House of Commons Hansard #268 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was billion.


Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.


Gary Anandasangaree Liberal Scarborough—Rouge Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, one of the things I find difficult to address is the issue of infrastructure within indigenous communities. In Canada today, in 2018, we are talking about not having a single community with a boil water advisory. Unfortunately, there are a lot of gaps in a lot of areas, including housing where we are behind.

This budget and previous budgets are attempts to close the gap, but we still have a long to go. I agree with my friend that we will have to get there, but there is still a long way to go. However, these are very important foundational pieces.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, a bill was put forward by the Liberal MP for Rivière-des-Mille-Îles on merchant fees. It has been moved 18 times. It is very important that we cap those fees. It took us a long time, two and a half years, for the government to start to honour its commitment to lower the small business tax cut, which was put forward by the late Jack Layton.

The government did nothing on tax havens and protected CEO stock option loopholes. This is a Bay Street budget. There is not a lot in it for small business.

Small business people were expecting that the government would cap merchant fees. It has been delayed 18 times. Could the member speak to what is happening with that bill? Are the Liberals finally going to cap merchant fees and protect small business people?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


Gary Anandasangaree Liberal Scarborough—Rouge Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is a mainstream budget. This is a budget that allows people in my riding of Scarborough—Rouge Park to benefit from the economic growth of our country through the Canada child benefit and other benefits that will allow for a more equitable country.

We have worked hard in the last two and a half years. This, being our third budget, is a great step forward in addressing the structural inequalities that exist in our country. I am very proud of it. I hope my friend opposite will support the budget.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is said that talk is cheap. That is not the case with the government. When it talks, it is very expensive.

Just yesterday, the finance minister spoke for about 40 minutes. During that time, he also, simultaneously, added $1.5 million to our national debt. That is either too much talking, too much spending, or both. Either way, there sure is a lot of debt piling up to pay for it.

The Prime Minister promised a small deficit of $6 billion during the last campaign. It is $18 billion for this year, three times bigger than he said it would be. He said the deficit would be gone by next year, 2019. Now his finance department has said it will be at least another quarter century of deficits, for a total reaching almost a half a trillion dollars, and that assumes the Liberals do not add any new spending in next year's pre-election budget. How likely is that?

The Liberals have tried to comfort us by saying that we should not worry about growing debt because all of the money that has come in from the growing U.S. economy, the higher oil prices, the booming global economy, will allow us to keep our debt-to-GDP ratio lower than it was before. Let us discuss some of the risks associated with that assumption.

The government is ignoring the overall debt that Canadians must shoulder. The debt of the government is the debt of the people. There is no special debt-repayment machine that can service the interest on Canada's national debt, other than the taxpaying entrepreneurs and workers who pay the bills in the country. When it comes to their debt levels, there is very bad news. Canada has the highest levels of household debt-to-income ratios in the OECD. In fact, when we take the corporate, personal, and government debt of Canada and add it together, it is 300% the size of our entire economy, which is, this month, for the first time ever, the biggest in the OECD. We have now surpassed Greece as the most overall indebted people in the entire OECD.

What does that mean? It means that when interest rates go up, our families, our businesses, and our governments will be under a great deal of pressure.

The government has not planned for that eventuality. Rather, it has taken the good fortune it inherited, both in terms of a balanced budget on the day that it walked into the Prime Minister's Office at the Langevin Block and the unusual and almost unnatural coexistence of favourable international economic conditions for Canada. Let me share a few of them that normally do not ever go together.

We have both a low dollar and high oil prices. Oil prices have nearly doubled in the last three years, while the dollar has remained low. Therefore, we have a boost for our western producers, albeit one that is held back by a lack of market access, and a price advantage for our central Canadian manufacturing exporters. Very rarely do those two things simultaneously occur. We have a booming U.S. and world economy, yet we still have low interest rates. Again, those do not typically go together. However, in this very brief window they do.

Unfortunately, it will not stay that way. Already interest rates are going up south of the border. Just since September, the interest rate on the two-year U.S. government bond has nearly doubled, from about 1.2% to about 2.2%. That does not sound like a big deal. However, it means that the cost of borrowing for that government has gone up dramatically.

If bondholders want to lend to government and can get more interest from the government in Washington, they are going to demand more interest from the government in Ottawa. This means that Canadians would pay higher taxes to fund interest payments to those who lend to fund the government.

Simultaneously, interest rates on consumer debt are slowly starting to creep up. Interest rates on mortgage debt are slowly starting to increase. Our businesses will soon have to pay more for the debt they hold as a result of that ongoing phenomenon. The same taxpayers who are struggling under a burden of unprecedented and unmatched personal debt will simultaneously have to shoulder, through their taxation to the government, higher debt interest so that the Prime Minister can fund interest payments to bondholders.

Over the next five years, according to this budget, which is based on, I would suggest, very irresponsible projections over what interest costs will be, the government is going to be spending $9 billion more on debt interest in the year 2022 than it is today. Even if we believe those projections, that is an increase in the interest expense of the government of well over 35%. The cost of funding the debt will be $33 billion per year. That is money taxpayers contribute for which they get literally nothing in return. It goes out the door to lenders who have financed this short-term spending spree by the present-day government.

That assumes that there will be no sudden and unexpected increase in interest rates, which we have every reason to suspect there might be. If the rates go up faster than Finance Canada expects, then those numbers I just shared with the House will actually be an underestimation.

The second risk the government is failing to consider, the first being higher interest rates, is that this budget has left no room to address some of the obvious dangers that are staring all of us in the face. We are in the process of renegotiating a trade agreement with our number one customer. We sell $400 billion in goods and services to the United States of America, the equivalent of one-fifth of our entire economy. We have a $2-trillion economy, and we sell $400 billion to the Americans.

Imagine running a small business and learning that it might be losing its biggest client, who is responsible for one-fifth of all the company's revenue. Would we go out on a big borrowing binge at that moment in time, or would we stabilize our finances and prepare for the eventuality that the client, who has proven to be unpredictable, as is the relationship we currently have with our biggest customer, may no longer be buying our goods in the same numbers it has in the past? There is nothing in this budget to plan for that negative eventuality, even though we all acknowledge, even the government, if it is being honest, that the NAFTA negotiations are going badly and could finish with disastrous consequences for our economy.

