Good morning, everyone. I'm very pleased to be here and to have the opportunity to participate in this discussion on Bill , the zero tolerance for barbaric and cultural practices act.
Being an immigrant woman and working with victims of domestic violence, I have learned that certain antiquated cultural practices, such as forced marriages and child marriages, create barriers for women's rights because they are generally associated with increased violence and oppression.
In many ways I support this proposed legislation because I believe in equal rights for all men and women in political, economic, cultural, personal, and social activities. I do want to mention that while I see many a strength in this bill, I also believe there are many flaws in it as well. I am against barbaric and cultural practices that prevent women from achieving equal rights.
We need a policy as clear as Bill to end these old barbaric traditions in Canada and abroad, because we live in the 21st century and things, such as our social structure, have progressed.
We need to develop a strategy to end all forms of gender-based violence. Fortunately in Canada, under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Canadian immigrants have the right and freedom to practice any religious belief without any repercussions. However, certain immigrants will continue to carry on their own ideologies in the area of matrimony that may not necessarily be in line with Canadian values and may possibly infringe upon women's rights and freedoms. In the name of freedom, these cultural practices are carried out at the expense of the liberty, well-being, and happiness of the women and girls involved. Freedom that allows individuals to practice old traditional cultural beliefs that oppress other people is not freedom at all; it is tyranny.
It is morally incumbent to support Bill , the zero tolerance for barbaric cultural practices act, to protect women who grew up in western society. This category of women may be in constant clash with their families who would rather see them partake in traditional practices. She may face huge pressures to accept her family's or community's wishes. If she is from a very traditional family, the wrong decision may be life threatening. Two extreme Canadian cases of this are the four females from the Shafia family in 2009, from Kingston, Ontario, and Ms. Nasira Fazli in 2013 in Ajax, Ontario. As well, many other women are and continue to become victims of domestic violence.
I wish to highlight the following major factors that predispose immigrant women to domestic violence.
First is conditional permanent residency. There is a period of two years during which the permanent residency of the sponsored person is conditional on the person remaining in a conjugal relationship and cohabitation with their sponsor. This is a flaw that I see in the act. If they don't fulfill these conditions, their permanent residency could be revoked and they could be deported. In most cases, the victims are uninformed about their rights and the cultural norm in Canada. Out of desperation, they will remain in the relationship due to this requirement.
Second, women are financially dependent on their abuser or their spouse. I should emphasize that the first point is deemed to be the most complicated and, perhaps, has the greatest impact on increasing the risk of domestic violence against immigrant women. While I support this bill in many ways, I want to make it clear that this is an area where I see flaws.
I propose the following recommendations to help address some of the challenges I have mentioned. First, an information booklet on fundamental rights and freedoms, in particular women's rights, should be distributed to applicants of the sponsorship program as a mandatory requirement for review, prior to approval of entry into Canada.
Second, immigrant women who lack financial independence might be dangerously dependent on their husbands for financial support. The repercussions of this type of financial dependency for women may include reduced self-confidence, increased isolation, and psychological, mental, and social health problems. Language classes after the women arrive in Canada should be compulsory.
By passing Bill , the zero tolerance for barbaric cultural practices act, the government is obligated to create more programs and services. More work needs to be done. If we Canadians believe that Canada is the world leader in the promotion and protection of women, women's rights, and gender equality, what do we need to do to bring this talk to a walk?
Polygamy, forced marriages, and honour killings are heinous and barbaric practices. It's time to say no to these practices. These practices add to the issue of domestic violence.
The elimination of gender-based violence is value driven, not valueless. In order to do this, the Canadian government needs to take serious steps to increase programs and services and to educate front-line workers—police, doctors, counsellors, and settlement workers—the legal system, and overall, all citizens.
Women who live in Canada and around the world deserve to live free of violence and abuse. I request that our government protect women from facing the harsh consequences of barbaric and cultural practices on Canadian soil. If the Canadian government is open to bringing immigrants to this country, we need to educate them in culturally acceptable practices, values, beliefs, and Canadian law.
