Mr. Speaker, I listened closely to the recent speeches and to the answers that were provided. I would like to start out by saying that we oppose polygamy, forced marriage and underage marriage. We strongly believe that this bill is not an appropriate response to the serious problem of gender-based violence, which is not a cultural problem. Bill S-7 could actually exacerbate existing problems.
Experts who appeared before the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights explained that criminalization alone will not resolve the problem. On the contrary, they said, it will exacerbate the problem. In fact, several sections of the Criminal Code already provide avenues of remedy to the offences targeted in this bill. Instead of politicizing the debate and the issue of gender-based violence, the government could enforce the legislation already in place. It must also commit to implementing a national action plan to fight violence against women and investing more in organizations that provide services to women who are victims of forced or underage marriages.
I was listening to the last speaker answer the following question: will women in a polygamous marriage be protected if the husband is deported? She said that yes, measures could be applied and protections were in place. I am sorry, but there is nothing in this bill about that. The bill does not contain any provisions to allow women who are conditional permanent residents to remain in Canada if their polygamist partner is deported. The hon. member said the opposite of the truth.
No woman should have to suffer gender-based violence, including forced and underage marriage. The bill could have serious consequences by inadvertently criminalizing victims of polygamy and by penalizing and deporting children and separating them from their family.
Instead of focusing on a sensationalist bill that does not address the root of the problem, the minister should commit to holding serious consultations on a wide scale with community groups and experts to effectively deal with the problem of gender-based violence. The government should also invest more in organizations that provide such services as safe and affordable housing and assistance to families that are often traumatized at having to deal with complicated legal and immigration systems.
However, the Conservatives' use of these themes for political ends is nothing new. As members will recall, in March 2012 the Conservatives introduced legislation to crack down on marriage fraud, requiring that the sponsored individual live with the sponsor for a period of two years under penalty of deportation or criminal charges. Speaking of barbaric practices, that is one.
In my riding, I have two constituents who are each married to a woman from Cuba. These Cuban women arrived in my riding last year. Unfortunately for them, the two men were abusive, so the women had to turn to local women's shelters to escape the abuse inflicted by these two violent men. However, by acting to defend themselves, the women faced the very real possibility of being deported from Canada.
What happened after that? We lost track of the two women. Of course, they do not want to return to Cuba. They appreciated life here, but in this case, they were not guilty of violence. It was the men who brought them to Canada who were guilty of violence. Thus, we are faced with a measure that is completely unfair and leaves victims of violence to carry the burden of the abuse they suffer. This should not be the case.
I will continue my speech after question period.