Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Issue 14 - Evidence - December 8, 2014
OTTAWA, Monday, December 8, 2014
The Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights, to which was referred Bill S-7, An Act to amend the
Immigration Refugee and Protection Act, the Civil Marriage Act and the Criminal Code and to make consequential
amendments to other Acts, met this day at 1 p.m. to give consideration to the bill.
Senator Mobina S. B. Jaffer (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: Honourable senators welcome to the twenty-fourth meeting of the Second Session of the Forty-first
Parliament of the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights.
The Senate gave our committee the mandate to study issues pertaining to human rights, both in Canada and abroad.
My name is Mobina Jaffer. I am the chair of this committee.
I will ask Senator Eggleton to introduce himself and then the other members of the committee.
Senator Eggleton: Art Eggleton, senator from Toronto.
Senator Nancy Ruth: Nancy Ruth from Toronto.
Senator Eaton: Nicky Eaton, Toronto.
Senator Frum: Linda Frum, Ontario.
The Chair: We are here to continue our hearings on Bill S-7, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee
Protection Act, the Civil Marriage Act and the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.
The bill makes polygamy a new ground for refusing admission or the right to stay Canada, provides that 16 years be
the minimum age of marriage, limits the use of provocation as a criminal defence, and creates new offences and peace
bonds related to marriage for forced and underage marriage.
We will begin our hearings today by teleconference and hear from Hannana Siddiqui.
Ms. Siddiqui, we're appreciative that you have made time available for us. I know that you and the clerk have been
communicating. We truly want to hear about your experience. We are going to ask you to give us a detailed
presentation. I understand that you have some remarks to make to us before we have questions.
Hannana Siddiqui, as an individual: Thank you very much. I'm Dr. Hannana Siddiqui, the head of policy and
research at a leading women's minority organization in the United Kingdom called Southall Black Sisters, which has
been established since 1979 and specializes in the needs of Black and minority women who are facing gender-based
violence. I have worked with the organization for 27 years and have been involved in the field for about 30 years. I was
one of the original members of the Home Office working group on forced marriage when the U.K. government first
took up the issue of forced marriage in the late 1990s. I have been involved in setting up, or at least influencing the
setting up of the joint Home Office and Foreign and Commonwealth Office Forced Marriage Unit, which is a
government body that rescues victims of forced marriage. I've also helped to establish the statutory and practice
guidelines for professional agencies regarding forced marriage, and I also helped Lord Lester to introduce the Forced
Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007, which introduced the idea of the forced marriage protection orders, which are
I've been involved in the whole range of high-profile honour killings, which aim to bring culprits to justice. I have
been working with the police and Crown Prosecution Service on honour-based violence and forced marriage. I've also
been involved in a number of high-profile cases of battered women who killed violent men in the 1990s, which
reformed the law on provocation. I've been working with the Home Office on violence against women and girls
In the U.K., the debates on harmful practices started in the late 1990s. These debates and the government measures
that resulted were very much welcomed by women's NGOs, Black and minority women's organizations, like ourselves,
who have been working on the front line, within communities, trying to address these problems which at that stage the
state had not really addressed. We were successful, and we welcomed the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act, as
well as the forced marriage guidelines and the Forced Marriage Unit and the report by the Home Office working group
on forced marriage.
However, women's groups in the U.K. became divided when it came to issues around criminalization of forced
marriage. We at Southall Black Sisters, with a range of other organizations, and we had the support of about 33
women's organizations representing thousands of survivors, agreed with others when they said that criminalizing
forced marriage would not send out the right message. We obviously wanted to condemn forced marriage as a practice
within communities, but we disagreed on the need to criminalize it. The problem for us was that we worked directly
with survivors and victims. A lot of them are girls and young women who say to us, ''I do want protection from the
police, but I don't want to prosecute my parents or my family. I don't want to see them go to jail.'' They clearly said
that if they went to the police and they were going to prosecute, then they would withdraw their charges; they would
not cooperate or would not even go to the police in the first place.
I think the concern was that the whole problem of forced marriage would be driven underground, particularly at a
time when we were trying to encourage victims to come forward.
The other thing victims said was that if you criminalize it, then it may mean that they have to break up family ties
forever from their family. It means there may be no future hope for reconciliation because once you criminalize your
parents or other family members, you might find that you're rejected, stigmatized and ostracized by your family and
community forever. A lot of the victims are young girls and young women who feel that it is very difficult to survive
outside the home and who are not used to living away from home, but also who don't want to totally break ties with
their parents, their siblings or other members within the community. The sense of isolation, shame and dishonour is
very intense. So a lot of them are hoping that one day they will reconcile, at least with some members of the family, if
not with everyone. They were worried that criminalization would prevent that from happening at some future stage.
