Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to thank all the security personnel for their bravery and professionalism in dealing with the disturbing events that took place yesterday in the House of Commons. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
I am pleased to take part in the debate on a subject as important as Motion No. 505. In my speech, I will take the time to shed some light on this sensitive issue, while the government, the majority, is doing everything it can to sow confusion.
I would like to remind hon. members of the words of the illustrious philosopher Albert Camus, which should be a guiding principle when it comes to policy development. He said, “to call things by incorrect names is to add to the world's misery”.
That pretty much sums up the Conservative immigration and refugee protection policy: adding confusion to misery and suspicion to distress.
This text, which confuses forced marriage, arranged marriage and marriage by proxy, is another blatant example.
I would like to remind hon. members of several basic concepts in order to put an end to the serious confusion caused by the majority and, of course, the government. A forced marriage is a horrendous practice that I strongly object to. A forced marriage is a marital union in which one or both of the parties is married against his or her will. This practice goes against the humanist values set out in article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which we stand up for here.
In the case of an arranged marriage, the families agree to plan the marriage and the bride and groom consent. That is also the case for marriage by proxy. Marriage by proxy allows two people who are separated by circumstance, often in a country at war, to voluntarily enter into a marriage.
I am appalled that the Conservatives continually mixed up these three concepts in their remarks.
As the witnesses who appeared before the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration said, forced marriages are only very rarely entered into by proxy.
If the government really intends to take measures to prevent forced marriages in Canada, why is it attacking marriage by proxy? I do not understand it. It once again falls to us to explain that this text will be useless for four main reasons.
First of all, the quantitative scope of this phenomenon is extremely limited. I will quote the director general of immigration:
Forced marriages are something very difficult to quantify. The known incidence of forced marriages in the immigration system is quite small, and the instances tend to be anecdotal.
Second, this text is useless because it establishes a correlation between forced marriage and marriage by proxy that does not exist. Many researchers and workers on the ground told us this.
Ms. Korteweg of the sociology department of the University of Toronto told the committee that the problems of forced marriage cannot be addressed through this motion. Forced marriages are not caused by marriage by proxy.
I would also add that the proposed measures are not based on any facts or statistics. There is nothing to indicate any link between forced marriage and marriage by proxy. This text is bad because it bans something that is already prohibited. Indeed, forced marriages are already prohibited in Canada, and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations already compel Citizenship and Immigration to conduct thorough investigations into spousal sponsorship to verify the sincerity of marriages.
Not only is this text useless, it is actually harmful, which is much more serious. It is harmful in several ways. First of all, the Conservatives are using the victims of forced marriage as a pretext for further limiting spousal sponsorships, despite all the witnesses heard in committee.
This text also creates confusion and confuses facts that have nothing to do with denouncing forced marriage. In doing so, it lays the blame on customs and cultural communities that do not practice forced marriage, for the simple reason that their traditions are different than ours.
This text is problematic because once again it amends the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations. I must point out that this government has amended these regulations roughly every three months since 2008.
The best way to deal with forced marriages in Canada is to give CIC officers the necessary resources to conduct investigations. These are lengthy and costly investigations that require patience, time and effort. There is no guarantee that they will protect against every case of fraud, but every case of fraud will go undetected without them. How are these officers supposed to work with the requisite equanimity when the government cuts budgets at every turn and changes the regulations every three months?
We are paying the price for this government's ideological cuts since the backlog in processing sponsorship claims has skyrocketed in the past few years. In some cases people are waiting 33 months. That is unacceptable.
It would be naive to suggest that this government made mistakes in its approach to its immigration policy. It is well aware of the catastrophic results of its constant tinkering, but it does not care. It prefers to engage in its penchant for making policy based on back-page stories and then denounce the misfortunes born of its own mismanagement.
We, the members of the NDP, are responsible people. We are getting ready to form the first social democratic government in Canada, and that is why we have clear, concrete proposals on this issue.
Before I list those proposals, I wish to remind the House that we firmly believe that a marriage must be entered into with the free and full consent of both parties. It is unacceptable that a practice as barbaric as forced marriage could take place in a country like Canada.
That is why the NDP is calling on the government to invest the material and human resources needed to hear spousal sponsorship applications under the right conditions. We are also formulating three proposals to effectively strengthen protection for women in our immigration system.
The government should start by acknowledging that violence against women transcends forced marriage. It is critical to implement a procedure that would inform potential partners of their legal rights before they arrive in Canada—when they go to the Canadian consulate to ask for their immigration documents, for example.
We believe that the concept of conditional permanent residence should be eliminated for sponsored spouses. Regardless of the intention behind this measure, the practice is disastrous.
This motion creates confusion, fuels prejudice and breeds mistrust. Consequently, I will not be supporting it.