We have massive housing bubbles in Toronto and Vancouver, a third danger for which the government is not preparing. If there were a significant correction in housing prices, it would affect the construction industry. It would mean that the net worth of households in those markets would dramatically decline. In some cases, they might be underwater on their mortgages. In other words, their homes could be worth less than the mortgages themselves. All of that would mean a big hit to federal government revenues and to the ability of the government to meet its own obligations, or, more importantly, to provide some relief to those families if such an eventuality were to occur. However, that danger is not accounted for in these numbers either.

It is like the government is assuming that the sunny ways will never be replaced by rainy days. It has done nothing to prepare for that rainy day. Instead of setting aside and squirrelling away our resources to prepare for trouble ahead, the Liberals have blown them in the present. They have spent tomorrow today.

That brings me to the final point I want to make on the subject of debt. We just heard a Liberal member across the way talk about social deficits and all these social shortcomings that need to be addressed. Of course, the Liberal solution to that is always more and more government, trickle-down government, the idea that it can scoop up all the tax dollars of the working class and the entrepreneurs. Politicians give it to bureaucrats and bureaucrats to interest groups, or, in the form of corporate welfare, to companies. The hope is that some of this money will trickle back down through the system to the very people who earned it in the first place.

Let us assume that there is a problem with social inequality in this country. How would a larger national debt affect those inequalities? Who holds the bonds in the Government of Canada? Are they the poor people, the suffering, the downtrodden? Are they even the aspiring and struggling working class? Of course not. Bonds in governments are overwhelmingly held by more affluent, and even rich, people. That is why we will always hear international bankers recommending that governments go into deficit. It makes perfect sense for them. They are the ones lending the money and getting the interest. They receive interest payments. The working class pays them. In that sense, debt interest is a wealth transfer. It is a form of redistribution from the working class to the super-rich.

By expanding the national debt, the government is carrying out a massive multi-billion dollar transfer from the have-nots to the have-yachts, from those with the least to those with the most. Once again we see that when government gets big, when the wealth of the nation is concentrated in the state, those with power and influence over the state always win or are always better off.

We on this side of the House of Commons believe in a merit-driven economy, where people get ahead through their hard work, where the free enterprise system allows everyone to do better by making everyone else better, a system where people make decisions with their own money rather than with the money of others.

It is a great irony that our friends across the way, who subscribe to seventies-style central planning, think that people should not be trusted with their own money but that a person should be trusted with other people's money. Who the Liberals want to control other people's money is always them. It is a self-serving and egotistical ideology to which they subscribe.

We on this side subscribe to a view that requires humility of government. We understand that the people who earn the money should keep the money rather than having politicians use the power of coercive taxation to extract it from them and spend it on their behalf. Simply put, as my leader has, we believe in putting people ahead of government in a system in which no one can get ahead except by making people better off by offering them something that is worth more than they had to pay to get it.

That is the free market system, and in reinstating that great free market tradition in this country, not only can we give everyone a chance to succeed but we can replace this notion of a modern-day aristocracy through big government with the notion of a meritocracy through the free market.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

Spadina—Fort York Ontario


Adam Vaughan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families

Madam Speaker, it is always interesting to listen to the member opposite. He is clearly a very humorous presenter in the House. We welcome his rhetorical flourishes.

I would like him to reflect on a couple of things. Three-quarters of the national debt was generated by two Conservative prime ministers. They outdid everyone else. On debt, they really overachieved. I am curious as to whether the member is considering resigning from the party as a result of that horrid financial record.

The other thing I am really curious to have him flesh out and provide some more detail on is the notion of the housing market suddenly correcting in places like Vancouver, a situation none of us wants to see. The Conservatives talked about the enormous financial responsibility of a federal government to bail out individual homeowners. Is it the Conservatives' policy now to protect individual home prices for every single Canadian? Is that part of their fiscal plan for the future? Is that really what they are promising as a result of what they have heard in the budget?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.


Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Madam Speaker, let us address the first question, on the culpability of Canada's national debt. I believe if the hon. member looks back on the record, the largest share of our national debt would be rung up by one family. Consider that for a few moments. Secondly—

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

An hon. member

Who would that be?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.


Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Madam Speaker, I would rather not say the name because that family has a member in the House of Commons these days and it would be unparliamentary for me to name him. However, I believe that family has done more to build up Canada's national debt and thereby enrich the wealthy bondholders who collect interest on it than anyone else. I am sure that family gets regular Christmas cards from those bondholders, thanking them for all of that debt.

The member wants to talk about the housing market. No, we do not believe in bailouts. In fact, we have taken the opposite position. The Liberals want to bring in a bailout system through the infrastructure bank, which would require taxpayers to bail out large corporate construction investors in the event that their projects go belly-up. We are not the party of bailouts; they are the party of bailouts.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.


Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Madam Speaker, this budget sure does not look like the main-street budget that the government was calling for. It looks like the Bay Street budget. In fact, the Liberals failed to follow through with their promise to close CEO stock option loopholes costing Canadians almost a billion dollars, and tax havens are costing upward of $11 billion. We are talking about $12 billion that could have gone to really important initiatives.

My friend from Carleton talked about people who are struggling to make ends meet, people who are hard-working, and how we can make life better for them. Twenty-one years ago, the Liberal government talked about creating a pharmacare plan. Here we are, and they are talking about creating a plan to create a plan to create a pharmacare plan. That is not good enough. We know that we are the only country in the world with a universal health care plan that does not have a pharmacare plan. In fact, CBC reported last night that we are spending about $158 per person on medicine. In New Zealand, where they have a plan, it is $23 per person per annum. Maybe the member can speak about whether the Conservatives support a pharmacare plan. I am sure he has knocked on doors where people are making the tough decision of whether they are going to buy food or medicine.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.


Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Madam Speaker, this is something I have thought a lot about. We have in this country different provincial programs that offer drug plans to people who are of limited means. Some of them require that people be on social assistance. Others, like in British Columbia, are phased out very gradually as people earn more income. There is no doubt that in many provinces the clawbacks of drug benefits, of housing benefits, and of social assistance combined with taxation create marginal effective tax rates on the poorest people that can often exceed 100%. That is, for every extra dollar they earn, they actually lose more than a dollar. This is a particularly pernicious problem for people with disabilities.

That is why I have introduced the opportunity for workers with disabilities act, which would require the finance minister to do an assessment every year of how much people with disabilities are losing for every dollar they earn, and if they are losing more than gaining, then the minister would be required to introduce measures through the working income tax benefit, the disability tax credit, or others in order to redress that problem. It would further create a condition in the Canadian social transfer program that provinces do the same because we must all agree that work should always pay more and we should reward people for making the courageous decision to work.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.