We argued that there were alternative measures that we had to address. We found that the Forced Marriage (Civil
Protection) Act was working a lot better than people expected, and we said we needed more time for that to work,
although we did agreed with the criminalization of the breach of the forced marriage protection order, because we felt
that it gave more protection to victims, particularly when a perpetrator refused to listen to the order in the first place.
So we felt it was all right to try to criminalize them.
Although at the moment, criminalization took place in June this year. In the forced protection marriage orders there
are options and a lot more control for the victims. If they want to use the civil route to enforce a protection order they
can do so, or they can use the criminal route to do so. However, with an offence of criminalization they have less
choice, because once they report the abuse they will find it will be taken out of their hands by the Crown Prosecution
Service, which can prosecute without their consent.
However, it's too early for us to say whether criminalization is working or not. We do feel that there is more
evidence because it's recent. We don't know if the criminalization is going to work. One victim said to me recently, ''I
do want to report this to the police, but I don't want them to prosecute my parents. If they're going to prosecute my
parents, then I don't want to go to the police.'' So we were able to talk to the police about this and they said, ''Well
okay, we can record it, but we have to record it as a 'no crime' because if we don't record it as a 'no crime,' then it has
to be investigated.''
We're against the idea of ''no criming'' violence against women or domestic violence or forced marriage. There is a
concern that criminalization has not resolved the problem, whereas we'd have more evidence about the use of civil
measures, like the forced marriage protection orders that have been working a lot better and the use of various nullity
laws around divorce, which have been more effective. We think civil measures are quite important and should be
strengthened if you can do so.
The other measure that has to go hand in hand with any legal changes is more funding for women's organizations
like ours, who are on the front line providing services to isolated and stigmatized victims to help them navigate the
criminal and civil justice systems to access safe housing and welfare support. All of these things are also needed if you
are going to create legal changes.
We think it's a good idea to fix a minimum age. At the moment in the U.K. for marriage it is 16 years. You have to
have a dividing line and know when somebody is underage and too young to be married and when someone is not.
Some people have argued that in this country they should increase the minimum age, and maybe there is a ground for
that because 16 is also very young; but these debates haven't fully taken place here.
In terms of the measure you have around polygamy, these debates have not taken place in the U.K. In the U.K.,
only one wife is recognized for the purpose of immigration, criminal or civil law. We don't support the practice at all.
We condemn it and want to address the problem, but we are concerned that it shouldn't be linked to immigration
controls and the rights to admission into Canada or into the U.K. or any other country, particularly if someone is a
permanent resident of that country. We think that undermines fundamental human rights. Of course, we must be able
to address the issue of polygamy. Anything that you introduce around immigration is not going to affect just the
perpetrator but the whole family — the women and children in that polygamous relationship; and that can have a
detrimental effect on them as well.
The only equivalent that we have in the U.K. is when the U.K. government introduced age-related immigration laws
to tackle forced marriage. They increased the age at which an overseas spouse can come into the U.K. initially to 18
years and then to 21 years. That was different from the rest of the population because they can get married at 16.
Technically, if you have a spouse from overseas, you can be married at 16, but you cannot bring the spouse into the
country until they are 21, initially it was 18. We didn't think that protected victims, in our experience.
Forced marriage is about controlling female sexuality and autonomy, regardless of what immigration laws you
have. We found that victims who had been taken abroad and forced into marriage anyway were abandoned there. If
they came back into the U.K. they were forced to sponsor their spouse into the U.K. They found it harder to escape
than before because the families wanted to use them to sponsor someone into the U.K. The families would monitor
them and have greater surveillance over them because they wanted to make sure they sponsored the person to the U.K.
Whereas before, the victim was able to find more effective ways to escape surveillance from the family once they were
married and then sponsored someone to the U.K. If you have to wait until 18 or 21, you are more likely to be pregnant
or have children.
In our experience, we found it was much harder for women to escape. The Supreme Court agreed with us on this
point in a test case. They said that the age-related immigration policy didn't really protect victims and was, in fact, like
using a sledge hammer to crack a nut. There was no evidence that it resolved the problem. Rather, it undermined the
right to family life to migrant communities. That is the closest comparison we have on this.
