[EDITOR’S NOTE: The Conservative Government deserves praise for this legislation. We have always said that so-called “cultural excuses” in shameful crimes have no place in any decent, civilized society no matter what your religion or ethnic background is. Some lawyers have tried to use “cultural excuses” in the past to justify certain criminal acts and Canadian judges must not be swayed by this.]
CITIZENSHIP and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander on Wednesday announced the tabling of legislation that will strengthen Canadian laws to prevent barbaric cultural practices from happening on Canadian soil.
The Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act sends a clear message to individuals coming to this country that harmful and violent cultural practices are unacceptable in Canada. These practices are incompatible with Canadian values and will not be tolerated.
The Act would amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA), the Civil Marriage Act and the Criminal Code. It would provide more protection and support for vulnerable immigrants—primarily women and girls—including:
* Creating a new inadmissibility under IRPA that would render permanent residents and temporary residents inadmissible if they practise polygamy in Canada;
* Strengthening Canadian marriage laws by amending the Civil Marriage Act to codify the existing legal requirements, at the national level, for “free and enlightened consent” and establishing a new national minimum age for marriage of 16;
* Helping to protect potential victims of early or forced marriages by creating a new specific court-ordered peace bond to be used where there are grounds to fear that a person would commit a forced or early marriage offence, including the mandatory surrendering of a passport to prevent a child from being taken out of the country to facilitate a forced marriage;
* Criminalizing certain conduct related to early and forced marriage ceremonies in the Criminal Code, including the act of removing a child from Canada for the purpose of such marriage;
* Limiting the defence of provocation so that it would not apply in so-called “honour” killings and many spousal homicides; and
* Including consequential amendments to the Prisons and Reformatories Act and the Youth Criminal Justice Act to include the aforementioned peace bond.
These changes build upon existing federal initiatives that are providing vital support, protection and services for newcomers to Canada, specifically women and girls.
“With the Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act, we are strengthening our laws to protect Canadians and newcomers to Canada from barbaric cultural practices. We are sending a strong message to those in Canada and those who wish to come to Canada that we will not tolerate cultural traditions in Canada that deprive individuals of their human rights. Our government will continue to stand up for all victims of violence and abuse and take necessary action to prevent these practices from happening on Canadian soil,” said Alexander.
“Our Government has been clear on its stance against polygamy and other barbaric practices that constitute gender-based violence. These important legislative changes build on the work that is already being done to make it clear that family violence—including violence committed in the name of so-called “honour”—is absolutely unacceptable. This Act includes important tools to prevent early and forced marriages and to protect victims from exploitation and violence,” said Peter MacKay, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada.
“This new legislation reaffirms our Government’s ongoing efforts to end violence against women and girls. This includes our investments through Status of Women Canada to give communities the tools they need to end barbaric cultural practices,” said Dr. K. Kellie Leitch, Minister of Labour and Minister of Status of Women.
“Violence against women and girls is a heinous abuse of human rights and has no place in Canadian society. The Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act sends a clear message that any form of harmful cultural practices is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. I am proud that our Government continues to take strong action to ensure the equality, safety and security of women and girls in communities all across Canada,” said Rona Ambrose, Canada’s Health Minister.
* Globally, between 2004 and 2014, an estimated 100 million girls will have been forced to marry before their 18th birthday.
* The 2013 Speech from the Throne stated that: “Sadly, millions of women and girls continue to be brutalized by violence, including through the inhumane practice of early and forced marriage. This barbarism is unacceptable to Canadians. Our government will take steps to ensure that it does not occur on our soil.”
* For the purposes of this initiative, the term “barbaric cultural practices” encompasses forms of gender-based family violence, such as early, forced and polygamous marriage and “honour”-based violence.
* In 2011, the Supreme Court of British Columbia upheld the constitutionality of the Criminal Code prohibition on polygamy (section 293) and found it consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.