Mr. Speaker, I am standing in the House to speak out firmly against this bill.
My intention was to discuss it through two lenses. The first is the lens of unintended consequences, because when we present legislation, we need to think about what the consequences will be. Sometimes there are unintended consequences, and there are a lot in this bill. The second lens I want to apply is what we would do if we actually wanted to stop forced marriages. What kind of legislation or policy could we bring forward if we were really serious about putting an end to underage marriages in Canada? I will talk about those two things, because the NDP is very serious about bringing forward legislation and policy that can put an end to underage marriage and put an end to forced marriages.
First though, I want to tackle the issue of the title. We heard a little bit of a back and forth between my colleague from Northwest Territories and the parliamentary secretary about the title.
The title of this bill is the zero tolerance for barbaric cultural practices act. I have a big problem with this title. The parliamentary secretary stood here, wrung her hands, implored us to think of the children, and asked if this was not a barbaric cultural practice. We all agree that these are terrible practices. However, when we have this kind of provocative title it is not about working together to eliminate this kind of behaviour or these practices. What this title does is fuel racist stereotypes. It creates xenophobia toward very particular groups in Canada. We are targeting particular groups with this title.
I think about the other barbaric cultural practices happening in this country. Why are the Conservatives not standing up against other barbaric cultural practices? I happen to think it is a barbaric cultural practice that a woman who is raped and becomes pregnant is forced to carry that baby to term because she cannot access abortion services in this country. I happen to think it is a barbaric cultural practice, yet I do not see the Conservatives standing up and fighting for that.
I happen to think it is a barbaric cultural practice to force a woman to bring a baby to term if she does not want to have that baby, but we do not see the Conservatives crusading to change the fact that only 16% of hospitals in Canada offer abortion services. They are not champions on the lack of access to abortion services in Canada.
I think it is a barbaric cultural act that we have created a culture that puts such shame on women. It shames them to the point that they will do anything to terminate a pregnancy without having to tell someone, like throwing themselves down the stairs, taking drugs to self-abort, and using coat hangers. I happen to think this is a barbaric cultural practice, yet I hear silence in the House about putting an end to that.
In Prince Edward Island, a woman took medication to induce an abortion and had a complication. She went to the ER. She was bleeding. She did not know if she was bleeding to death. She had no idea. She waited for five hours in the ER. When someone actually came in to talk to her about what was going on, the attending health care provider told her that he was not comfortable treating her and that she should go to Halifax. Halifax is not down the street. Halifax is 300 kilometres away. I happen to think it is a barbaric cultural practice to have left that woman in that ER for five hours, not knowing about the health or the state of her fetus, not knowing about her own health, and not knowing if she was going to bleed to death and then having the doctor say that he was not comfortable treating her.
I happen to think that was a barbaric cultural practice, yet I do not see the Conservatives standing up to enforce the Canada Health Act to ensure that we have equal access to health services across this country. Come to think of it, I do not see any of the Liberals standing up to talk about this either. It is a Liberal government in P.E.I. There are three Liberal MPs here in the House of Commons, and we have a whole lot of silence when it comes to standing up for women's rights and their ability to access abortion services.
Moving on, let us get back to unintended consequences.
If we are serious about putting an end to these practices, then let us look at how we do it. Let us draft some legislation and think about what the consequences are, both intended and unintended. Unfortunately, there are a lot of unintended consequences here.
We have heard several of my colleagues talk about these unintended consequences. I think they are really serious. I think they are so serious that we cannot support the bill.
There is something as simple as the definition of polygamy. There is no real definition of polygamy here. We might think we all know what polygamy is, so what is the big deal? Well, it is a big deal. We are playing with people's lives here. We need a definition.
We heard testimony at committee about what would happen if there was a legally sanctioned marriage and one that was not legally sanctioned. For example, a person is married, the partners split up, and the person gets into a common-law relationship. If that first relationship has not been legally terminated and that person is in a new common-law relationship, is that polygamy? We do not know. What may be perceived as a small detail could have serious consequences for all kinds of people in Canada who might not know that they are in a polygamous relationship.
However, this is a small detail that I can maybe even wrap my head around, but there are other unintended consequences that are beyond the pale.
If we are trying to help marginalized and disadvantaged women, then we cannot put them in situations where they are so fearful that they cannot come forward. We heard tons of expert testimony about this. It is actually shocking when we look at the transcripts from committee how passionate some of these witnesses were about the fact that this legislation would drive those women deeper underground. If we want to help these women and children, we cannot have them be fearful that they will be deported.
Imagine if this deportation happened. It would not be just for the big bad guy we are always talking about, the one who is forcing a little girl into marriage. I heard the minister talk about forced rape for the rest of her life. If that little girl does not know she can get protection from our government, why would she come forward? If there are laws that say that everyone involved in a polygamous marriage will be deported, that will include that little girl. How does it help that little girl to send her to another country where there are no protections, where there probably are not even opportunities for her to go to school?
How about we put an end to that kind of barbaric cultural practice? Imagine sending a little girl out of the country when all she wants is protection. That is an unintended consequence I cannot get past. The legislation before us is full of these unintended consequences.
I will skip to how we can work together. We had some really good testimony at committee about how we need to have institutional support for these victims. We can have that kind of support without alienating and harming the women who are involved in forced marriage and gender-based violence. We need to have those institutional supports for them.
UNICEF talks a lot about the fact that if we are going to protect children from human trafficking, we have to recognize the failures in the system that allow those women and children to be trafficked. We have to recognize that they often come from low-income families without access to community support, without access to settlement services, and without access to people in the community they can turn to about their situation to ask for help.
If we were serious, we could get together, sit down, scrap Bill S-7, and start over. We would come to the table and talk about what would help these women and children and what kinds of supports we could give them. I do not think deporting them is exactly what we had in mind when we thought we wanted to put an end polygamy, underage marriage, and forced marriage in this country. I do not think that is the right solution. I think if we took our partisan hats off for a minute, many of us would come to that conclusion.