In terms of provocation, if you are going to make any changes, you have to make sure that battered women who are
forced to kill — forced into a situation where they end up killing or are driven to kill a violent partner or spouse or face
a racial harassment situation — can use the defence of provocation. We've had to reform the law of provocation to
make sure that battered women who kill violent partners are able to use that defence in a way that violent men had
been able to use it prior to that — where they killed their wives or partners in a sudden rage and argued that they had
acted in the heat of the moment and lost self-control, often because of minor things like ''my wife was nagging me,'' or
''my wife was involved in an adulterous relationship.''
There have been changes to provocation in the U.K. The defence of provocation has been abolished and replaced
with loss of self-control, so you don't have to act in the heat of the moment. It also recognizes the plight of battered
wives. For example, if you have a fear of serious violence, you can use that defence to show loss of self-control.
As far as honour killings are concerned, there is not sufficient evidence about whether the courts are lenient to those
who are claiming provocation or manslaughter in honour killings. The problem is that there hasn't been a lot of
monitoring of those cases. In more recent years, we've seen a spate of very good convictions of honour killings, in the
last 10 years or so; but that was mainly because there was pressure from women's organizations, and the wider debates
honour crimes and honour-based violence and killings in this country. What probably happened in many cases, and
this happened more widely, not just in honour killings but also in domestic homicide, was that the Crown prosecution
might have accepted a plea of provocation before it even got to court. It has been argued in some cases around a more
lenient sentence, but it hasn't been successful. There have been some case where men have argued that honour is a
ground for killing in an honour killing, but generally they have not been accepted by the courts.
We know of one case where the Crown Prosecution Service accepted a plea of provocation on the grounds of
honour, but that was in the 1990s. It's hard to say entirely how this is functioning because many of these cases don't
always come to light, and a lot of background negotiations take place. Many high-profile and public cases have had
convictions. This problem is not only for honour killings but also domestic homicides and domestic violence situations,
Finally, I would like to say that you need to change the short name of the bill where it talks about barbaric cultural
practices. Some communities will find that offensive, and it does stigmatize minority communities. Of course, these are
not acceptable practices; and we call them harmful practices. We see domestic violence in the majority community as a
form of violence against women, which has a cultural basis. You can include all forms of violence within this general
heading. We know that all of these practices are out of date. We know that domestic violence is out of date, yet it
exists. We need to change the language so that it focuses more on promoting gender equality and tackling violence
against women and girls.
The Chair: Thank you very much Ms. Siddiqui, for your thorough presentation. In our country, we don't have civil.
We're just introducing the criminal. We haven't had a debate on whether it should be criminalized. Many of us do not
feel that criminalization will help young girls to report the forced marriages.
I want to clarify something. When I worked many years ago with Lord Lester on this issue of forced marriage, if I'm
not mistaken the forced marriage section was put under the divorce act.
Ms. Siddiqui: It was included in the Family Law Act 1996 but was also called the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection)
Act 2007. It's incorporated within the Family Law Act, which was very good because it won a lot of support and didn't
stigmatize minority communities because it was put in the general provisions around domestic violence and family law.
The Chair: Thank you.
You had a supplementary?
Senator Eaton: No, Madam Chair, I have a point of order.
I think, when you're sitting in the chair and are the critic of the bill and the chair, you have to restrain and debate
and not criticize the bill if you insist on being chair.
The Chair: I didn't criticize the bill.
Senator Eaton: Yes, you did.
The Chair: I just said that we, here, criminalize —
Senator Eaton: Madam Chair, I'm putting you on notice. Point of order. You're the chair. If you want me to replace
you in the chair — Senator Ataullahjan's the sponsor, and you're the critic — I'd be happy to do so, but, when you're
in the chair, you do not pass opinions, please, on the bill. Thank you.
The Chair: I don't accept that. I don't think that's a point of order.
Senator Eaton: Hansard will show.
The Chair: I don't accept that.
Senator Eaton: Hansard will show your remarks.
Senator Ataullahjan: Thank you, Dr. Siddiqui, for your presentation. Bill S-7 proposes a peace bond that could be
ordered where there are reasonable grounds to believe that a person will aid in a forced or early marriage or will take a
young person out of Canada for the purpose of an early or forced marriage. This was specifically designed to address
concerns of front-line workers that victims do not wish to see their family members prosecuted for a criminal offence,
which is what we heard from you as well. Do you think this might be a possible measure to be used?