Michael Chong Conservative Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Madam Speaker, the Minister of Finance in his speech said, “Canada leads all the other [group of seven] countries in economic growth”. That is not an accurate reflection of what is actually happening on the ground. It is not an accurate reflection of what ordinary Canadians feel. It is not an accurate reflection of the growth that actually matters to the constituents we represent here on the floor of the House of Commons.

Here is why. The GDP growth numbers that the government used in the budget do not take into account population growth, and Canada has one of the most rapidly growing populations in the G7 and in the OECD. In 2016, we had 1.2% population growth. If a country has 5% GDP growth but it has 6% population growth, it actually has declining per capita incomes and increasing poverty. Therefore, with a 1.2% population growth, here are the per capita GDP numbers based on the budget: in 2018, 1%; in 2019, 0.4%; and in 2020, 0.5%.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.


Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Madam Speaker, the member is quite right. What actually matters to the well-being of any country is not simply the top line economic growth, but the per capita growth, because that is the amount of money in which all of the members of the country can share.

The government has been trumpeting last year's growth numbers, while failing to acknowledge that the vast majority of the causes for the growth are transient and temporary. One is that oil prices have basically doubled since 2014. Oil is roughly 6% of our economy. If we double the price of oil, members can imagine how that could influence the overall growth in the economy. We continue to have a sugar high from the overpriced housing sector, which is fuelled largely by debt. Finally, the American economy has been roaring, something that might not necessarily be to our advantage if NAFTA falls apart, or if the American economy decides to stumble again.

Those are all transient short-term benefits, and that is why the government ought to have done the responsible thing and used the resulting revenue boost to strengthen our foundation for the storm that may be coming at any time. Instead, the government has blown that fortune and left Canada more vulnerable than ever to risk.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

It being 5:49 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's Order Paper.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members’ Business

5:50 p.m.


John Aldag Liberal Cloverdale—Langley City, BC

moved that Bill S-210, An Act to amend An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Civil Marriage Act and the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, I am grateful to have the opportunity to speak on Bill S-210.

Bill S-210 is a straightforward piece of legislation. It proposes to repeal the short title found in section 1 of Bill S-7, an act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Civil Marriage Act and the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to other acts. The only thing that is affected through Bill S-210 is the removal of the short title.

Bill S-210 was introduced by Senator Mobina Jaffer and having passed third reading in the other place is now before this House for consideration and debate.

Bill S-7 received royal assent on June 18, 2015, with the short title of “Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act”. It is this short title that the bill before us today proposes to repeal.

As my colleagues may be aware, the act that we are proposing to amend today strengthened efforts to prevent early and forced marriage and to better protect and support vulnerable Canadians, particularly immigrant women and girls. Bill S-7 also inappropriately and unnecessarily paired the words “barbaric” and “cultural” so as to suggest that practices such as forced marriages and polygamy were rooted in cultures external to Canada. In reality, Canada is faced with many of the issues which Bill S-7 sought to address irrespective of any particular culture. Ultimately, the use of the phrase “barbaric cultural practices” was used by the previous Conservative government as a tool of division, and we are presented with an opportunity, and I might say even a duty to fix this.

As Senator Jaffer stated, “What this title implies is simply the recompartmentalizing of things that are already illegal in Canada to attempt to reframe it as though a specific culture promotes these practices and, therefore, to claim that the culture is barbaric.”

During the parliamentary review process, stakeholders, senators, members of Parliament, committee witnesses, and the media criticized the short title. Stakeholders as diverse as the Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children and the Metro Toronto Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic opposed the short title stating that it would create divisions within Canadian society by targeting certain communities.

Avvy Go, the director of the Metro Toronto Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic, stated during her testimony to the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration that the title “invokes racist stereotypes and fuels xenophobia toward certain racialized communities”. She further went on to say that it “detracts from Canadians having a real and honest discussion about domestic violence and from seeing domestic violence for what it really is, namely, an issue of gender inequality and not an issue of cultural identity”.

Further, representatives from the Canadian Bar Association and the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants raised similar concerns about the divisiveness of the short title. Noted immigration lawyer Chantal Desloges also stated that the short title “deters citizens from engaging in meaningful discussion of the bill’s actual content”. Dr. Rupaleem Bhuyan, a professor at the University of Toronto’s faculty of social work, also pointed out at committee hearings that the title is “misleading from the serious issues that this bill seeks to address”, and recommended instead attention on promoting gender equality, which is something this government has high on our issues of importance.

Former minister of immigration, refugees, and citizenship, the Hon. John McCallum, who was the Liberal immigration critic during debate on Bill S-7, spoke to the bill's short title in the previous Parliament. On the use of the word “cultural” he said:

That word is both offensive and unnecessary. We on this side of the House agree that these practices are barbaric, so we do not object at all to the use of that word. When one inserts the word “cultural”, it carries the implication that there are certain cultures, certain communities that are being targeted. Whether that is in the minds of the Conservatives is something we can debate, but it certainly carries that implication across the country. There is no reason to force that implication to be carried, because as has been pointed out, in terms of polygamy and other barbaric practices, they are certainly not limited to any one community.

He further went on to express:

I do not think the word “cultural” adds anything. It certainly does not add anything to the content of this bill, and it is misleading in that it carries the implication in the minds of some Canadians that this bill is targeting their particular culture or community.

These are just a few examples of voices that spoke out about the short title. As you can see, many individuals and organizations share similar sentiments.

In fact, Mr. McCallum had proposed an amendment to the bill at committee stage that would have seen the word “cultural” removed from its title. The amendment was rejected.

Even Senator Salma Ataullahjan, the original sponsor of Bill S-7, supports removal of the short title. As she put it during debate at third reading:

When I spoke to Bill S-210 at second reading, I affirmed my strong support of Bill S-7 and its intent. However, I also fervently expressed my opposition to its short title, which, in my view, is incendiary and deeply harmful, as it targets a cultural group as a whole rather than individuals who commit the specific acts.

The inappropriate pairing of “barbaric” and “cultural” in order to fuel racist and xenophobic attitudes is not who we are as Canadians. Quite frankly, these attitudes and the impressions that this short title perpetuates have no place in Canadian society.

The phrase “barbaric cultural practices” was used by the former Conservative government to divide Canadians. As were many Canadians, I too was disgusted when the Conservatives announced their so-called barbaric cultural practices hotline, which was a thinly veiled attempt to appeal to the worst in Canadians, an attempt to sow fear of others that would have had Canadians snitching on one another.