Again, I would like to express much gratitude to all of you for your courage and for being here with us. Together, we will see change.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
It's again a deep honour and privilege to be here before this committee.
Today I thought I'd share with the committee an intelligence report from the Canada Border Services Agency migration intelligence section in the intelligence operations and analysis division of the enforcement and intelligence operations directorate. The report provides intelligence indicators. The purpose, in a fact-based system, is to provide the committee with an intelligence report that justifies entirely the direction of the proposed legislation.
I have only three sentences to read. They are important. The CBSA intelligence report to Immigration Canada, among other enforcement partnerships, illuminates a disturbing trend. It is as follows:
Another disturbing trend is that of mut'a (an Arabic word relating to joy and fulfillment of enjoyment and compliance when used in terms of marriage and observing the requirements of the marriage contract in Islam) where women are purchased and forced to marry wealthy Muslim men from the Middle East and Africa for short periods of time for sexual purposes and then divorced in short order. One article refers to it as “Islamic sexual tourism.” The practice happens in southern India because the cost to do so is one-third of the price in the men's homeland
The purpose of this report was to warn our embassy system globally of a factor in marriage fraud. That's the immigration purpose.
When I read this—and it was released through appropriate channels—it signalled to me that this committee that's observing the present legislation needs to know that there are, out there, facts that support the very direction taken in the proposed legislation. Now, I am sure the CBSA may be willing to provide additional information on this topic; however, in my view, there's nothing wrong in proposed law to signal to the world, as a beacon of Canadian values, what will not be tolerated in Canada.
Those are my opening remarks.
I want to thank our witnesses for appearing before us today.
This is a very important piece of legislation for our government. Following up on the previous study, we spent the better part of almost a full year studying the strengthening of protecting women in Canada's immigration system during which, Ms. Fakhri, I'm happy to tell you, the issue of conditional PR came up considerably. There was also the important recommendation coming out of the report that we should inform immigrants before they come to Canada of their rights when they come here, because they are in fact not forced to stay in an abusive marriage. There are so many channels that they can avail themselves of; however, we found in that study that they were not aware of them. One of the recommendations there dealt with informing people before they come here what their rights are so that, when they come here, they do not feel imprisoned in the relationship that they're in.
In December of this year, Antonio Guterres, who's the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, had an initiative put through. He put out a release marking 16 days of activism against sexual and child-based violence. These 16 days of activism led up to international Human Rights Day on December 10. This year the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees' office's theme is protecting the rights of and preserving childhoods, working together to address child marriage. Mr. Guterres urged governments to take action, saying:
We must advocate with governments for child marriage to be prohibited by law, and for this to be effectively enforced.
I'm very pleased and proud to see that our government is taking the lead on this issue because this is something that we started well before Mr. Guterres' latest initiative.
I wonder if you could comment on this. In particular, do you have any knowledge of what other governments are doing to help prevent this issue worldwide? This is not just a phenomenon that affects Canada; it affects other governments as well.
Perhaps I can start with you, Mr. Kurland.
I want to thank the witnesses for their participation today in our study of Bill .
I want to begin by saying that the controversy around this bill does not concern the existence or non-existence of barbaric practices against women. I can assure you that everyone around this table is in agreement that there are barbaric and unacceptable practices against women here in Canada, and probably in all countries. Of course, there are certain practices that are to be found more frequently in other countries. The debate regarding the title is not about whether or not barbaric practices exist.
There is not a doubt that we must fight these practices. We all agree on that. Violence against women, whatever form it takes, is completely unacceptable. We have to do everything in our power to stop it and to bring about equality between the sexes, as you said.
I think it is important to somewhat reframe the opinion of people attending this committee with regard to violence against women. We do not agree on the most effective way to fight against this type of violence against women. That is what the debate centres on in connection with this bill.
Ms. Fakri, you explained earlier some of the things that make women vulnerable. These elements mean that women may encounter certain types of violence more easily in their environment, such as forced marriage. You emphasized financial dependence several times. That seems to be an important point for you. However, there is nothing in Bill that adresses that issue.