Ms. Siddiqui: Yes, I think it's a good measure. It seems equivalent to our forced marriage protection orders, which
are civil orders. You can prevent a forced marriage from taking place if you have that order, not just against the
immediate perpetrator but also others who you think might be colluding with that forced marriage or any other forms
of violence that you want to control. I think it has been working very well. We've taken out a number of forced
marriage protection orders ourselves, and they have been very effective. I think the only thing you need to be careful
about is that, if the victim returns to the home with the order, there needs to be proper monitoring of what's going on
in the house because they're usually alone, young and vulnerable and don't always report what's going on. So breaches
can take place, but there is no one to monitor it.
Senator Eggleton: Thank you very much for your presentation. I think we're in a situation that you have already
been addressing in the U.K., so I think your remarks are particularly helpful. I just want to clarify this situation with
respect to forced marriage because you talked about some people in the communities who are reluctant to see it
criminalized and don't want their parents to go to jail. Is it criminalized or not in the U.K.?
Ms. Siddiqui: It has definitely been criminalized. It came into force in June of this year. The government decided
that's what they wanted to do. There was a short consultation, and there were mixed responses. But, on balance, the
government said that there was support for it. At the moment, we don't know how well it's working because it's just so
Senator Eggleton: You're not aware of any prosecutions that are proceeding under these provisions?
Ms. Siddiqui: No, I'm not aware of any at the moment. I think the problem is that prosecutions are difficult. Female
genital mutilation has been outlawed in this country since 1985. There has not been a single prosecution under that,
either, so I think it's going to be a while before we get one.
Senator Eggleton: Right. Okay.
Let me ask about provocation. Do the provocation provisions prohibit honour killings? Are they specifically spelled
out in any part of the law? Do you have a definition of honour killings?
Ms. Siddiqui: No, it's not specifically spelled out by the law. Provocation, actually, as a defence no longer exists. It's
now called ''loss of self-control.'' It reduces murder to manslaughter. But there is no guidance on honour killings or
domestic homicide as far as provocation and murders or manslaughters are concerned. There has some debate about
whether or not they should be introduced as an aggravating feature for sentencing, but there is no particular guidance
around honour killings, no.
Senator Eggleton: Nobody, perhaps with an exception, I think you mentioned, in the 1990s, has been able to use
honour killings successfully to reduce a sentence?
Ms. Siddiqui: As far as we know. At the moment, I think they're getting quite clever. They don't say, ''I was
provoked because it brought dishonour.'' What they actually say is, ''We didn't do it.'' They deny it completely, but
you know that's the scenario in the background. We have worked with the police and Crown Prosecution Service and
given them advice about how to deal with these issues, but they're not necessarily put up as defences. It's not directly
Senator Eggleton: Again, in provocation, have mere insults ever been successful in any court case in terms of being
justified as a provocation or a loss of control?
Ms. Siddiqui: I'm not sure. I don't think I know enough about the use of the defence, but I know that a lot of violent
men who have killed their wives or partners have argued nagging and abusive language successfully in the past around
provocation. I'm not sure how far that still occurs because the law has been changed to say that there has to be fear of
serious violence, so I'm not sure.
Senator Eaton: Dr. Siddiqui, you have certainly given us a very nuanced, interesting presentation. I'd like to talk to
you about polygamy. If somebody arrives in the U.K. and wants to become a permanent resident, he can bring in one,
two, three, four wives?
Ms. Siddiqui: He can only bring in one wife who is recognized by the U.K. government. He might bring in other
wives through other ways, but not through a spousal visa. For example, he may bring in other wives through a visitor's
visa, or he may marry women in the U.K. under religious law, not necessarily civil law. As far as the government is
concerned, they do not recognize more than one wife.
Senator Eaton: But he would not be prosecuted in the U.K. for having more than one?
Ms. Siddiqui: No, it's not a criminal offence. Polygamy is not a criminal offence in the U.K. I think the problem is
that a lot of the marriages are religious marriages, so they're not recognized as official marriages. I think the problem
arises when you get bigamy. In bigamy, you have more than one official wife. I have never known anyone in a
polygamous relationship to be prosecuted. I think it's done quietly. If you bring in another wife, you do it under a
I don't know if you can see me anymore. Can you see me?
The Chair: Yes.
Ms. Siddiqui: I can't see you.
The Chair: Oh.
Senator Eaton: Can you see us, Dr. Siddiqui?
The Chair: Ms. Siddiqui, can you hear us now?
Ms. Siddiqui: I can hear you.
The Chair: Thank you.