This is not who we are as Canadians. We have heard that clearly from Canadians. Such practices are not healthy for democracy. They result in divisiveness and mistrust, and perpetuate discrimination and intolerance.

Today, we have an opportunity to fix an expression of these attitudes in the form of Bill S-7's short title. I am hopeful that all members in this place will join me in supporting the repeal of the short title. Bill S-210 reflects our commitment to openness, acceptance, and generosity in Canada's immigration policies. It reflects our commitment to common sense, and a Canada that does not purposely use inaccurate and inflammatory language to divide us. Of course, it also reflects our commitment to protecting vulnerable individuals in Canada, particularly women and children.

As the Prime Minister has said on numerous occasions, diversity is our strength. Canadians understand this. We know that Canada has succeeded, culturally, politically, and economically, because of our diversity, not in spite of it. Diversity has been, and will continue to be at the heart of our success and of what we offer the world.

The success of immigrants is our success as a strong and united country. As the member of Parliament for Cloverdale—Langley City, I am proud to represent a diverse and inclusive population. Our communities are home to Christians and Sikhs, Buddhists and Muslims, first nations and newcomers.

Canada is a modern nation rooted in principles of multiculturalism and diversity. At our core we understand that our different backgrounds, beliefs, and heritage truly make us stronger. They contribute to a cultural tapestry that enhances our collective identity and signals to the world that Canada is an open and welcoming nation.

Canada is a nation of newcomers, and we know that when newcomers succeed, Canada succeeds. I am proud to be a member of a government which welcomed over 40,000 Syrian newcomers during one of the worst humanitarian crises of our time. In this act, we demonstrated leadership on the world stage as a progressive, inclusive nation. Resettling refugees is a proud and important part of Canada's humanitarian tradition. It reflects our commitment to Canadians and demonstrates to the world that we have a shared responsibility to help people who are displaced and persecuted.

To play different religious, ethnic, or cultural groups off of one another is simply wrong. It is reflective of a style of politics that Canadians soundly rejected in the last election. Conflating abhorrent practices like polygamy with particular cultures does a disservice to the inclusive and welcoming attitudes that we as Canadians work hard to foster. It inaccurately suggests that these practices are ascribed to particular cultures.

As Senator Jaffer has said, “We can call terrorists barbaric, we can call violence barbaric, but we cannot call cultures barbaric.”

Our words matter, and in this place, they have consequences with implications resonating across our country. The words we use reflect our intentions and the type of nation we want to build as Canadians, as well as a reflection of what we offer to the world.

The strength of our new Canadians is what makes us stronger, and we must be vigilant that our actions and words reflect the openness that our country is known for.

Bill S-210 is straightforward. It would remove a short title that was seen as promoting division and intolerance, and as targeting specific communities. There are no substantive changes to any of the legislation. It is simply the removal of the short title.

I truly encourage all my hon. colleagues to support the bill and to work together to foster an open, generous, tolerant, and inclusive Canada.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members’ Business

6 p.m.


Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Madam Speaker, it is high time this work were done. We just came out of debate on budget 2018. In the budget, there was mention of a need for a national action plan to combat racial discrimination and all forms of religious discrimination. To that end, there will be a consultation process the government will embark on. I would like to ask the member whether he would agree that we need to have a timeline on the consultation so we can actually get to the action part of the issue, which is to fight systemic discrimination and all forms of religious discrimination.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members’ Business

6 p.m.


John Aldag Liberal Cloverdale—Langley City, BC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for her advocacy for immigrant communities and those who are disenfranchised in Canadian society. She poses an excellent question. We do want to move to action as quickly as possible. There are issues in society. I am really pleased to see that our budget has committed support to move us forward. I agree that we need to get through the planning and exploration stages as quickly as possible so we can get to the action and help those in need, and advance the very cause she spoke about in her question.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members’ Business

February 28th, 2018 / 6 p.m.


Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, my hon. colleague from Cloverdale—Langley City was not in the 41st Parliament, where I argued vigorously against this bill. This was not a piece of legislation. The title was a bumper sticker in search of a problem. What the legislation did, from start to finish, was redundant to existing laws.

In this very place, I can recall asking why we would pass a law like the Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act. The minister at the time was Chris Alexander. He would thump his desk and say that he was appalled that the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands would not speak out against mercy killings. Mercy killings have been illegal forever. It is called murder.

The things that are in this bill are things that were already illegal. I would urge us to remove the short title, but further, I would ask us to repeal the entire bill.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members’ Business

6 p.m.


John Aldag Liberal Cloverdale—Langley City, BC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands for her work during the last Parliament in trying to bring some reason to the debate that was happening at that time. I know many Canadians were horrified by the actions and words put forward. It really was divisive. As a Canadian who was outside politics at the time, I was horrified with the kind of conversation that was being advanced through the House of Commons.

We have an opportunity to do it right. Bill S-210 is the first step. It would remove the short title, which really is inflammatory and serves no purpose.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members’ Business

6:05 p.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the member for an excellent and very thoughtful speech, and for making the important point of uncoupling inappropriate actions from specific cultures.

The last member who spoke brought up the budget. I wonder if he could comment on the increase for multiculturalism to help promote groups with each other.

We just had a multiculturalism group meeting in my riding last year. They were all so excited to be together, and they want to do it again. They are part of the solution. I hope everyone in the House uses the various multicultural groups who want to work together and diffuse any tensions there might be in Canada. That is why it is such a great country.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members’ Business

6:05 p.m.


John Aldag Liberal Cloverdale—Langley City, BC

Madam Speaker, I agree that the investments in multiculturalism our government made in the budget this week are a continued reflection of the importance that Canada's diversity offers. It is the strength of our country. Investing in this and celebrating it would help us find inclusiveness, not the divisiveness we saw through previous legislation that we are attempting to amend and fix through Bill S-210.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members’ Business

6:05 p.m.


Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill S-210, an act to amend an act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Civil Marriage Act and the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

The bill we are debating today does nothing but change the short title of the bill that was passed in Parliament a year ago. Let us think about that for a moment. We are debating a bill which its entire purpose is to delete a short title.

When I went door-knocking in 2015, not a single person said that they hoped I could go to Ottawa so I could spend my time debating the changing of a title of a bill. Anyone listening to this debate will probably wonder why Parliament has chosen to spend debate time, committee study time, and so many other aspects of its resources on a bill that does so little.