Recently, the committee did a study on the vulnerability of women in our immigration system. That is one thing that came out of this study, but since the publication of the report, there is still nothing being done on that.
Since you work on the frontline with women, what concrete measures would you propose to improve newcomers' gender equality, which is tied to financial independence?
As we know, the issue of domestic violence is very complicated, and we all know it's not only a cultural issue. It happens in every culture, every society, and so on.
From my experience in working with victims of domestic violence, I have seen women come here, having been sponsored, who have been in Canada for a year or two years and still don't know how to use the bus or how to call 911. Her husband is not on welfare and they are independent. She is not going to school—she is prevented from going to school—but she has nobody to turn to.
Somehow one out of a hundred might be lucky enough to find somebody—a neighbour or somebody—to call for her, and then she gets to ask for help.
I believe that for any process of sponsorship when a spouse sponsors their wife or their partner from overseas there is a period of waiting for two or three years until the process finalizes and the person enters Canada. If they gave a booklet in the sponsored person's language and told them to review it and said that it would be part of the interview questions, people could enter Canada with knowledge, knowing that that they are choosing the country and that these are their rights in going there. I believe it would make a difference, if you knew that there are services existing.
I hear so many women say that they didn't know that these services existed or they would have left a long time ago. But they are coming, they enter Canada, but they are still under the control and power of their partner.
It is the same thing with finances. Women depending on their abusers, in terms of financially depending on the person who has sponsored them, causes a huge issue. These women have never had access to money, never had a bank account. We have to take them by the hand to show them how to open a bank account. They have never had their own bank account.
These are the steps we need to take to maybe eliminate some of the issues of domestic violence, like working with settlement workers. There should be, at least for two years, mandatory involvement of settlement workers with those newcomers, and regular meetings without the presence of the husband. We need to somehow educate all the women and their children who are trapped in these conditions. This is a new country for them. They have nobody. They have nobody to go to. The only person they know, in some cases, is the person who has sponsored them.
I'll try to use it all.
Thank you for inviting me to speak on this important piece of criminal legislation. As was mentioned, I practice criminal law in Ottawa, and I'm a partner at the firm Abergel Goldstein and Partners. I'm a past board member of the Criminal Lawyers' Association. I'm currently on the CLA's legislative committee, and I'm vice-president of the Defence Counsel Association of Ottawa.
I've represented individuals charged with murder, have been involved in the peace bond process, and have litigated cases involving the use of provocation. I'm used to appearing before the justice committee, and I'm happy to appear before you here today, although it is a bit strange, given that this is essentially a criminal law bill.
It's a bill that, I submit, is consistent with this government's legislative history, which I submit to you, is designed to obscure major legislative changes and ultimately limit debate. In that context, I think it's important to detail the impacts that this bill will have on criminal law. I want to specifically speak about provocation and peace bonds.
Provocation is currently governed by section 232 of the Criminal Code and provides for a defence of provocation and in some cases can reduce the charge of murder to manslaughter. Actually understanding what provocation means is fundamental.
When the minister testified before you, there were some comments likening provocation to premeditated murder. Legally, of course, that's completely inaccurate. Provocation requires that there be a wrongful act or insult that is sufficient to deprive an ordinary person of the power of self-control and would cause that person to act on the sudden, before there was time for any cooling of the passions.
Provocation reflects mitigating circumstances. In other words, provocation is an allowance made for human frailty. It recognizes that a killing, even an intentional killing, may be extenuated by the complete loss of self-control and is less heinous than an intentional killing by a person acting with rational intent.
Now, there are limits on provocation. The minister told you that measures in Bill would amend the Criminal Code such that legal conduct by a victim cannot legally be considered provocation. That's already the case. The Criminal Code makes it clear that one cannot be legally provoked by someone who is doing something they have a legal right to do or by doing something that the accused incited them to do.
As I said, provocation requires that there be a wrongful act or insult that would be sufficient to deprive an ordinary person of the power of self-control. Honour killings, the purported justification for the amendments to provocation in this bill, don't meet that criteria. Our courts have time and time again rejected religion and honour as a basis for provocation.
