Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak to Bill S-7. I have listened to the speeches all morning. I have been on duty here and have been able to take in the speeches from all sides.
In particular, as a father of two daughters, it is important for me to express my feelings on Bill S-7 and what it means to me as a father. My two girls do not listen to their father that much to start with, so I cannot imagine me forcing them into doing anything. However, it boggles my mind that there are cultural beliefs from a variety of different organizations.
I received a tweet a few minutes ago from someone who asked me which cultural group the Government of Canada was targeting with Bill S-7. The Liberal Party agrees to have the bill go to committee, which is excellent. The official opposition says that it disagrees with some of the wording. It does not like the word “cultural”. I think what is happening is the message is getting out that the bill is targeting different cultures. That is absolutely inaccurate. I read the definition of “cultural”. It is about a set of beliefs and values. People can look it up in Webster's Dictionary.
However, this is about barbaric cultural practices. It does not say it is X culture that does this. It could be any group or organization. The laws of our land have opposed polygamy since the 1800s. When the government of the day made the decision that polygamy was the wrong, it did not target a specific culture. The opposition has tried to portray cultures through the bill, which are not mentioned anywhere in the legislation. There is no specific culture identified. Those cultures the opposition have tried to to identify did not exist in Canada, unless we consider Scottish culture or English culture as groups.
It is a cultural practice, a belief system, that an individual or organization has. Wherever the origin, if families have grown up believing that their fathers have the absolute right to force their daughters to marry someone against their will at the age of 15, regardless of where they are from, that is not tolerable in Canada. This legislation would put an end to that barbaric activity.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration indicated that the official opposition members should take this back to their leadership and ensure they understood what they opposed. They do not like the title of the bill because of the use of the word “cultural”. It does not say X cultural activity. They really should reconsider their position on this.
Of course everyone cannot withstand “barbaric” activity. Some people in the House may think that word a bit strong, but that is exactly what it is. Why would we not call it what it is? Who in the House, who in the country, believes in violence against their sons or daughters because they disagree with them on who, when and at what age they should marry? How is that not barbaric? The legislation would deal with that.
I have heard some other comments that we are ending people's ability to have an arranged marriage. That is not the case. Arranged marriages, the ones I am familiar with, have two consulting individuals, two people who decide. An arranged marriage would not work in my family, but it may work in others, and that is fair. The man and the women, based on an arrangement made by their parents, consent to the marriage. They say it is a relationship, a marriage, they would both like to enter into. There is nothing wrong with an arranged marriage of two consenting adults.
The difference between an arranged and a forced marriage is that in the latter, one of those individuals, either the male or the female, does not agree, has had no say in it, and is not consenting to the marriage. That is what the bill is aiming at addressing.
There is a discussion about how many people this would affect and whether or not we have good statistics. In my personal view, if we have legislation that protects one young woman, one victim, from this happening to her, we have done our job as parliamentarians to pass laws protecting individuals. We cannot decide whether or not this is a barbaric activity based on whether or not it only affects one person that we know of. It is barbaric in itself as an action, and not barbaric based on its numbers.
We on this side understand that the Liberal Party will be supporting the bill at second reading. There may be some amendments. The Liberals are supporting the concept that there cannot be one more victim.
I was at an event this past weekend in my riding. I think it was called “one billion awareness”. An organization was bringing awareness across the globe to the fact that one billion women in this world have faced some sort of aggression from a male, whether physical or not. In this country, we need to take every opportunity to make sure that barbaric activity, that aggression against women, comes to an end here and around the world.
Unfortunately, we cannot make it happen in other countries, but we do have a responsibility. I have a responsibility to my children, to my daughters. I have a responsibility to my wife to make sure that we take every opportunity we have to protect women and young boys in this case, young men and young women, from barbaric activities not of their choice but a result of a cultural norm some of their family members believe in. We need to be able to protect them from that. We cannot and should not tolerate that here in Canada.
This piece of legislation, in my view, should be supported by all parties. We should be able to deal with this at second reading, quickly get it to committee, quickly get it back to the House and pass it. We should have done it long ago. It is long overdue, and I appreciate the support of all members of Parliament for Bill S-7.