I could spend my time arguing that this is becoming a hallmark of the Liberal government. It spends far more time, effort, and Canadian taxpayers on gestures rather than taking concrete actions to address challenges facing Canadians. Yesterday's budget is a perfect example of that.

Instead, I will set the context for the reason why Bill S-7 in the last Parliament was necessary and then review the concrete measures that the bill enacted to protect Canadians.

The bill was put forward by our former Conservative government to take action to prevent forced marriage and the so-called honour killings. A British website describes forced marriage as taking place when the bride, groom, or both do not want to get married but are forced by others, usually their families. People forced into marriage may be tricked into going abroad, physically threatened, and/or emotionally blackmailed to do so. Forced marriage is wrong and cannot be justified on any religious or cultural basis. It is a form of violence and/or child abuse and it is a violation of human rights.

Forced marriage also often involves children and young girls. Child marriage often compromises a girl's development by resulting in early pregnancy and social isolation, interrupting her schooling, limiting her opportunities for career and vocational advancement, and placing her at increased risk of domestic violence.

In June 2017, a Canadian woman named Samra Zafar gave her account to CTV news on why it was so important for us to take action to prevent forced marriage in Canada. I am going to share her story from the article.

She said she was just 16 years old when her mother told her she would be marrying a 28-year-old man in Canada. Think about that, 16 years old and being forced into marriage with a 28-year-old. Against her wishes, Zafar left her Pakistani family's home in the United Arab Emirates and started a new life with her husband in Mississauga.

Over the next decade, she said she endured abuse of all kinds as she raised two daughters and tried desperately to obtain a university degree so she could get out of her marriage. She eventually succeeded and is now speaking out about other child brides and forced marriage, a problem she says is prevalent, even in Canada.

Zafar said, “It’s actually shocking how much it happens here...Since I have started speaking up about it, I get approached by women and girls all the time.”

Forcing very young girls into marriage is a serious global problem. In Canada, marriage laws vary among provinces and territories, with the legal age of marriage generally set at 18. However, in many provinces, a person with consent from both parents can be married at age 16 or 17.

Saadya Hamdani of Plan Canada said, “Those exceptions can lead to forced marriage because the bride’s consent is not explicitly sought...The cultural value that is attached to marriage is a very big problem.”

It is estimated that each year 15 million girls around the world are married before the age of 18. In September 2013, the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario released a report that counted 219 confirmed or suspected cases of forced marriage in Ontario and Quebec in just two years. In 57% of the cases, people were taken out of Canada to get married.

As Canadians, we are moving toward a space of true equality of persons. This means freedom of choice for individuals. It means protecting the vulnerable. It means working toward a Canada where men and women are not forced into situations that result in a lifetime of harm and devastation.

Our former Conservative government knew that Canada was not immune to this issue and took concrete action to help prevent this from happening with Bill S-7. It was created to protect vulnerable men and women from the cultural practices of forced marriage, to protect them from the many consequences such as mental health issues, sexual assault, verbal and emotional abuse, and many others.

To give an overview of the original Bill S-7, I want to highlight a few of the key components.

We amended the existing offence for a legally authorized officiant who knowingly solemnized a marriage contrary to provincial law. To clarify that. this also includes a marriage that was contrary to federal law, including a forced marriage or a marriage under the age of 16.

We created a new offence prohibiting the active and knowing participation in a forced marriage ceremony by any person, including parents or other family members of the person being forced to marry, or the performance of a forced marriage ceremony, whether or not the person is legally authorized to solemnize a marriage.

We created a new offence prohibiting the active and knowing participation in a marriage ceremony involving a person under the age of 16 by any person, including parents or other family members of the person who is underage, or the performance of an underage marriage ceremony, whether or not the person is legally authorized to solemnize a wedding.

We also extended the existing offence of removing a child from Canada for the purpose of having certain offences committed abroad to include the removal of a child for the purpose of a forced marriage or a marriage under the age of 16 outside of Canada.

We introduced a new peace bond that gives the court power to impose conditions on a person when there are reasonable grounds to fear that a forced marriage or a marriage under the age of 16 will otherwise occur.

Bill S-7 also amended the Criminal Code to address concerns that the defence of provocation has been raised in several so-called honour killings in Canada. These cases involved accused persons who killed their wife, sister, or sister's fiancé and alleged that the killing was motivated by their perception that the victims had brought dishonour to their family through their conduct or choices, taking into account their cultural views about appropriate gender roles and behaviour.

Prior to Bill S-7, the defence of provocation allowed persons to commit first-degree murder but seek the more lenient charge of manslaughter by arguing that the victim's conduct provoked them to lose self-control and commit the murder. Prior to Bill S-7, any conduct by the victim, including insults and other forms of offensive behaviour that are lawful, could potentially qualify as provocation if it was found to be sufficient to cause an ordinary person to lose control, if the accused was not expecting it, and if the killing was sudden. Bill S-7 limited the defence of provocation so that the lawful conduct by victims that might be perceived by the accused as an insult, or offend that person or that person's sense of family honour or reputation, could not be used to reduce murder to manslaughter.

From an immigration point of view, the original bill ensures that all who are vulnerable to forced marriage will be protected, from those who are newest to our country to those who are born in Canada.

The fact that the Liberals just want to change the name of the bill but not change any form or substance of the bill affirms that they agree with our previous Conservative government's approach to Bill S-7.

All these changes are common sense and have the potential to save lives, which is what the Liberal government should be spending its time doing. However, the bill we are debating today is another example of the government wasting time while trying to appear progressive through the amendment of a bill made by the Conservatives.

The bill before us today, Bill S-210, does nothing to help solve serious societal problems created by forced marriages and so-called honour killings. Instead, it could be argued that it seeks to distort public understanding of the severity of the impact of issues such as forced marriage and so-called honour killings, by arguing over how harshly we should denounce these practices.

These are typical Liberal tactics, placing before the rights of victims the feelings of those who hold the abhorrent attitude that practices such as these are tolerable. That is why our previous Conservative government put in place Bill S-7 to protect vulnerable Canadians, yet here is the priority of the Liberal government, standing here arguing semantics instead of discussing real change to prevent crimes like forced marriage from happening. How reprehensible. How very Liberal.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members’ Business

6:15 p.m.


Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to speak to Bill S-210. This bill has quite a long, full title, but seeks to do just one small thing, an important thing, which is to repeal the short title of former Bill S-7.

