices act” is problematic. We have heard from witness after witness as to why that is the case. There are two main reasons why that title ought not to be in the bill. First of all, it is inaccurate. The practice of polygamy, for instance, which is one of the aims of the bill, is not a cultural practice. In fact, it is actually in some cases, a religious practice.

Where I come from in British Columbia, we have had ongoing legal disputes with a group of people who live in Bountiful. They are a breakaway sect of the Mormon Church who believe that polygamy is religiously ordained and religiously permissible. That is not a cultural practice; it is a religious practice. However, we do not name this bill “zero tolerance for barbaric religious practices act”, and it would be offensive if we did so.

The second reason that this title is offensive is that several groups, particularly Muslims in this country right now, have expressed a certain sensitivity to legislative, political, cultural, and social pressure being brought to bear on them and feel that this title actually singles them out, which makes them uncomfortable.

New Democrats pointed that out to the government, asking the Conservatives to change the title by dropping the word “cultural”. What if the bill said “zero tolerance for barbaric practices act”? When everybody in this House could agree, the government refused. It refused to drop the word “cultural”.

I hear members talk about the opposition simply not being happy with a couple of cosmetic changes to the bill. Really, that is inaccurate. We were trying to improve the bill both in accuracy and in social acceptability, and the government chose to reject that.

The bill could also have serious unintended consequences, including increasing social pressure against victims of forced marriage and deporting victims of polygamy. We are also concerned that the criminalization of everybody involved in the solemnization of a polygamous marriage or a marriage that involves someone who is a minor risks having this legislation achieve the exact opposite of its aim. This is the famous law of unintended consequences.

Everybody in this House—including the government, I think—is well intentioned and wants to try to put a stop to these practices. Witness after witness at committee said that if we criminalize an entire family and compel children or family members to accuse their parents or family members of a criminal act, maybe they will be less likely to complain about the event, and we may end up driving these practices even further underground, which would make these practices more prevalent, not less prevalent.

We believe that instead of introducing a flawed bill that does not really get to the root of the problem, the government should commit to widespread and meaningful action with community groups and experts so that the real issues that these practices engender are addressed. I would argue for a multi-faceted approach to address such things as safe and affordable housing, counselling, and help for the often traumatized families who are trying to navigate complicated justice and immigration systems.

I want to read a couple of quotes that were made at committee, because they really get to the essence of the problem.

Lawyer Chantal Desloges pointed out the absence of a clear definition of polygamy. She said:

Practising polygamy is not really defined. The bill refers us to the Criminal Code definition of polygamy, but if you read the Criminal Code definition, that also is not very well defined and leaves a huge grey zone for interpretation as to what it means to be practising polygamy in Canada.

We know that polygamy is actually tied up in the legal system now, and there are charter and constitutional issues. This is an issue with the bill that I think would need more work.

Dr. Hannana Siddiqui give an excellent description of the problem with criminalization. She said:

The problem for us was that we worked directly with survivors and victims. A lot of them are girls and young women who say to us, “I do want protection from the police, but I don't want to prosecute my parents or my family. I don't want to see them go to jail.” They clearly said that if they went to the police and they were going to prosecute, then they would withdraw their charges; they would not cooperate or would not even go to the police in the first place.

Victims said that if we criminalize it, it might mean that their family ties would be broken forever. This is another unintended consequence I was referring to.

We already have laws across this country that set a minimum age for marriage in this country. It is actually not necessary for the federal government to set a minimum age of marriage, because every province has a minimum age. It varies from province to province, I understand, but that is another criticism of the bill that I have seen: it is redundant.

Also, forced marriage could be caught by any one of a number of sections of the Criminal Code already, including transferring a minor across provincial borders, assault, uttering threats, coercion, intimidation, et cetera. Arguably, even the sections of the bill that go to forced marriage are unnecessary.

I will give my colleagues on the government side of the House credit for wanting to address some serious issues, but I think that by working together, all members of this House can make the bill better. By co-operating, we can pass legislation that everybody in this House can support. That would be the aim of every parliamentarian, but that is not the case with the bill before us.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act
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NDP

Pierre Nantel

New Democratic Party

Mr. Pierre Nantel (Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his well-documented speech.

If it is true that we have the right to expect this Parliament to deal with such issues with as much dignity and as much attention to what people have to say as possible—the reason why we are here in this Parliament is to talk and pass better laws—does my colleague not find it surprising that the Liberal Party did not propose any amendments regarding polygamy, which was the first problem that he raised?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act
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NDP

Don Davies

New Democratic Party

Mr. Don Davies

Mr. Speaker, I would like to address the subject of polygamy and I thank my hon. colleague for bringing it up, because it allows me to raise another potential problem with the bill and show another potential negative consequence of it.

