Before we vote on clause 9, I would like to speak to it, Mr. Chair.
Another aspect of Bill S-7 has given rise to controversy. Many witnesses said they were against the clause. First responders who deal with victims expressed their concerns. They fear that clause 9 will marginalize and further isolate victims. It's a risk.
Throughout the study, everyone agreed on the intent of the bill, but the intent is not enough. We need to look at the repercussions that each measure of a bill may have. If the true intent is to protect women and children, we have to vote against this clause and do a more in-depth study of the repercussions it may have before the bill is implemented.
I am not saying that I'm against criminalization. Of course, when a crime or an unacceptable act like a forced marriage occurs, a sentence must be imposed and punishment must occur. We need to demonstrate that such an act is unacceptable.
As for forced marriage, it is clear that one of the biggest problems with this is the secrecy surrounding it. Very few victims speak out and go through the legal system. What could we put in place to ensure that victims will be protected and obtain justice in court? That is not the outcome of clause 9 as worded.
If it were a clause that did not have a major impact, I would not oppose it. A number of witnesses said that the Criminal Code already contains all the provisions required to incarcerate individuals who commit an offence related to forced marriage. However, not only is clause 9 not without consequences, but it could very likely further marginalize the victims. These questions need to be raised. There is cause to discuss this again in greater detail.
We heard from a witness from the United Kingdom who had experience with these kinds of measures and legislation that had been implemented a few years ago. She told us that not only did these measure not have any impact on the number of denunciations or on the criminalization process of individuals committing an offence related to forced marriage, but there was also a drop in the number of individuals who denounced forced marriage.
What's even more important is that other countries have different measures than the ones set out in clause 9. The victims of these other countries have the choice between a civil path and a criminal path. Giving them this power provides them with more confidence to make a denunciation. The purpose is not necessarily to incarcerate the family and friends, but to protect the victim. We must always keep that in mind when studying a bill like this. It's not the intent that counts, but the potential impact on the victims. Will this clause make it possible to fight against forced marriages? Perhaps, but it will very likely harm the victims. I hope that the government has heard all these testimonies, that it is willing to come back to this debate later, and do a consultation and a more extensive study.
Such a bill must not be aimed at simply pleasing a voter base. The goal is not to show that we are concerned and that we are doing something about it. We need to be serious, which is not the case here. The only studies and consultations that took place were in the Senate committee and here. The experts shared their concerns with us. If we want this consultation to be of some use, we need to listen to these experts and do other, more extensive studies before moving forward with this bill.
I hope the message has been understood and that this study will serve a purpose. If this study were to serve a single purpose, it should be to ensure that this bill will not harm victims further. I am sure that this is not the government's goal. I am convinced that the government party does not want to marginalize, stigmatize or make victims more vulnerable.
That is not what I'm saying, but I hope that they have listened and have seriously considered the concerns that have been raised. This might be the right approach, but it might not and perhaps it will be harmful. So if we have even the shadow of a doubt that a measure like this might be harmful, we need to study it further.