Provocation, after all, deals with the “ordinary person” test. The Supreme Court made it clear in the case of Tran that the reasonable person, the ordinary person, is informed by the contemporary norms of behaviour, including fundamental values such as the commitment to equality. The Tran case, 2010 SCC 58, actually upheld a conviction, which was entered on appeal, for a murder in which the accused claimed to be provoked by the sight of his wife having sexual relations with another man. What is crystal clear is that whether or not the defence of provocation ultimately is put before a jury depends on there being an air of reality to that defence. That's something that the courts carefully scrutinize.
told you that anyone charged with murder could raise the defence of provocation in seeking to reduce to the lesser charge of manslaughter. That's misleading and simply untrue. There must be an air of reality to the argument before it can be placed in front of a jury.
The government has maintained that changes in Bill are necessary. Quite simply, they're wrong. The minister used the Shafia case as a justification for changes in provocation. Of course, as you know, the facts of that case are well known, and it's also known that provocation wasn't raised by the defence in Shafia. Shafia was convicted of four counts of first-degree murder.
So what do our courts say about honour-based provocation? Well, let's take a look at the case the minister didn't discuss with you, the 2006 case from the Ontario Court of Appeal of Humaid. The Ontario Court of Appeal upheld a conviction for first-degree murder, denouncing honour killing in language that even an immigration specialist should be able to understand.
The court said that assuming the accused's religion and cultural beliefs, in that case, were antithetical to the fundamental Canadian values, such as equality of men and women, they could never play a role in the ordinary-person provocation inquiry. The Court of Appeal went one step further and categorized these types of rationales not as provocation, but as motive.
The evidence that you heard is that there have been three unsuccessful cultural provocation defences. The minister told you that this provocation defence has been raised in several so-called honour killings across Canada. I hope he was not trying to insinuate that the application of provocation is common. That would be a reckless mischaracterization. We are talking about three cases.
This bill does more than just limit provocation to honour killings. If that was the intent of the legislation, perhaps it should have been drafted more specifically.
We just had the Supreme Court release the case of Nur, striking down some mandatory minimums. The rationale given by the minister was that they were targeted at a specific fact situation, and the court found their application was overly broad. That could be the case here, because Bill applies to much more than just honour-based provocation. It also prevents provocation from applying to a range of other cases that have historically been put before the jury. Racial slurs, hate speech, mistake of fact—all these situations will be limited in the ability to raise provocation.
One can imagine a variety of situations where it may be appropriate to leave provocation with a jury—not to tell the jury to accept it, but to leave provocation with the jury.
Imagine the father of a young girl who has committed suicide due to cyberbullying, who was sexually assaulted and harassed online. Imagine that father standing by his daughter's grave when he is confronted by the friend of the offender, who says some of the most despicable things that would never be repeated in a forum such as this, inhumane things, and spits on the daughter's grave. Under this law, if the father reacted violently, he would be unable to raise provocation, even if he acted in the heat of the moment when his passions were inflamed.
Even if we combine behaviour like that with offences such as corrupting morals, making sexually explicit content available, corrupting children, indecent acts, exposing genitalia to a person under 16, violence to the clergy, disrupting religious worship or a funeral, recording and distributing information, failure to provide the necessities of life, administering a noxious substance, threats to kill animals, inciting or promoting hatred, theft, fraud, and mischief, this bill would be an absolute bar to provocation in those cases.
Perhaps it speaks to the government's unwillingness to read the case law or inability to understand that life can be complex. This bill simply goes too far and is too broad with respect to provocation.
Now, in my brief few moments, I would like to talk about peace bonds. Peace bonds already exist. Section 810 covers arguably what is included in this bill.
Even if it is not undesirable to add a new section to the Criminal Code to target specifically what this bill targets—and that is a consideration that should be taken carefully because the bigger the Criminal Code gets, the harder it is to understand, and we are presumed to know what's in here—one has to look carefully at what it is actually going to do.