The bill includes a provision that would compel the deportation of those who are practising polygamy, including the people who are victims of it. Attacking the issue of domestic violence through immigration and criminal law is wrong-headed. As one witness said:

...the bill seeks to deport individuals who are engaged in polygamy, including the women that the government says it is trying to protect. The denial of permanent and/or temporary resident status to people involved in polygamous relationships will not have the desired effect of protecting women. It will simply bar women in such relationships from coming to Canada in the first place.

Likewise, criminalizing forced marriage will not end this practice.... It would only drive it further underground and harm survivors of forced marriage....

Many of these victims do not want to complain about it, nor do they have the means to do so.

Again we see that while a laudable goal has been pursued here, the mechanism that has been selected by the government, after listening to experts and after thorough study, shows that perhaps it is not going to achieve its intended purpose. Deporting people who are victims of polygamy to another country only to suffer from the results of polygamy is a good example of how the bill fails in that regard.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act
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NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre

New Democratic Party

Ms. Rosane Doré Lefebvre (Alfred-Pellan, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Vancouver Kingsway for the speech he just delivered in the House on Bill S-7.

We have talked a lot in the House about protecting the rights of women and children, and that brings me to an extremely important subject that has gotten quite a bit of attention over the past few weeks: the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on residential schools. Unfortunately, too many first nations children have experienced the full range of the negative repercussions of those events on their communities.

When it comes to the rights of women and children, does my colleague think that it is important to come up with meaningful solutions for all women and children across the country? Among other things, what about implementing one of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's 94 recommendations, the one about launching an investigation into missing and murdered aboriginal women?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act
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NDP

Don Davies

New Democratic Party

Mr. Don Davies

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for an excellent question and an astute observation that gets to the heart of what we are doing in this place.

To govern is to identify priorities and make choices. The government has the privilege, while it has a majority, to indicate what it thinks the priorities facing this country are.

In my view, the absolutely appalling historic and current treatment of our first nations, including men, women, and children, is of momentous importance and is of such pressing social need that we should be tackling it in this House with much more vigour than we have been. There are people living on reserve in this country who are living in third world conditions. We have Canadians who do not have access to potable water. We have first nations children who get one-third the amount of money spent on their education that a typical non-aboriginal child does in this country. These are very important issues.

I would conclude by saying that I have heard a lot of talk by Conservatives in this House about their concern for women and girls, and I believe that their views are sincerely held. However, over 1,200 aboriginal women and girls in this country have been murdered or are missing. When all of the groups involved in this across the country are calling for a royal commission to find out exactly what is going on, why this has happened, and what steps should be taken, and that call is rejected by the government, then I think that is also a missed priority.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act
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CPC

Bal Gosal

Conservative

Hon. Bal Gosal (Minister of State (Sport), CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for beautiful Wild Rose. I appreciate the opportunity to participate in this important debate.

In Canada, we are proud of women in leadership and their roles. We can see that in this House. Especially, we are always exploring ways in which barriers preventing anyone from living to their full potential can be removed. I am very proud that last night I was at a FIFA World Cup game in Montreal. This tournament is happening coast to coast and is a great showcase for Canadians in women's leadership roles. This is one example of women acting as great role models and being a great inspiration to all Canadians.

Unfortunately, there are many young women and girls who are not given the same opportunities. In the most recent Speech from the Throne, our Conservative government committed to ensuring that women and girls would no longer be brutalized by violence, including through the inhumane practices of early and forced marriages on Canadian soil.

I am pleased that our government is focused on strengthening the protection of all women in Canada and Canada's immigration system and on forcefully and resolutely supporting the rights of all Canadian women. In order to do so, the government must ensure that Canada's immigration policies and practices are especially focused on strengthening the protection of immigrant women as well. Indeed, it is deeply troubling that harmful cultural practices such as polygamy and forced and underage marriages still exist as a reality for some Canadian women. That is why I am happy to note the government's proactive approach today toward decreasing the vulnerability of immigrant and newcomer women.

For example, the 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 others, particularly violent offences, to support any family class members to come to Canada.

Other measures have been introduced to deter foreign nationals from entering into marriages of convenience to gain permanent resident status in Canada. These measures include a two-year conditional permanent resident status for certain sponsored spouses.