Ms. Siddiqui: I can see you now as well. Sorry about that.
The Chair: Senator Eaton, one minute. Go ahead, Senator Eaton.
Senator Eaton: With this bill, we would say to people, ''If you come to this country and apply for resident status, it is
illegal to have more than one wife. Do you not think, being a woman, that if you choose to immigrate to a country, you
should adopt its values, and, as a women, do you not think it's fairer to encourage people to have one wife rather than
to turn a blind eye to people having several wives?
Ms. Siddiqui: I don't think you should turn a blind eye. I think there is a need to tackle the problem of polygamy.
You should have just one wife. We don't agree with polygamy at all.
The question is how do you tackle it? For us, we have to try to empower women. That's one of our main goals so
that women do not feel they are to be part of a polygamous relationship, that they can challenge their own families to
escape it. One of our main goals is to empower women, which means making services, advice and counselling available
for them. Because usually when they stand up to these kinds of practices, they are isolated and rejected by their own
communities and subject to honour-based violence. For us, a primary way is to empower victims. Also, we want to
change communities. We want to do prevention work and education, and that is long term, and we do work in schools
and colleges around these issues.
I think when you can prove there is a bigamous marriage you should prosecute, because at the moment in the U.K.
those bigamous marriages are illegal. The question is if you tie it to an immigration status. We are not really sure that
tackles the underlying problem because a lot of polygamous relationships are very strongly held beliefs around religion,
which women also instill within themselves, even whether or not they are part of the religion. Some people with strong
religious beliefs, and particularly in the context of rising religious fundamentalism, have a very strong interpretation of
what a religion says around women and equality and so forth.
We have taken on religious fundamentalism, and we have been tackling those problems within the communities.
We've also been asking support from the state to tackle extremism and religious fundamentalism in our own
communities, and the specific ways it aims to control and disempower women.
At the moment, we don't see how immigration laws are going to protect women.
Senator Eaton: We hope that by starting at the source, before they ever get to Canada, we will help the problem by
education. If you're coming to this country, polygamy is not an option. I think this is what this bill is trying to do.
Thank you very much.
Senator Eggleton: Except that if the woman is a victim of polygamy, you're going to force her out of the country too.
You're not protecting the woman.
Anyway, I will ask a supplementary question of Dr. Siddiqui with respect to polygamy. You've said that it's not a
part of the criminal law in the U.K., but would you use immigration law to ban a person, throw them out of the
country, either a man or a woman, but the woman victim, presumably?
Ms. Siddiqui: No, but the thing is deportation has always been a problem. It's not just for the man; it's for the
women and the children. It doesn't resolve the problem of polygamy itself. It just creates discrimination, alienation and
mistrust within minority communities.
I think you have to look at other ways of trying to resolve the problem. It may mean using the civil and criminal law
in the U.K., but not necessarily preventing the rights to settlement, to enter the country. I don't think it's going to
From our experience, the way immigration law has been used to tackle forced marriage has not been effective, and it
puts victims in a worse situation than they were before.
Senator Eggleton: Thank you.
Senator Andreychuk: Thank you for your points of view. Is there nothing in the British law that says that should a
woman come in in a polygamous relationship, the man could be returned if that's the case and the woman could
remain under compassionate grounds? Is there no ministerial discretion?
Ms. Siddiqui: No. If the man is British and has settlement rights and has a right to bring his wife from overseas, then
the man is not required to leave the country.
If she is his wife, she can stay under a spousal visa and get permanent settlement after about five years; but if she is
not a recognized wife, then she could try arguing compassionate grounds, but actually it's much harder to do that now.
I mean, the government has cut back on immigration, and in most cases it is very hard to stay in the U.K. on
compassionate grounds on this kind of basis. I don't know of any cases where women in polygamous marriages have
been allowed to stay in the country.
Senator Andreychuk: So that's the present state in the U.K.?
Ms. Siddiqui: Yes.
Senator Andreychuk: I want to go back to your premise about women in these situations, the young girls that may be
forced into marriage.
All of the points you make are absolutely valid about how difficult it is for a young girl to defy her own parents in a
forced marriage, how she might be marginalized and even more vulnerable. Did you go through the same problems
with spousal abuse? Because in Canada we spent a long time saying that let's not criminalize spousal abuse because this
just criminalizes and marginalizes the woman more. She's very dependent on that relationship. It may move her away
from her family.