This government is suggesting that a 14-year-old girl takes it upon herself to lay a peace bond against her family. That's ridiculous. I suppose an outside agency like the CAS, the Children's Aid Society, could intervene to lay the peace bond on the child's behalf, but they can already do that. They can already apprehend the child. They can already go to the police.
Regardless of the mechanism of laying a peace bond, the matter doesn't end when a peace bond is laid. When a person goes to court to swear a peace bond, that starts the process. The person they are complaining against is served and summoned to court. The peace bond is not automatically imposed. We still have something called due process in this country.
Then, the peace bond would be set for a hearing in our underfunded courts—
Thank you for inviting me again.
I believe that Bill on zero tolerance for barbaric practices is a good start.
I'm humbled and honoured to be here. As you know, my name is Kamal Dhillon, and I speak as a person whose already witnessed violence. I've become an advocate for those who, like me, have been the target of domestic violence.
The last time I was here I shared a part of my story with the committee. As a result of that, I have authored a book called Black and Blue Sari, which chronicles my entire story of twelve and a half years of marriage to this man who routinely and viciously abused me, tortured me, and threatened me.
In my book, I describe the harrowing details that unfolded from the day I was married to this supposedly respectful, warm, and charming man and went on until the day my marriage ended. Without getting into too much detail, I'll share a little bit of it.
I was violently raped on the night of our honeymoon. From that night onward, I was subjected to emotional, physical, sexual, and financial abuse that occurred at least several times a week. He even attempted to murder me several times. As a result of his beatings and his rage, I live in constant pain. I have an artificial jaw as a result of that. I've had 10 multiple jaw surgeries and have more to come.
I am literally scarred for life, and despite my husband's violent death some years ago, I'm still haunted by flashbacks to those horrific beatings. I'm a single mom of four grown children and a proud grandmother of two.
One of reasons I share my story publicly is to help stop this epidemic, which is so well hidden behind closed doors. They say that the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. lt's interesting to note that this is true for one long journey, but also for one short one. I'm pretty sure that this is probably referring to goals, tasks, initiatives, and other actions. I think this is probably referring to everything that requires someone to take the first step.
I applaud the government for taking the first steps to abolish violence against women and girls, but we need to recognize that there are still many more steps to be taken in what is likely to be a never-ending journey towards respect and self-esteem. But taking steps, no matter how small, is still better than taking no steps at all.
Thank you for doing your part in this. As much as I want to, I would not criticize the government for not doing. I actually applaud you for taking some initiative. It's certainly worth the time. I join you in expressing righteous indignation about some of the barbaric cultural practices that we as a society have allowed to permeate our culture. Condoning the behaviour equates to approving the behaviour. It's one thing to abhor the practices that have been allowed to exist in some cultures, but it's another to actually do something about the injustice we see. There is no honour in honour-based violence, and honour-based killings are really murders.
I want to try my best to make a difference for those who have been subjected to domestic violence, even if it is one at a time. If we work together, we can make a difference. As you can appreciate, it is very difficult to measure the true extent of violence against women, as most incidents of domestic violence and sexual assault go unreported.
For someone like me, growing up in this country, I was not allowed to talk about my abuse. It was about family pride. For a lot of women who come to this country, language is a big barrier. They are scared that they may be deported if they speak out. They actually don't even know that there are resources for them. Most of our ethnic communities are very closely knit, and a lot of pressure is exerted on the woman to remain with her husband.
Unfortunately, many of these immigrant women may also be abused by other family members when an extended family lives together. In the South Asian culture, immigrant women are also socialized to believe they have no rights. They're threatened with losing custody of their children. In our culture, marriage is considered permanent, and we're to submit to our husbands no matter what.
Another factor in recognizing domestic violence is isolation. It prevents the woman from getting the proper help that she desperately needs. Domestic violence can also create a feeling of shame and embarrassment so that the woman drive abusive behaviours underground. Nobody wants to admit that they're being abused. Violence against women directly affects victims, children, families, friends, employers, and co-workers. There are far-reaching financial, social, health, and psychological consequences as well. There is also the cost of bringing perpetrators to justice.