However, to protect sponsored spouses who are in an abusive relationship, our government put in an exception to these measures in instances where there is evidence of any abuse of a physical, sexual, psychological, or financial nature. This exception would also include those who are victims of forced marriage. Better guidelines and training have been introduced to assist front-line officers in processing requests for exceptions based on abuse or neglect and in handling sensitive information related to abusive situations.

As members can recall, the member for Mississauga South introduced a motion last fall to bar the accommodation of proxy, telephone, Internet, and fax marriages for immigration purposes because they may facilitate non-consensual marriages. Our government supported this motion.

While it should be noted that the practice of forced marriage can victimize men and boys, girls and women are more affected by this tradition. 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. These are restrictions that deny them education and the opportunity to find employment and place limits on their mobility. These are all against our Canadian values of freedom for all.

Why are immigrant women particularly vulnerable to harm caused by these practices? For one thing, they might not have knowledge of French and English, which can be a barrier to accessing social services and information on their legal rights in an abusive relationship. Some women may also lack the economic independence to leave abusive situations, especially if they are under age.

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

Also, Canada's citizenship study guide, Discover Canada, and the Welcome to Canada orientation guide are both being 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.

Canada's Minister of Citizenship and Immigration devoted a considerable amount of time meeting with representatives of organizations that provide services to immigrant women, and with victims of abuse, at a number of round table discussions across the country. These important discussions focused on domestic violence, polygamy, forced marriages, the immigration process, and how to strengthen the protection of vulnerable women and girls. The result is Bill S-7, the zero tolerance for barbaric cultural practices act.

Canada is a very generous and tolerant country, and we want to keep it that way. I am sure we can agree that Canada's openness and generosity do not extend to underage, forced, or polygamous marriage or to other harmful cultural practices that deny gender equality.

In this country, we do not and should not accept spousal abuse, so-called honour killings, or other gender-based violence. That is why measures in the bill would also amend the Criminal Code to address so-called honour killings and gender-based violence perpetrated against family members, usually women and girls, who are perceived to have brought shame or dishonour to the family.

Under our Criminal Code, someone charged with murder can raise the defence of provocation to obtain a reduction to a lesser charge of manslaughter. Measures in Bill S-7 would amend the Criminal Code so that legal conduct by a victim could not be legally considered a provocation. This would preclude accused murderers, including those involved in honour killings, from trying to reduce the charge they faced by using the argument that a victim's legal conduct provoked them into a heat of passion and that they killed while in that state.

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 improve protection and support for vulnerable individuals, especially women and girls, by rendering permanent and temporary residents inadmissible if they practised polygamy in Canada, by strengthening Canadian marriage and criminal laws to combat forced and underage marriages, and by ensuring that the defence of provocation would not apply in so-called honour killings and in 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 that 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 on Canadian soil any practices that deprive anyone of their human rights. I have no doubt that everyone in this House would 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.

Our government is taking steps to strengthen our laws to help ensure that no young girl or woman in Canada becomes a victim of early or forced marriage, polygamy, so-called honour-based violence, or any other form of harmful cultural practice I urge all my colleagues in this House to support Bill S-7.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act
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NDP

Ève Péclet

New Democratic Party

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

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech.

I gather that standing up for female victims of violence is very important to him. I have one simple question for him: why did he vote against our motion for a national action plan to end violence against women knowing full well that one in three women in Canada will, in her lifetime, be a victim of sexual, physical or psychological violence?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act
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CPC

Bal Gosal

Conservative

Hon. Bal Gosal

Mr. Speaker, we all know that violence against women is very bad, and that is why we brought in Bill S-7.

Any measures we have brought in to support victims, the opposition parties, especially the NDP, have voted against.

Bill S-7 is very important, especially in immigrant communities, because of so-called honour killings and polygamous marriages. We need to send a strong message that this government is standing up for victims. We are helping victims get their rights. Human rights are a fundamental Canadian value. Freedom is a fundamental Canadian value.

Opposition members always oppose any measures we put forward. I urge the member to read this bill and support it so we can protect vulnerable women and girls.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act
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LIB

Kevin Lamoureux

Liberal

Mr. Kevin Lamoureux (Winnipeg North, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, we all understand Canadian values with regard to issues like polygamy and forced marriages, having young girls at the age of 12 being forced to get married. These are all issues that defy Canadian values.

There is some merit in the legislation. The Liberals will be voting in favour of the legislation. Having said that, Liberals are very concerned about the title of the bill, which no doubt comes right from the Prime Minister's Office. No one questions that there are types of actions that are of a barbaric nature, but there does not seem to be any rationale for tying in the word “cultural”. Domestic violence and the abuse of women occur in all societies.

