Mr. Speaker, I stand with pleasure to speak to the bill. I would like to say at the outset that we are opposing the bill. My hon. colleagues across the way may likely fan the flames of fear and intolerance by using such rhetoric as to say we are in favour of forced marriages or polygamy, but I believe that Canadians will see through this distasteful practice and hear our objections for the reasoned and human positions that they take.
I will be addressing my remarks to the more human side of this issue. Using the word “cultural” in these days unfairly creates an image of “other”, “them”, and “those who are not us”. When we go as far as adding the word “barbaric” to “cultural”, on top of that, we go back directly to a time of colonialism, to a time when those others were referred to as savages, as barbarians.
We have an obligation as government to be responsible in the type of legislation we bring forward to the floor, and not only to the type of legislation, but to how we communicate that legislation, how we communicate the reason and the need for the proposed legislation. Calling any culture barbaric, directly or indirectly, is unforgivable
There may be, and there are, some individuals who either alone or in self-identifying groups may engage in violent and despicable acts, barbaric acts, but painting an entire culture with these acts, the acts of a few, has its own inherent dangers. We see this played out on a daily basis on the news where those people of culturally diverse communities are painted with the same brush as the acts of a few. It smacks of arrogance, and it is the same arrogance that fuelled those attitudes of an era that should be long gone.
Do we want to create a safe haven in this country for women and girls who might otherwise be threatened by forced and/or polygamous marriages and, yes, even some of the other distasteful and despicable acts, such as female genital mutilation? Yes, we want to be able to protect women and girls from these sorts of acts. Should we do so by threatening everybody under the sun with imprisonment, including the victims? No.
Canada has laws that prohibit these types of marriages and these types of acts, yet these laws are very seldom enforced. We need to ask ourselves why this is. In the same way that we needed to bring changes to our own laws in regard to domestic and sexual violence in order to make it safer for victims to come forward, we need to do the same thing for the victims of forced marriages, polygamy, and other barbaric acts. We need to create that protection for victims and potential victims of any and every culture, including our own, who may find themselves in these unacceptable situations.
Over the past little while, we have seen the climate of fear and division being created and exploited by the very people and institutions that should be at the forefront of bringing our nation together.
Bill S-7 with its short title, zero tolerance for barbaric cultural practices act, serves no purpose other than to inflame the fears, shortsightedness, and closed mindedness of a few individuals and brings into question the very nature of what it means to be Canadian.