All the points you were making, I was ticking them off. I lived through the 1960s and 1970s, and we came to the
conclusion that we had to have it enforced by the police. The charges would be laid even when the victim did not want
it, and we knew how difficult that would be. We needed support services to help that woman, but if we didn't
criminalize it and say it's totally abhorrent to use violence against your wife, we would never change the attitudes in
I think now we've moved on, and charges are laid. Women are more used to going there. We've built in support
services. Do you not think that the same thing would happen here? Because we've waited so long to go your route,
about using civil, et cetera, and it hasn't solved the problem.
Ms. Siddiqui: Well, I think the civil route is relatively new compared to spousal abuse, but even in the U.K. at the
moment domestic violence is not a criminal offence. We have used and demanded better policing and prosecution of
domestic violence, that's true, but it's not a criminal offence at the moment.
There is a slight difference, from what we've noticed. If you talk to women who, say, have to take their husband to
court as opposed to taking their parents to court, there's a significant difference, particularly if you are a young girl
and you're vulnerable. Most young people don't want to go against their own parents. They want to trust them. They
love them; they're attached to them; they respect them. They have a sense of duty that's ingrained with them, and a lot
of young people go through with an arranged marriage, which is sometimes a forced marriage, because of their respect
and love for their parents. They will not do anything about it, even if they are not entirely happy.
There's a substantial difference between criminalizing your husband, we found amongst women's perception, as
opposed to young girls and women taking their parents and other members of their immediate family to court.
Yes, in the long run you might find that there is a change. I'm not 100 per cent against the idea of criminalization.
What we expressed was the concerns that the survivors were telling us, but also we were saying that you have to have
other measures in place for criminalization to work. We've said that you've got to put more resources. They've cut
back legal aid and services and funding for women's organizations. All of those other measures that you need in order
for something to be effective are not there.
Our concern is that the victims may feel that, on the one hand, they can't go to the police, but also that they have no
services to turn to. You've got to have a lot of measures in place for something to be effective.
Senator Andreychuk: Spousal abuse, you say, is not criminalized? Or did I misunderstand you?
Ms. Siddiqui: No, domestic violence is not a criminal offence, as such, in the U.K. There are criminal offences you
can use to prosecute in cases of domestic violence, like assault and imprisonment, attempted murder and murder, but
it's not actually a criminal offence, as such, at the moment.
Senator Andreychuk: Nor do I think it should be. Do you not think that we would not want to put spousal abuse as
a separate offence? We want it to be taken as an assault, a violent assault, as is any other assault.
Ms. Siddiqui: Yes, absolutely.
Senator Andreychuk: So we don't have it separately.
Ms. Siddiqui: Oh, sorry, I didn't know. What I'm saying is that there are current laws that are in place. Actually, in
the U.K., things have gone backwards around policing of domestic violence, even though in the last decade or two
there were some improvements and there was greater awareness of domestic violence and more people saying that it
should be treated as a crime. A lot of measures were introduced within the criminal justice system. Actually, recently
there was a report done by the HMIC inspection of the policing, and they were very critical of policing of domestic
violence, so things in many ways have gone backwards.
A lot of victims don't actually report to the police. They don't have enough confidence in the police. A lot of
minority women, for example, do feel a lot of cultural and religious pressures to stay within the marriage and to make
it work. Even for them, there's a difference for them between majority women and minority women. Minority women
still don't, on the whole, go and report domestic violence to the police, even though there is a lot more work around it.
In many cases, they also withdraw allegations when they are made or someone else has reported the abuse, because of
cultural and religious pressures. There are still differences. Even for them, it's quite difficult to go against the extended
family and the tight-knit communities in which they live, which involves the community leadership and elders who put
pressure on them to drop charges or to not report the abuse, whether it be spousal or around forced marriages against
their parents. There is a difference between how women may perceive their relationship with a spouse, with a husband,
as opposed to their own parents. With their own parents, they tend to be younger and more vulnerable and find it
harder to turn to the police.
Senator Andreychuk: Do you not see the value, both in spousal abuse cases and in the present situation on forced
marriages, of denunciation within our society?
Ms. Siddiqui: Absolutely.
Senator Andreychuk: The fact that there have been many criminal cases is not where I would put the emphasis,
because we're working towards some answer. If you want to start helping that victim, society has to say what is wrong,
and the denunciation quality of both the legislation we're looking at and the British has merit and value as a society.
