(OTTAWA, ON) – Legislation strengthening laws to prevent barbaric cultural practices from occurring on Canadian soil received Royal Assent yesterday.
Tabled in the Senate on November 5, 2014m as Bill S-7, the Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act provides improved protection and support for vulnerable individuals, primarily immigrant women and girls.
“Despite our best efforts and intentions, the reality is that some immigrant women can and do face violence or abuse,” said Chris Alexander, Canada’s Citizenship and Immigration Minister. “With the Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act, we are sending a strong message to those in Canada, and those who wish to come to Canada, that we will not accept the practice of cultural traditions that deprive individuals of their human rights. Our fair and generous immigration system will not extend to those who would carry out barbaric cultural practices on Canadian soil.”
The Act creates a new measure under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) that will render permanent residents and temporary residents inadmissible to Canada if they practice polygamy. As well, the Act strengthens the Civil Marriage Act by codifying existing legal requirements at the national level for “free and enlightened consent” and establishing a new national absolute minimum age of 16 for marriage.
In 2014, Canada contributed $20 million over two years to UNICEF toward ending child, early and forced marriage. The UNICEF project aims to accelerate the movement to end child marriage in Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Somalia and Zimbabwe.
It goes further by criminalizing certain conduct related to early and forced marriage ceremonies, including the act of removing a child from Canada for the purpose of such marriages, and limits the defence of provocation so that it would not apply in so-called “honour” killings and many spousal homicides.
Since 2007, over $2.8 million has been approved through Status of Women Canada for community-based projects that address harmful cultural practices such as “honour”-based violence and forced marriage.
A new court-ordered peace bond will also be created to protect potential victims of early or forced marriages where there are grounds to fear that a person may commit a forced or early marriage offence.
The Civil Marriage Act amendments are now in effect, as they also came into force upon Royal Assent.
The successful passage of this piece of legislation reaffirms the Government of Canada’s on-going efforts to end violence against women and girls, and sends a clear message that any form of harmful cultural practices is unacceptable and will not be tolerated in Canada.