My New Democrat colleagues and I wholeheartedly support this initiative. Words matter, and when crafting legislation in this place, they matter even more. The words members of this place use, and the words used to craft the laws of a country, set a tone and an example for Canadians. We must always keep that responsibility in mind, and we must always take it very seriously.

I was glad to see Senator Jaffer take on this initiative, encouraged by the broad support it received in the Senate, and happy that the member for Cloverdale—Langley City sponsored this bill in the House of Commons.

Choosing to title Bill S-7 the “Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act” was just that, an intentional choice. This choice was one New Democrats saw at the time as irresponsible at best and dangerous dog-whistle politics at worst. The NDP attempted to change this title during Bill S-7's committee study, but the former Conservative government's minister of immigration had already announced that he would not consider any amendments to the bill.

It is with great privilege that I have held the role as NDP critic for immigration, refugees, and citizenship, as well as multiculturalism, and it is through my time in these roles that I have had the opportunity to understand just how important small initiatives like repealing this inappropriate short title are.

Today, we are faced with a global migration crisis. The United Nations estimates there are over 65 million people forcibly displaced, a level not seen since World War II. Not only are the humanitarian actions we, as Canadians, take to address these global challenges important, but so too are the words we use when discussing it. At the height of the Syrian refugee crisis, many European nations were closing their doors to asylum seekers fleeing a brutal civil war. Anti-immigrant, anti-refugee, and anti-Muslim rhetoric had truly taken hold in some places. This was pushed in many corners by far-right nationalist political movements. They discredited the idea of the Syrians fleeing this war, one where we have seen intentional targeting of civilians with barrel bombs and chemical weapons, as economic migrants trying to jump the queue. The rhetoric was effective.

As I have said in the House before, I was shocked to read the quote from our own Prime Minister on November 23 when he took that rhetoric regarding the irregular bordering crossing situation, stating that would-be Canadians needed more than just a desire for a better economic future if they expected to be granted refugee status in this country. Words matter.

Given the rise globally in anti-immigrant and anti-refugee rhetoric, as Canadians and especially as parliamentarians, we must do more than just rest on our humanitarian laurels to prevent these ideas from taking hold here. Canada has thus far gone against the trend and we need to work hard to keep it that way. This is important because not only does it shape how we respond to those outside our borders, but how we treat members of our own communities.

I was troubled to see that police-reported hate crimes in Canada continued to rise from 2015 to 2016. In 2016, there were over 1,400 hate crimes reported to police, and 48% of those were motived by hatred of a race or ethnicity. The short title of Bill S-7 shamefully attempted to reframe crimes committed by individuals as normal practices of so-called barbaric cultures. At the time Bill S-7 was tabled, many Canadians saw this as being targeted towards Muslim Canadians.

In my opinion, it was also clear during the Canadian heritage committee's study of systemic racism and religious discrimination that there is a clear segment of our society that is continuing the push to denigrate the culture and heritage of Muslim Canadians. I believe this can unfortunately be seen in our hate crime statistics too.

In 2016, Arab or west Asian Canadians were the target of 112 hate crimes and Muslim Canadians were the target of 139 hate crimes. Combined, this represents 18% of all police reported hate crimes.

While I and my colleagues support Bill S-210, we believe there is much more to be done. Words matter but so do actions.

Coming out of the heritage committee study, New Democrats supported the report tabled in the House and its recommendations for taking action against systemic racism and religious discrimination, including lslamophobia. However, we believed still more could be done. As the NDP representative, I tabled a supplementary report, containing an additional 29 recommendations aimed toward making Canada a more just, fair, and inclusive place.

I was pleased to see in the budget tabled yesterday, a commitment and a recognition for a new national anti-racism plan and a plan to deal with religious discrimination. However, I was disappointed that once again the government was merely committing to consultation.

Words matter but so do actions.

The heritage committee met 22 times over the course of that study, hearing from 78 witnesses, receiving countless written submissions, tabling a 130-page report. The report's first four recommendations outlined how to get moving on a renewed national action plan with a timeline, resources, and measurable outcomes. I hope this consultation process is not going to be a long drawn out one. I hope at the end of the process it will yield a concrete plan that is resourced.

We have seen time and again a pattern of behaviour from the government. It likes to consult but the follow up, not so much.

We have seen that movie played out with electoral reform, which Canadians overwhelming have said they wanted a system where every vote counts. The government decided to ignore all that good advice and the Prime Minister made a unilateral decision to break his own promise to Canadians that the 2015 election would be the last first past the post election.

Worst still, the Prime Minister thumbed his nose at Canadians who participated in the many town halls that many MPs held in their communities and the extensive consultation process on which an all-party committee embarked. Members will excuse me if I am just a little skeptical whenever the government says that it will consult.

We heard loud and clear during the study about the rise of hate crime incidents in Canada. Witnesses said that immediate action should be taken to provide improved training and education to Canada's law enforcement agencies to better understand and recognize when hate was a motivating factor in the commission of a crime. We need to ensure that provinces and territories are resourced with proper hate crime units. The government could do this now. Action matters.

We also heard about under-reporting of hate crime incidents to authorities, often out of fear by victims that they would not be taken seriously. Under-reporting of hate crime incidents is a known fact. The government needs to ensure barriers are removed for victims to come forward. Resourcing a hotline in collaboration with community groups would have done just that. However, that was not part of budget 2018.

Canadians do not want to see victims of hate crime and systemic discrimination to continue to suffer silently. Action matters.

What we also know is that hate is a learned behaviour. We must do more as a society to counter those who teach and promote hate and division.

Given the current climate and the increase in hateful and anti-immigrant rhetoric across the developed world, Canada cannot rest on its laurels when it comes to diversity and inclusion. To ensure that Canada continues to go against those trends, investments must be made in our newcomer communities to ensure they can integrate successfully and thrive. We need to build on the hard work of community groups by investing and supporting organizations that work to strengthen community involvement, civic inclusion, and to develop community leaders. Action matters.

Let us get on with it, with love and courage.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members’ Business

6:25 p.m.

Acadie—Bathurst New Brunswick


Serge Cormier LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Immigration

Madam Speaker, I rise this evening in support of Bill S-210, which seeks to repeal the short title of Bill S-7, the Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act.

The purpose of the bill that we are proposing to amend is to prevent early and forced marriage. It also seeks to better protect and support vulnerable Canadians, especially immigrant women and girls.

However, the short title of Bill S-7 has been harshly criticized by stakeholders, senators, members of the House of Commons, witnesses called to appear before committee, and the media. These groups argue that the short title could divide Canadian society by targeting certain communities. At issue is the use of the adjective “barbaric” in the short title of Bill S-7.