Ms. Siddiqui: I do agree that you've got to denounce forced marriage or any form of violence or abuse. It doesn't
necessarily mean you need to criminalize all forms of violence. Maybe not in the immediate future, but maybe in the
future, if you found that other things don't work. You've got to give time for others to work. You have to look at each
issue within itself, within the realm, and ask is criminalization the right time, the right way forward? What else do we
need to do? What else do we need to put into place? Would this group of victims more likely come forward or not if we
criminalize? You've got to look at the detail, but of course I agree that criminalization sends out the right message that
these are not acceptable practices.
Senator Andreychuk: Thank you.
The Chair: In your presentation, you referred to working with the Home Office. Can you expand on how that
works? I understand that would sort of be an informal way of working. What kind of education do you do in the
community for the girls who are seeking help?
Ms. Siddiqui: With the Home Office, usually it means that we sit on working groups. We have one group, a steering
group on violence against women and girls, and another one for unrepresented groups, women from minority
communities, for example. There's a partnership brought with the Forced Marriage Unit that looks specifically around
forced marriage. It is semi-formal in the sense that you have working groups and you go through policies and you
make your contribution. Another way is through consultation. You make written submissions or give oral evidence to
inquiries and so forth. Some of it is informal. You're discussing with civil servants, MPs and ministers about the way
As far as the community is concerned, we work in schools and colleges with young people, so both boys and girls,
and with teachers. One of our recent projects has been looking at preventing violence against Blacks and minorities,
looking at the whole-school approach, which means involving teachers, parents, pupils and support staff and trying to
tackle issues like forced marriage and honour-based violence. We recently did a two-year pilot project and found it to
be very effective if you do a very concentrated, intensive intervention within schools around these issues. It can have a
very positive effect.
As far as the wider community is concerned, a lot of our work is with women in the community, with survivors, and
empowering them, helping them to get to education, to learn new skills, to break isolation, to raise the issue within the
community and through the media and to challenge values and practices that are oppressive to women.
Sometimes we clash with community and religious leaders, particularly with religious fundamentalists. We've had
some very fractious relationships with various community leaders or with people with very conservative views within
the community, so it is a battle, and sometimes we are harassed and abused for what we do. Other times we are
attacked as political attacks where we might find that organizations or community leaders might want to close us
Sometimes you find that the community leaders do say, yes, these practices are not acceptable and we must do
something about it, but unfortunately a lot of that is lip service. For us, what we would see as a good response from a
community leader is if a victim came to them and they would send them to an organization like ourselves, but that's
not necessarily what they do. What they tend to do is that increasingly we've seen the growth of sharia courts or
religious arbitrational tribunals within communities who try to resolve through a parallel legal system. This is an
informal system where the tribunal will make rulings on what to do in a forced marriage case or a domestic violence
case, and usually their advice is not that the victim should leave the abusive situation but that they should stay, that
they should reconcile and that they should try to listen to their parents or make their marriage work. There's a lot of
mediation and reconciliation that's going on within this tribunal. There's increasing pressure on women to use religious
arbitration as a solution rather than using the civil and criminal justice system, which is also getting harder to use with
cuts in legal aid and services like us.
The Chair: I also understand that in the U.K. you work with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Ms. Siddiqui: Yes.
The Chair: Say a young child, a girl or a boy, was fearful that they were forcibly going to be married in another
country. What is the process in the U.K. to help this young person?
Ms. Siddiqui: Well, we were commissioned by the Forced Marriage Unit to help repatriate victims of forced
marriage. If someone has been taken abroad and the Forced Marriage Unit or someone else arranges for them to come
back into the U.K., we will go and pick them up at the airport, but in a safe way. You often find the family members
might turn up on their return, so we have to use the police and other safe mechanisms to get them out of the airport.
We then help to get them safe accommodation, like a women's shelter or some other safe accommodation. We provide
them with advice and counselling. We take them to solicitors so they can get a divorce or an annulment.
We help them with long-term needs, such as getting back into education, obtaining employment and changing their
identity, if they need to, because a lot of the time families are looking for them. They are being hunted down, either by
their families or by more organized networks and groups of men or what's known in some cases as bounty hunters,
men who get paid or hired by families to track women down. They are very vulnerable and at high risk, and we try to
make sure that they are safe and they can rebuild their lives and resettle into the U.K. when they come back here.
The Chair: The Forced Marriage Unit is not something we are familiar with here. Can you tell us what it is, how it
functions and how long it has been in existence?