Abuse is a human rights problem. As a woman and a survivor of extreme abuse and torture at the hands of my husband and his extended family, I have chosen to break the silence and the secrecy and to speak out so that you will know the reality and the severity of domestic violence. I also hope that through my story you will be disturbed enough, affected enough, and enraged enough to join me in making positive changes towards ending domestic violence.
My hope is to see more men and women come together to confront such violations. If we don't take steps to confront this, my fear is that it will actually increase. It is my sense that many abused women have lost hope and they feel there is no hope or future for them. Speaking as a victim of domestic violence, I believe that we need to take some initial steps to ensure that there are plans for women. We need to give them some hope.
I do have a question. How do we protect girls and victims over the age of 16 and what do we mean when we say zero tolerance? Are we saying probation or are we saying a jail term? What about repeat offenders?
I want to end by saying thank you for inviting me. Together we can make a positive difference. I applaud you for taking this initiative.
Mr. Chair, ladies and gentlemen members of Parliament, good morning.
My name is Madeline Lamboley and I am a Ph.D. candidate in criminology at the University of Montreal. I recently submitted my doctoral thesis on the forced marriage of immigrant women in Quebec.
Today, I am here to share my point of view on the criminalization of forced marriage. I thank you for this initiative.
My doctoral thesis is based on a qualitative approach built around “life story” interviews with 11 women between 18 and 50 who were living in, had been in or had been threatened with a forced marriage in Quebec. I completed that with 17 “experience narrative” interviews with key information providers from the police, the justice system, and the social and community environments.
During the preparation of my thesis, I wondered if the specific criminalization of forced marriage would be a solution.
Analysis of my data shows that despite the great vulnerability of the victims of forced marriages who live in Canada, for the moment, the express criminalization of this type of conjugal union does not appear to be a solution.
Why? There are four reasons.
We have to understand before we act. Several key information providers agree that before criminalizing forced marriage, it is essential to understand all aspects of it and to agree on a common definition, first of all, so that we all have the same reading of the issue. However, we have not yet reached that point.
Moreover, there are virtually no quantitative data on the topic; we are not aware of its true scope. Forced marriages exist in Quebec and in Canada, but in what numbers? We need an answer to that question before undertaking any kind of action to legislate or take other measures. There are other avenues that make it possible to criminalize nefarious behaviours that arise in forced marriages, however.
Even if this gave the authorities greater power to act, Canada does not seem ready to take such a measure. In fact, is it even necessary? Does the state not already have all of the necessary legal resources to intervene? Canada is not without means to face this issue already, to the extent that it is possible to intervene legally under the criminal system to sanction reprehensible actions that arise in a large number of situations in forced marriages (threats, aggression, sexual assault, kidnapping, confinement, false marriages, extortion, intimidation, battery, murder, attempted murder, and so on); these however are not specific only to forced marriages.
There remains a host of more insidious situations that have already been well-documented, and that can be the hallmark of forced marriages: exploitation, domestic servitude, and even in some extreme cases, slavery. These situations are much more difficult to bring to justice, or even to social awareness. We have to strengthen the legal measures that are already in place.
I asked myself whether, in the context of immigration and in the absence of a specific international instrument to protect victims of forced marriage, it would be relevant to consider the application of the Protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons. The protocol was ratified by many countries, including Canada. Its purpose is to implement measures to ensure the physical safety of persons and examine the possibility of legislative means to allow the victims to stay in the country temporarily or on a permanent basis. Since we have no specific sanctions, the protocol would be one possible solution to explore.
If the express criminalization of forced marriage is not advisable and cannot be considered, could forced marriage be added to the conjugal context to form an aggravating factor when violence rears its head; this could be considered in tandem with exploitation.
We have doubts as to the deterrent effect of a criminal law. Several authors, including Ms. Rude-Antoine and Mr. Neyrand, whose opinion I share, have wondered about the feasibility of prohibiting forced marriage. The legal texts are numerous. We are not convinced that this legislative action will be effective and will correspond to the social reality of these forced marriages it wishes to combat.