Why does the member believe that the Prime Minister is so insistent about inserting the word “cultural” with the word “barbaric”, knowing that it offends a great number of Canadians and that it does absolutely nothing for the content of the bill itself?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act
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CPC

Bal Gosal

Conservative

Hon. Bal Gosal

Mr. Speaker, it is very funny to hear Liberals saying they support the bill but do not like the title. For 10 years, they did nothing for immigration. Under the Liberals' watch, the immigration system was broken, and we are trying to fix it.

Polygamous marriages and honour killings are cultural practices in a lot of communities. We want to send a clear message to Canadians that we are standing behind victims. We are standing behind vulnerable women and girls. The message needs to be sent. Therefore, the title is very important so that people will know that we will not tolerate these cultural practices and that we are standing with victims.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act
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CPC

Costas Menegakis

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, it is a little rich to hear the Liberals speak about the title of a bill when they voted against the Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act, the Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act, and the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act. They say they support this bill, but they do not like the title.

I appreciated the hon. member's speech. It was very informative. My question for him is as follows. With regard to empowering young women and girls to speak out when someone in their families perpetrates such an atrocity on them, such as a forced marriage or abuse, how important does he think it is for women and girls to know that they can speak out on Canadian soil and get support when they need it?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act
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CPC

Bal Gosal

Conservative

Hon. Bal Gosal

Mr. Speaker, that is a great question. It goes to the heart of this bill.

As we know, one victim is one too many. The zero tolerance for barbaric cultural practices act would send a clear message to those coming to Canada that forced marriage, honour-based violence, and other harmful cultural practices are not acceptable in Canada. That is the clear message we want to send, and that is what the bill would do. It would send a clear message to everyone around the country.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act
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CPC

Bruce Stanton

Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bruce Stanton)

Before we resume debate, I will let the hon. member for Wild Rose know that there are only about four minutes remaining in the time before we have to go to statements by members. We will get him started, and I will give him the usual indication when he needs to wrap up.

The hon. member for Wild Rose.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act
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CPC

Blake Richards

Conservative

Mr. Blake Richards (Wild Rose, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I certainly appreciate the opportunity to speak today in support of Bill S-7, the zero tolerance for barbaric cultural practices act.

In October 2013, our government committed to ensuring that early and forced marriages do not take place on Canadian soil. Bill S-7 delivers on that very promise. The bill proposes to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Civil Marriage Act, and the Criminal Code to enhance the existing protections against harmful and violent practices that are perpetrated primarily against women and girls.

I would like to take this opportunity to elaborate on the bill and to compare our government's measures to some of our peer countries.

As Canada's citizenship and immigration minister explained before the Senate committee on human rights, all violent acts committed against women and girls are unacceptable in a democratic Canada. That is why our government has taken action, and continues to, to address various forms of violence against women and girls.

Bill S-7 supplements Canada's robust responses to violence against women and girls by addressing some areas where gaps have been identified, such as the response to early and forced marriages, and it strengthens the legislative tools in relation to other forms of gender-based violence, such as polygamy, so-called honour killing, and spousal homicide.

The bill addresses certain forms of violence against women and girls that reflect antiquated notions of women as property or as mere vessels of family honour and reputation. These notions are clearly inconsistent with the fundamental Canadian value of equality between men and women.

The zero tolerance for barbaric practices act introduces important legislative measures that would protect potential and actual victims of early and forced marriages.

I would like to turn now to the proposed new Criminal Code offence of active participation in an underage or forced marriage ceremony.

There has been significant debate about how best to address the issue of forced marriage and about whether a criminal law provision would make reporting more difficult. Nonetheless, many international organizations, including the Council of Europe and the United Nations, have been calling on states to specifically criminalize forced marriage. For example, UN Women, the United Nations entity for gender equality and the empowerment of women, recommends that:

Legislation should criminalize forced marriage, and should acknowledge that any child marriage is by definition a forced marriage.

This is exactly what Bill S-7 proposes to do with the new offence of forced and underage marriage. Moreover, at least 11 similarly situated countries have introduced criminal offences in relation to forced marriage over the past decade or so. The following countries have enacted forced marriage offences, with maximum penalties ranging from two to seven years of imprisonment: the United Kingdom, Sweden, Australia, Switzerland, France, the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Belgium, Austria, and Norway.

Mr. Speaker, it looks to me like you are about to tell me that my time is up for the moment. I look forward to continuing after question period.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act
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June 16, 2015