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 third time and passed.
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to 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 legislation seeks to modernize Canada's statutes and remove the short title “Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act” from the legislation.
Bill S-210 was introduced by Senator Mobina Jaffer in the Senate and has reached third reading here in the House of Commons. I am proud that the legislation passed unanimously, without amendment, at the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. Language matters, and the fact that the bill has reached its final stage of the legislative process is a proud reflection of that.
The language we use in the laws we pass matters. It reflects the intentions and desired outcomes of our statutes, as well as the type of society we want to build. When phraseology like “barbaric cultural practices” is used in law-making, it becomes apparent that the intention is to divide and fearmonger. Let me be clear. The politics of fear and division have no place in Canada, and no place in Canada's statutes. That is why Bill S-210 is before us today.
Bill S-210 amends Bill S-7 from the previous Parliament by removing its short title. It does not in any way affect the measures put in place by the bill. While Bill S-7 was aimed at strengthening protections for women and girls, the reference to “barbaric cultural practices” in the title creates divisions, promotes harmful stereotypes, and fuels intolerance by targeting specific communities. It is being perceived as offensive by certain communities and stakeholder groups that serve immigrants, as it targets a cultural group as whole, rather than the individuals who commit specific acts.
As Senator Jaffer put it at the justice committee:
I have objected to pairing the words “barbaric” and “cultural”. That's not a Canadian value. When we put the two ideas together, we take responsibility for horrific actions away from the person who committed them. It's not a community that commits those acts; it's a person. Instead, we associate the crime with a culture and a community, and we imply that such horrible practices are part of a culture or a community.
Hate crimes against certain minority populations are on the rise in Canada. When we falsely equate barbaric practices with cultures, we open the door to racist and intolerant attitudes that often drown out constructive dialogue on promoting diversity and inclusion. By recognizing the impacts that our words have on the tone and tenor of public discourse, policy-making, and law-making, we can be more deliberate and thoughtful in the words we choose. We abandon the dog whistle politics of barbaric cultural practices and commit ourselves to advancing values beyond mere tolerance, acceptance, and inclusion.
The Prime Minister captured the importance of these values and those of diversity in his address to New York University. He said:
Whether it's race, gender, language, sexual orientation, or religious or ethnic origin, or our beliefs and values themselves, diversity doesn't have to be a weakness. It can be our greatest strength.
Now often people talk about striving for tolerance. Now don't get me wrong. There are places in this world where a little more tolerance would go a long way. But if we're being honest, right here, right now, I think we can aim a little higher than mere tolerance. Think about it. Saying, “I tolerate you” actually means something like, “okay, I grudgingly admit that you have a right to exist, just don't get in my face about it....
There is not a religion in the world that asks you to “tolerate thy neighbour”. So let's try for something a little more like acceptance, respect, friendship, and yes, even love.
And why does this matter? Because in our aspiration to relevance, in our love for our families, in our desire to contribute to make this world a better place, despite our differences, we are all the same.
Words are important, and so are the values we put forward. Equally important, if not more so, are the actions we take in defence of those values. That is why our government has taken meaningful action to further embrace multiculturalism and promote diversity.
We have a Prime Minister who proudly represents Canada on the world stage as an open and welcoming nation. Indeed, Canada is a nation built in no small part through the contributions of immigrants.
Our government understands this. That is why we promote safe and accessible immigration. We have prioritized family reunification by bringing families together more quickly. We doubled the number of parent and grandparent sponsorship applications accepted per year, from 5,000 to 10,000. We know that when families are reunited and offered the opportunity to succeed, all of Canada succeeds.
Our government is committed to an immigration system that strengthens Canada's middle class, helps grow our economy, supports diversity, brings families together, and helps build vibrant, dynamic, and inclusive communities.
The story of Canadian immigration is inseparable from the story of Canada itself, as we are committed to aiding and accepting people from all cultural backgrounds. Success stories abound when newcomers are offered the opportunity to succeed.
Let us take Peace by Chocolate as an example. The company, based in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, was founded by the Hadhad family. The Hadhads ran a successful chocolate factory in Syria, but they were forced to flee the civil war violence. After three years in a Lebanese refugee camp, they were offered the chance to immigrate to Canada. They started Peace by Chocolate, working to rebuild the business they had lost in war-torn Syria. Their story of success is a proud example of the opportunity that Canada offers to those who immigrate here, regardless of nationality.
The policies we are putting in place will allow more immigrants to find a home in Canada, contributing to our growing economy. These newcomers will drive innovation and help employers meet labour market needs. Supporting companies that bring high-skilled workers improves business opportunities for all Canadians. These are just a few examples of measures that our government has taken to further promote multiculturalism and ensure that our immigration system is efficient and accessible.
Our actions to promote diversity do not stop there. The Minister of Canadian Heritage recently unveiled the new federal action plan for official languages. This plan will invest nearly $500 million over five years and focus on strengthening our communities, strengthening access to service, and promoting a bilingual Canada.
Through targets that aim to restore and maintain the proportion of francophones living in linguistic minority communities at 4% of the general population by 2036, provinces such as British Columbia will receive the support they need to continue promoting our linguistic diversity and bilingualism.
In support of multiculturalism, we are investing $23 million over two years through budget 2018 in the federal multiculturalism program. Budget 2018 states:
This funding would support cross-country consultations on a new national anti-racism approach, would bring together experts, community organizations, citizens and interfaith leaders to find new ways to collaborate and combat discrimination, and would dedicate increased funds to address racism and discrimination targeted against Indigenous Peoples and women and girls.
In our pursuit of a more caring and inclusive country, we must also commit to doing better in the journey of reconciliation. As a multicultural country, Canada grapples not only with the intersections of a broad range of newcomer cultures, but with multiple generations of Canadians and indigenous peoples. Reconciliation must be part of the conversation as we discuss diversity and inclusion in a 21st century Canada. Recognizing and making reparations for the historical abuse and mistreatment of indigenous peoples is a fundamental part of building a more inclusive society and promoting the diversity of Canada.
As members in this place, we have the privilege of introducing bills or motions that will affect and hopefully benefit our constituents, and all Canadians. I have had the privilege of sponsoring two private member's bills: Bill S-210, which is before us here today, and Bill C-374, which is now before the Senate.
If passed by the Senate, Bill C-374 would seek to advance reconciliation by adding much-needed indigenous representation to the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, implementing call to action 79(i) of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action. The legislation would provide first nations, Métis, and Inuit representation on the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada. Without indigenous representation, the board conducts its affairs without a fulsome understanding of Canadian heritage and history. The inclusion of indigenous perspectives on the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada would allow us to more fully commemorate Canada's historical peoples, places, and events, and offer a more authentic perspective on our heritage.
Canada is a pluralistic society, and our approach to fostering a more inclusive society is multi-faceted. It requires diligence and thoughtfulness on the part of legislators. By advancing legislation such as Bill S-210, we commit to recognizing the implications of the words we use, with the understanding that action is equally important. Abandoning terms such as “barbaric cultural practices” is an important step in modernizing our statutes and reflecting back on the type of society we want to build as Canadians.
I would like to thank my colleagues for their participation in this debate today. I am hopeful that members will join me today in supporting Bill S-210.