The difficulty with this penalization objective is twofold. On the one hand, we have to be able to identify the passage from a suggestion, the proposal of an arranged marriage, to the imposition that is the execution of a forced marriage; moreover, that penalization should not stigmatize the parents, the families and their culture of origin, as that may encourage even more young women to grant their consent in spite of themselves.
Who will be affected by criminalization? The parents, the husband, the in-laws, the extended family and the community.
Since some European countries criminalized the practice, how many cases have been prosecuted or have resulted in a sentence? That is the challenge of applying legislation that prohibits a harmful practice.
The legislation is not useless, but eradicating forced marriage requires more than just legal tools. Moreover, it might place an additional burden on the victim. A number of individuals interviewed—both key informants I met, and women—doubt the deterrent effect of a specific criminal provision for forced marriages. Canadian society would express its disagreement with such a practice through the legislation, but could it then protect the women who are its victims? Many people agree that the legislation would further stigmatize the victims who are already vulnerable enough.
Bill shows that the government is paying attention, and I commend it on that. However, the legislation lacks nuance and could have the opposite effect from that intended by isolating victims of forced marriage a bit more, even exacerbating the violence they are experiencing. In my opinion, the bill is not based on a proper understanding of the complex issues involved in violence against women and children in the context of honour.
If the criminalization approach is not possible at that point in our knowledge, what potential solutions could be implemented or simply used by Canada and Quebec to help victims?
The bill provides that the legal age of marriage be raised to 16, but why not instead bring it up to 18, the age of majority? Moreover, the marriage must be a civil one. In France, for instance, the marriage must be celebrated in a civil ceremony by the appropriate authority before being celebrated in a religious ceremony. That could be an approach to consider. There is a problem related to officiants. A father or mother can become officiants just by signing a form. That causes a lot problems.
Authorities have to educate, train the communities and raise public awareness. They definitely have to provide support services and implement a national action plan encouraging a concerted effort among community institutions and organizations. There needs to be a protocol for fighting against forced marriage. The authorities could also implement a repository for gathering disturbing information as France did; have a policy—
Thank you, witnesses.
Mr. Chair, I'd like to make a quick comment on Mr. Spratt's commentary, because he mentioned provocation.
Of course we all know, as you know, Mr. Chair, that provocation is a legal defence in Canada. But at the same time, the defence we are talking about in the context of honour killing was raised at least three times in Canada and the alleged provoking conduct in these cases was real or perceived marital infidelity and the other conduct with the victim the offender perceived as disrespectful or defiant toward them or their families or their family culture.
These particular claims failed—Mr. Spratt will know this as well—due to the inadequacy of the supporting evidence. Of course the proposed amendment in this bill we are talking about would modernize the defence so that it only applies where the alleged provoking conduct was objectively serious, namely where it would amount to a criminal offence with a maximum sentence of five years. Of course the reform would limit the defence so it no longer excuses murder where the provoking conduct of the victim was lawful.
Much has been made of the fact that the defence has failed where it has been raised in the context of honour killing here in Canada. While this is true to date, there is nothing preventing a court from accepting it in the future. It may be true in common law, but in this society now a man's wife is not his personal property. These are the times we are dealing with. Of course I also heard the comment that a peace bond already exists. I also heard that maybe we don't need this bill because this is not required. But when we talk about potential immigration—forced marriages, or underage marriages for the purposes of bringing someone for immigration—I believe it comes under the Immigration Act.
Ms. Dhillon, I'm coming back to you because I have very limited time.
I believe this bill sends a very clear message to individuals coming to this country that harmful and violent cultural practices are unacceptable in Canada. These particular practices are incompatible with Canadian values and will not be tolerated here. As you heard from other witnesses also, some critics say that the bill is not required, and it seems as if they are saying that the government is creating a problem that does not exist. I don't agree with them.
What are your thoughts on this, and do you believe this bill is not needed?