Mr. Speaker, I thank the House for giving me the opportunity to speak to this bill.
It is strange to see that our colleagues in the Conservative caucus, including the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Canada and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, have taken up this Senate bill here in the House.
I want to start by reaffirming what my colleague from Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing said so well. For 10 years, the Conservative government repeatedly led Canada in the wrong direction, and this bill is just one of many others. My colleague was right to point out that there are already provisions in the Criminal Code and in the Civil Code to combat everything this bill claims to address.
To my knowledge, naturally, it is quite rare in Canada to hear about polygamy, forced marriage or early marriage, except in some very specific situations. I remember a part of the Civil Code that deals with the emancipation of minors through marriage. The provision allowed for minors who willingly entered into a marriage to be considered as adults.
I also want to explain why I am happy to be discussing this bill, despite its many problems. I am doing so to show my support for all the amendments that were proposed by the NDP caucus in committee, as well as by other opposition members.
At the beginning of today's debate, I heard that the opposition brought forward 17 motions, and the Conservatives rejected all of them in committee, right before second reading. The Conservatives did not propose any amendments. How is it that a bill can come to us from the Senate and it can be taken on by a minister and his parliamentary secretary, who both know very well that we have the Canadian Multiculturalism Act?
They say that we should pass the bill so we can protect these people, which does not make any sense, when they have no intention of taking it seriously or analyzing the contents of the 17 amendments that were brought forward.
In principle, the bill is commendable, for it is meant to combat polygamy, and early and forced marriage, which definitely should be stopped. However, the proposed approach is not the right one.
If the Conservatives had been able to support the motion and accept the amendments, we could have improved the bill and made it effective. It is our duty as legislators to introduce legislation that makes sense.
Once again, in the title alone, there is something unusual. As my colleague, the member for La Pointe-de-l'Île, did such a good job of explaining, the title, which is appalling, points a finger right at women from certain communities and stigmatizes certain cultures deemed “barbaric”. There is something missing somewhere.
That reminds me of something that still surprises me. Just yesterday, Motion No. 444 was rejected. That was a motion to end violence against women. The entire Conservative caucus rejected it. Once again, I was surprised to see that of the 159 members of the Conservative caucus, 28 are women, which represents about 17.5%. That is not a big number, relatively speaking, but it nevertheless seems to me that those women should have taken an interest in the intention of the motion.
Getting back to Bill S-7, regardless of its appalling title, which the Conservatives never wanted to change, what we need to do is come up with a bill that really tackles the source of the problem. Of course, as I said earlier, I do not believe that this problem is particularly widespread here in Canada, except among immigrants from other cultures who engage in these practices, which seems to be the case. However, it also seems to me, as my Liberal Party colleague explained, that there are safeguards. Our Citizenship and Immigration Canada officers in visa sections in embassies have the means to detect all kinds of irregularities, and they can really be strict about saying that such practices are not allowed in Canada. It therefore has to be something that really violates what has already been established in our Civil Code or in common law on the English side.
I discovered another rather interesting situation. At the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, the members of our party tried several times to amend the bill, especially the title and certain concepts in the clauses, in order to ensure that the victims would not be penalized. That did not happen. We end up with the same situation, as usual with the Conservatives. As our opposition colleagues mentioned, the mission of the Conservative caucus is to let things drag on. The Conservatives have been in power for 10 years, and they have not really found solutions. The expression “working together” means absolutely nothing to them. They insist, with a degree of arrogance, on imposing closure and putting an end to debate.
What everyone is objecting to is primarily the title. Many witnesses who came before the committee found the title offensive and unacceptable.