Our government believes that it is an inflammatory word that could be quite divisive. Its use could instill fear of certain immigrant groups and divert attention from the main purpose of the bill, which is to protect all women, regardless of their cultural origins.

As a result, people in Canada who defend the rights of victims of forced marriage are calling for this amendment. They believe that the bill should have a more neutral title that reflects the bill's content, rather than one that is emotionally charged.

Some people have pointed out that the title could prevent Canadians from having a truly honest discussion on family violence. Others have criticized the title because it prevents meaningful discussion on the actual content of the bill. Major concerns about the title have been raised by many individuals and organizations.

Our government's support for Bill S-210 demonstrates our commitment to the values of openness, tolerance, and generosity in the Canadian immigration system. It demonstrates our commitment to accuracy and to avoiding terminology that could be seen as misleading, inflammatory, or divisive. Finally, it demonstrates our commitment to protecting vulnerable people in Canada, particularly women and children.

The Prime Minister and the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship often say that Canada values diversity and has succeeded culturally, politically, and economically because of our diversity, not in spite of it. This diversity is key to our success and to what we offer to the world.

The short title of Bill S-7 refers to practices that are already illegal in Canada and tries to present them in a new way that implies that one culture in particular promotes those practices and is therefore barbaric. That is inappropriate.

The adjective “barbaric” conjures up images from the colonial era, when the word “barbarian” was used in a negative way to describe some people from other cultures who were seen as strange and uncivilized.

When one culture feels a sense of moral superiority over another, it only serves to divide our society. That feeling fuels xenophobia and is destructive, particularly in this era of growing globalization.

Barbaric acts are not restricted to any one culture, race, ethnicity, or gender. Violence is not perpetrated solely on women who belong to particular cultures, which is why such actions are already illegal in Canada. The bill's short title should be amended because it presents violent acts in a way that suggests certain specific cultures promote them and that those cultures are therefore barbaric.

Keeping the short title affects how Canadians' attitudes and our work as legislators are perceived. This kind of title suggests once again that we should focus only on certain communities rather than fight violence wherever it may be.

I would like to see members of Parliament excise such insinuations from the wording of our laws. As elected representatives, it is our duty not to perpetuate misguided notions and hostile language that can influence Canadian society.

The success of newcomers from diverse backgrounds who settle in Canada contributes to our success as a strong, united country. However, we must take care that the language we use, especially the language we use to describe our laws, reflects the openness for which Canada is known the world over.

In closing, our government supports Bill S-210 to repeal the short title of the act, which may be perceived as promoting divison and intolerance by targeting certain communities. That is why our government supports Bill S-210.

I encourage my hon. colleagues to support it too.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members’ Business

6:30 p.m.


Robert-Falcon Ouellette Liberal Winnipeg Centre, MB

[Member spoke in Cree]


Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to debate Bill S-210 in the House this evening.

This bill would repeal the title of Bill S-7, the Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act. We need to go back in time to 2014 and 2015, when former minister Chris Alexander decided that he wanted to do wedge politics and divide Canadians, to push people to the side and create a society where we focus on only a small number of our fellow citizens. It was divide and conquer. That is not the type of politics we need in our country. We need to bring people together to work with communities.

This bill is extremely important, because it would correct egregious harm that has been done to many cultural communities in our country. It was introduced in December 2015, shortly after our government came to power. It was introduced by Senator Mobina Jaffer. In a speech introducing her bill, which would do nothing more than remove the title of the law, Senator Jaffer said that the use of the term barbaric is an insult to cultures in Canada. She said:

Can we reasonably call terrorists barbaric? Yes. Are certain acts against humanity barbaric? Yes. Would any reasonable person agree with these points? Yes. Do I agree with those points? Yes.

The issue here, frankly, is the pairing of the words “barbaric” and “cultural.” By pairing these two words, we are instead removing the agency from the individual committing an action that is clearly wrong and associating it instead with the cultural group at large.

We are implying that these practices are part of cultures and that these cultures are barbaric. We have heard this all too often in our country before. Think of “the savage” and “the uncivilized”, where we demonize the other. Instead of looking for ways we can build a common understanding and look at other viewpoints, we demonize the other and push them to the side, push them to the edge of our country, push them to the edge of Canada.

An National Post article said:

...there is some cross-partisan consensus on the law's title. Conservative Sen. Salma Attaullahjan agrees with Senator Jaffer that “barbaric” is a problematic word. The short title “in my view, is incendiary and deeply harmful as it targets a cultural group as a whole rather than individuals who commit specific acts,” Attaullahjan said [in a] Monday evening [debate] in the Senate.

“Through conversations with my community, I heard from most that they felt the short title was directed solely at them and that from their perspective it served only to further stigmatize and alienate them from the community at large.”

I have also spoken to members of my community in Winnipeg Centre. There are many cultural groups that feel stigmatized by the use of this title, which they believe is a use of wedge politics that pushes people to the edge. This obviously is not right, and this is not who we are and should be as Canadians. We must be better.

I am very proud of the government, which is committed to addressing gender-based violence and protecting the most vulnerable. Our government has taken deliberate and tangible action toward this goal, as in our budget 2018, with pay equity and ensuring that we have gender-based analysis. I also believe that our government is deeply committed to promoting inclusion and acceptance, which are some of the key pillars of Canadian society.

While Bill S-7 was aimed at strengthening protection for women and girls, the reference to barbaric cultural practices in the title creates divisions, promotes harmful stereotypes, and fuels intolerance by targeting specific cultural communities. It has been perceived as offensive and incendiary by certain communities and stakeholder groups that serve immigrants, as it targets cultural groups as a whole rather than individuals who commit specific illegal acts.

When I was in the army, I had the opportunity of attending a junior leadership course, which is now named the practical leadership course, back in 2000. In this course, we learned about the principles of leadership. We learned how to be a better leader. One of the things we talked about was to never punish the entire group for the actions of one individual, but to correct the actions of that individual and to make sure to build morale in the group, for when we attack the entire group for no apparent reason, it becomes arbitrary and it does destroy the morale of the unit that we are in. People in the army, most if not all, believe in a better Canada and are representative of Canadian society. These rules can apply equally to what we do in government.

This inflammatory language, in my opinion, detracts from the substance of the bill and takes the focus away from the discussion of real problems and looking for real solutions. Let us be clear about this. Violence against women takes many different forms and affects millions of women and girls in Canada and around the world, regardless of religion, nationality, or culture. Repealing this title is a symbolic step but one that carries real meaning and consequence. Language matters.

