My name is Elsii Faria. I work as a marketing and communications consultant for various organizations, including the Durham Region Unemployed Help Centre and 1COMMUNITY1.
I also am nearing the end of my term for Welcome Centre Immigrant Services as a community liaison in Ajax and Pickering, Ontario.
The views that I express today are my own. I do not represent any of the views of any organization that I'm affiliated with, in a working relationship or otherwise. I am an advocate for human and women's rights. As a marketing professional, I choose to work with organizations, businesses, or individuals on projects that have the potential to positively impact local, national, or global communities.
I am deeply honoured to serve as a witness in relation to Bill S-7 along with so many important voices and respected members on the witness panel.
I am aware of some of the arguments for and against the proposed amendments to the five federal statutes pertaining to Bill S-7. In terms of predicting the impact of the amendments on the victims and survivors of honour-based violence and early and forced marriage, my perspective is limited to my research, as I do not work with newcomers on the front line. My opinion of the bill and its effectiveness is framed by my own experience and background in providing solutions that target specific objectives.
During the press conference for the announcement of Bill S-7,, there were several instances where I felt Minister Alexander referred to the intention and the objectives of the bill. They are to make sure that immigrant women and girls are protected and not subjected to isolation, disenfranchisement, or violence once they arrive in Canada; and to stand up for the protection, the physical well-being, and the flourishing of women and girls in this country to make sure they reach their potential and that barriers of violence be removed.
I believe that the success of Bill S-7 is directly linked to honouring and carrying out the intention of the bill through a comprehensive, integrated, and holistic approach. In order to effectively deliver the objectives of the bill, amendments to federal statutes should serve as just one aspect of the overall strategy. Further, multi-faceted supports and services are required. Root level solutions should involve education, awareness, and training initiatives for victims, perpetrators, service providers, and Canadian and global citizens. I believe a central repository of information, including promotional and training material, would facilitate the dissemination of information nationwide with varying degrees of access for emergency responders, school teachers, police, the general public, etc. The repository could be used to gather statistical data, which I feel is a crucial component in measuring the effectiveness and determining the resources that are required to support the intention of the bill.
Utilizing a collaborative model with feedback and cooperation from stakeholders is essential. Experts in the field should be consulted to ensure that proposed legislation or other initiatives do not create further obstacles to women experiencing violence. General community support would also assist in meeting the objectives of the bill.
During the press conference for the announcement of Bill S-7, Minister Alexander stated:
[The] response to these issues has to be a team effort, not just by government, not just by settlement agencies, but all of us involved in welcoming newcomers to the country, all of us involved in communication to the families of newcomers.
Last year, I believe Canada reached a turning point in openly discussing issues related to violence against women. Now is the time to rally together as a community to bring awareness to, and prevent, violence against women, including from an immigration perspective.
The manner in which Bill S-7 has been framed has had a direct impact on the public and stakeholder acceptance of the proposed amendments. The title, the zero tolerance for barbaric cultural practices act, while bringing attention to the subject matter, is fraught with negative associations that I feel veer away from and taint what I believe to be the important objectives related to the bill.
Definitions related to the term “barbaric” highlight the view that another civilization or group is viewed as inferior, savage, or uncivilized. The term serves to propagate fear and pits one culture against another by promoting conflicting and divisive relations rather than peaceful and collaborative ones. In Canada, the term “barbarian” serves to recall a period of colonialism that has had a lasting impact affecting the well-being and the flourishing of aboriginal people. We are now aware that between 1980 and 2012, more than 1,100 indigenous women have gone missing or have been murdered. This could also be viewed as barbaric cultural practices fuelled by racism against native women in Canada.
I believe the title of the bill is inhibiting the real discussion and action that needs to occur in relation to the objectives of the bill. Perhaps the word “violent” should replace the word “barbaric”: zero tolerance for violent cultural practices act.
As for the proposed amendments, it is my view that if polygamy is illegal in Canada, polygamy should not be practised in Canada. However, realizing that polygamy is happening in Canada, the consequences of the proposed amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act should be considered. How might the amendments impact victims of violence who are currently in polygamous relationships? For reasons of sponsorship or economic factors, a victim's choices for severing ties might be limited. In addition, it has been noted that polygamists seeking to immigrate to Canada may abandon their wives and children abroad in order to do so.
With regard to the proposed amendments to the Civil Marriage Act, I believe the amendments are required and are in line with the objectives, although I am in agreement with Professor Aiken that the age should be raised to 18.
In terms of the Criminal Code, I feel that those participating and aiding in forced or early marriage ceremonies should face repercussions. However, prison sentences for multiple perpetrators could put the children of the perpetrators at further risk and may not be an effective solution for reformation. Exposure to education regarding HBV and EFM counselling and psychological services could serve to inform and potentially reform perpetrators.
I am in agreement with the amendments made in relation to the defence of provocation, however understand and agree with what you have mentioned about provocation being used in the case of women facing abuse. The proposed peace bond process, however, could put victims at risk of further violence as the perpetrator is alerted to future court proceedings.
I am thankful that a dialogue is happening and feel that the only way we can honour and carry out the intention of the bill is through effective and respectful collaboration strategies as well as educational and awareness initiatives.