The Hon. Chris Alexander and the Hon. Kellie Leitch Announce Measures to Stop Barbaric Cultural Practices Against Women and Girls

October 2, 2015

BACKGROUNDER

THE PLAN

A re-elected Conservative Government will remain committed to ending barbaric cultural practices overseas and in Canada through a multifaceted commitment:

  • We will establish a new targeted program to prevent child and forced marriage in the world’s conflict zones, particularly among refugee girls who have been displaced by war and who are at risk of forced marriage. The program will cost $12 million over 4 years and the first year of funding will be targeted at preventing child and forced marriage among girls impacted by the conflict in Iraq and Syria.
  • An RCMP tip line will be established that citizens and victims can call with information about incidents of barbaric cultural practices in Canada or to notify authorities that a child or woman is at risk of being victimized.
  • RCMP integrated units will also be created in Canada’s major cities – including Calgary, Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, and Vancouver – to enforce the changes made to Canadian laws under the Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act and to support victims. This is addition to a new $8 million commitment to establish integrated RCMP anti-human trafficking teams in those same cities[1].
  • We will invest $20 million to renew the Human Trafficking Action Plan for an additional 5 years.

THE ISSUE

The Conservative Government has been an international leader in bringing attention to the issues of child and forced marriage, and in combatting barbaric cultural practices that violate the rights, health and security of girls and women.

Every year, 15 million girls are forced into marriage worldwide. Complications from childbirth are the leading cause of death among these child brides[2]. Physical abuse, sexual slavery, and so-called ‘honour’ killings are also carried out daily against girls and women around the world. A brutal practice carried out in some African and Middle Eastern countries is female genital mutilation, which has impacted more than 125 million girls and women alive today[3].

In the last year, the atrocities committed by ISIS against girls and women have also horrified the world. Girls who fall into the hands of ISIS are regularly raped and sold into sexual slavery.  Media have recounted the harrowing stories of girls who have escaped from ISIS having been ‘sold’ in slave markets.

The Conservative Government has been an international leader in combating these practices:

  • Our Government played a leadership role in bringing international attention to the issue of child and forced marriage, including the United Nations General Assembly, the 2014 UK Girl Summit, and leading the establishment of the International Day of the Girl Child.
  • Since 2013, we have committed more than $60 million in support to prevent child and forced marriage in Africa, the Middle East and South-east Asia through funding to international partners including the United Nations.
  • Consular services are available 24 hours a day to Canadians overseas who are victims of forced marriage.
  • In 2014, we committed $10M in additional funding to investigate and respond to sexual violence committed by ISIS, and to support victims of its violence.
  • The Harper Government has also committed more than $120 million in basic education in developing countries, recognizing that educated girls are more likely to delay marriage and childbirth.
  • Prime Minister Harper has committed more than $6.3 billion from 2010-2020 on improving maternal, newborn and child health in developing countries.
  • We have been a global leader in preventing and combating human trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation, particularly in Central and South America.

Stopping Barbaric Cultural Practices in Canada

Polygamy, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation are illegal in Canada. Even so, we know that these crimes take place here. The 2009 Shafia family quadruple murders provides the most heinous and high-profile example in recent Canadian history.

A 2013 report by Toronto’s South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario documented 219 actual or suspected cases of forced marriage in Ontario between 2010 and 2012[4]. Performing or assisting with female genital mutilation is also a crime in Canada, and Canadian practitioners are required to report to child welfare authorities evidence that a girl has been – or is in danger of being – a victim[5]. We also know that some girls are being taken out of Canada by their families to undergo this barbaric procedure, and to marry.

Such shocking crimes are shameful and wholly unacceptable in Canada’s pluralistic society, where girls’ equality is enshrined and where Canadian values wholeheartedly reject such practices. That’s why the Conservative Government took strong action to combat these practices:

  • We passed the Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act which makes it illegal for anyone under 16 to get married, blocks anyone in a polygamist relationship from immigrating to Canada, limits the use of provocation as a criminal defence for so-called ‘honour’ killings, and prevents the removal of children from Canada to marry.
  • We redesigned Canada’s citizenship guide to include information regarding the equality of women and men in Canada, and our intolerance for barbaric cultural practices and other forms of violence against women.
  • New measures were introduced to stop the trafficking of vulnerable foreign nationals to Canada for sexual exploitation, including enhanced border services to recognize and assist victims at ports of entry, and barring the use of Canada’s temporary foreign worker program for the sex trade.
  • We supported the development of culturally specific services for immigrant and refugee women victims of violence and human trafficking.
  • In 2012, the Harper government launched the National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking. By January 2015, 151 individuals have been convicted of human trafficking offences.

THE CHOICE

The Conservative Government is not afraid to defend Canadian values and protect women in Canada and overseas from these heinous crimes. By contrast, Justin Trudeau and Thomas Mulcair’s NDP are more worried about political correctness than tackling these difficult issues.

Justin Trudeau objected to our changes to the citizenship guide, and was concerned that calling these crimes barbaric would insult those who defend them.

The NDP voted against the Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act because they didn’t want to criminalize forced marriage or make polygamy grounds for inadmissibility to Canada.

This Liberal and NDP cultural relativism is insulting to Canadians – all Canadians – including immigrants who overwhelming agree with our changes.  Conservatives believe that we should be clear about our fundamental Canadian values, that such practices have no place in Canada, and that we will protect women who are victims of such violence.

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[1] Montreal was the pilot city for the RCMP’s anti-human trafficking teams and already has an integrated team in place.
[2] http://www.international.gc.ca/rights-droits/childmarriage-mariageenfants/index.aspx?lang=eng
[3] Female genital mutilation. Fact sheet N°241. World Health Organization. http://www.who.int/
[4] The incidence of Forced Marriage in Ontario. South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario. 2013.
[5] http://sogc.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/gui299CPG1311E.pdf

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