This change is in line with what our government is attempting to do, building on openness, diversity, and inclusion. In the last election, Canadians rejected the Conservatives' dog-whistle politics, their divisive tactics, their stigmatizing of different communities, and their ill-fated ideas like the barbaric cultural practices hotline, with 1-800-barbaric-cultures or 1-800-barbaric-peoples. Diversity is our strength. We know that Canada has succeeded culturally, politically, and economically because of our diversity, not in spite of it.

I support Bill S-210, as do the people of my community of Winnipeg Centre. We support Bill S-210. This is important.

I would like to reiterate what Bill S-7 was about, which was passed under the previous government. It was passed in 2015 and sought to address such issues as early and forced marriage, polygamy, and domestic violence. The act amended the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Civil Marriage Act, and the Criminal Code to strengthen existing inadmissibility provisions by adding new inadmissibility for practising polygamy in Canada, codify existing requirements for consent and monogamy in marriage, set a new minimum standard national age for marriage, and strengthen the Criminal Code offences related to early and forced marriage and so-called honour-based violence.

The Liberals supported Bill S-7 but argued against the terminology in the bill of “barbaric cultural practices” and noted that the bill targeted practices that were already against the law. However, the government of the day missed the opportunity with Bill S-7 to address these issues in a more tangible manner. At the committee stage, the opposition critic at the time, the good John McCallum, my good friend, proposed an amendment that we remove the word “cultural” from the title, noting that if the title were perceived as an attack on many communities and it did more harm than good, then perhaps we should look at a different title. The amendment was defeated, unfortunately.

Numerous stakeholders have expressed strong concerns about the use of the words “barbaric cultural practices”, arguing that they stigmatize communities and create divisions while doing nothing to help address real issues. Stakeholders who have commented in opposition to the bill's title include the Canadian Bar Association, the Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children, and the Metro Toronto Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic, among others.

Let us fight for inclusiveness. Let us build bridges. Let us build understanding. Let us fight for all Canadians, not just those who we believe are our friends but truly all Canadians, for we are all in this together.

[Member spoke in Cree]

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members’ Business

6:40 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to speak to my colleague's bill, and to recognize the fine work the senator has done in regard to an important issue. Ultimately, through the Senate, we have a private member's bill that is definitely worthy of supporting.

It will be interesting to see how the Conservatives position themselves on this issue. At the time, when the legislation was brought in, there was quite a significant uproar from the opposition benches.

I had the privilege of serving as the immigration and citizenship critic for the Liberal Party when we were in the third party. I often had the opportunity to go to the citizenship standing committee and work, particularly with one minister, Jason Kenney, when he was the minister responsible for immigration, and to a much lesser extent, Chris Alexander, prior to taking more of a full-time role in the House leadership team. During that period, I learned a great deal about the importance of cross-cultural awareness and of the different types of wording we used, whether it was in addressing a group of people or, as in this case, in addressing legislation that was brought forward by the Conservative government.

I can remember when the government of the day would bring in these pieces of legislation. We would wonder how the bills got their names. This is an excellent example of what the government brought forward.

When the government brought in this legislation, a great deal of resistance and outrage came not only from the opposition benches but also from many different stakeholders. It offended a good number of people.

I appreciate the comments of my colleague, the member for Winnipeg Centre, to the degree that the Conservatives were prepared to push all that criticism to the side in order to generate what we believed at the time to be a wedge issue. The naming of the bill was just not called for, and it did not need that name.

To emphasize how dramatic it was, the bill was titled, “Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act”. I am sure Hansard will show that I stood in my place and opposed the legislation, and for good reason. I listened to what what people had said. There was no changing the course for the government. It was absolutely determined.

I believed back then, as many members of the opposition did, as well as many different stakeholders, that the Conservative government was using it for one reason, the vote. It believed that by creating this wedge issue, by trying to use a title, through a fear factor of sorts, it would convince individuals to vote for the Conservatives.

The Liberals, the New Democrats, and the Green Party, and even the Bloc opposed what the Conservatives brought forward. The Conservatives genuinely believed they would be able to show how wonderful they were in protecting the rights of individuals, by using a twisted title of this nature, not realizing or, worse case scenario, realizing they were offending so many others. They just did not care about that.

When I heard that one of my colleagues was bringing this legislation forward, I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to share a few thoughts.

It is important to recognize that we are also deeply committed to promoting inclusion and acceptance, which are key pillars of Canadian society. That is something we should be promoting. We should be looking for ways to build consensus and encourage it. Tolerance in society is of utmost importance.

I was the critic for tourism and multiculturalism in the province of Manitoba. The Manitoba Intercultural Council came up with the question of how do we combat racism. How do we deal with some of the systemic barriers that are in place, or some of those negative stereotypes that people have? From what I can recall, the number one recommendation was to do it thourhg education and tolerance, and how we can incorporate education in improving the quality of life for all Canadians. The existing title of the legislation goes against that. This is not something new that has not been heard of. I suspect a good number of people would recognize why it is so important that we look at ways we can promote inclusion and acceptance.

While Bill S-7 was aimed at strengthening protection for women and girls, the reference to “barbaric cultural practices” in the title created those divisions. It promoted harmful stereotypes and fuelled intolerance by targeting specific communities. That is very shameful. One does not have to be a member of a targeted community to understand the harm that was being caused. What was the government of the day saying to those communities that perceive to be, and in many ways realistically are being targeted? How does the government justify the representation of those individuals?

It has often been perceived as offensive and incendiary by certain communities and stakeholder groups that serve immigrants in particular, as it targets cultural groups as a whole, rather than individuals who actually commit the specific act. This is something we are all concerned about. The types of acts that take place, I believe, are universally recognized. Members of all political parties know what is right and what is wrong, and we are not going to support in any way actions that are inappropriate.

It is important that we be very clear. Violence against women takes many different forms, and it affects millions of women across our country and around the world, regardless of religion, nationality, or culture. I recall standing up in opposition talking about that particular point. It needs to be reinforced.

Repealing the title would be a very important symbolic step, but one that would carry real meaning and consequence. We need to say that language matters.

When the former government brought forward the legislation, it did not take long for the opposition to recognize the flaw with the name. That was one of the reasons we attempted to move an amendment at committee. Unfortunately, not allowing that amendment to pass demonstrated that the Conservative government knew what it was doing at the time.