Ms. Siddiqui: The Forced Marriage Unit was originally and still is under the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. It
was set up initially as a community liaison unit in the early 2000s after the Home Office report recommended that there
should be more measures to tackle forced marriage. Then later on, in about 2004 maybe, it became the Forced
Marriage Unit, because initially it was only a Foreign Office-based unit, but we argued that we have to involve the
Home Office because we have to look at the situation in the U.K. itself to prevent abductions, for example, because a
lot of cases do involve girls being taken abroad and forced into marriage. That was the role of the Forced Marriage
Unit, to enable their rescue and to help them to come back into the U.K.
The role of the Home Office is to prevent forced marriages or to deal with the problem in the U.K. The Forced
Marriage Unit has a role in rescuing victims from abroad and advising professionals or anyone else who contacts them
on how they can help victims. They commission organizations like ours to help with repatriated victims. They issue
guidance and information for survivors and do other work around reluctant spouses and so forth. They perform some
government functions but do a bit more than normal central government bodies because normal central government
bodies don't provide a service, and this unit provides a very good service.
In the early days, we saw a lot of problems around forced marriages with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office,
who would not go out and rescue victims, particularly if they thought they were dual nationals. Over the years, with a
lot of pressure from us and developments around increasing government intervention, we have found that they are very
good. We work closely with them, not only to help with repatriated victims but also with victims in the U.K. if we feel
that they are going to be taken abroad or are abroad and how to prevent the abduction in the first place — how to deal
with the problem in the U.K.
The Chair: Dr. Siddiqui, on very short notice you learned the details of our bill and have given us a better
understanding of what is happening in the U.K. On behalf of the committee, I thank you for making yourself
available. We look forward to working with you in the future.
Ms. Siddiqui: Thank you very much.
The Chair: We have before us, from the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario, SALCO, Deepa Mattoo, Staff Lawyer
and Acting Executive Director; from the Social Services Network, Naila Butt, Executive Director; from the London
Abused Women's Centre, Megan Walker, Executive Director; and from the Metro Toronto Chinese & Southeast
Asian Legal Clinic, Avvy Yao-Yao Go, Clinic Director.
We appreciate that all of you were able to make yourselves available on such short notice. We will begin with Ms.
Deepa Mattoo, Staff Lawyer, Acting Executive Director, South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario: Thank you,
honourable chair and senators. I am honoured to be asked to speak to you today about Bill S-7, the proposed zero
tolerance for barbaric cultural practices act.
I would like to start with a quote from a dynamic and resilient woman, Sandeep Chand. I had the privilege of
working with this woman a few years back. She's a survivor and advocate against forced marriages. She said:
As a survivor and now advocate against forced marriages, hearing ''Zero Tolerance For Barbaric Cultural
Practices Act'' Bill S-7 makes me very uncomfortable. Our Criminal Code is sufficient to prosecute Honour
Based Crime, Forced Marriage and Domestic Violence without further endangering the victim or compromising
her safety. Giving it a shock factor name will not eliminate the issue. Instead it will force perpetrators to take this
underground, ensuring the victims and potential victims are isolated from any resources. This causes a greater
risk to their safety, not to mention their emotional and mental well-being.
Our analysis today will be rooted in our extensive experience on the issue of forced marriage and family violence in
Canada since 1999. Our comments today are truly a reflection of the voice of our clients and their stated needs and
their own feelings about this. I will make a brief commentary on all four issues: the title of the bill, polygamy, changes
to the Civil Marriage Act, and the Criminal Code.
As far as the title of the bill is concerned, it is really offensive, to say the least. The government's press release
describes violence against women as cultural practices that are unacceptable in Canada and are incompatible with
Canadian values. I kindly want to put the SALCO's report out there, which has been talked about a lot in the last one
and a half weeks.
The SALCO survey revealed that 44 per cent of the survivors of forced marriage were Canadian citizens. It also
revealed that 43 per cent of these forced marriages were happening here in Canada. While we acknowledge that the
government is paying attention to the issue of violence against women and we're really happy about it, unfortunately
the discourses around culture, especially as it relates to violence against women, makes violence in South Asian
communities and marginalized communities seem unusual, extreme or somehow significantly different than ongoing
violence that happens to women in Canada across race, religion and background. Violence is not a cultural
phenomenon. It is not unique to one particular culture or community. In fact, we know from thousands of missing and
murdered Indigenous women in Canada that violence against women is a very Canadian reality. In other words,
violence against women in South Asian communities is not unique to these communities. They confront all of the issues
that are faced by women in general.
On the point of polygamy, I think the gist of the proposed change is that any person coming into this country can
only come with one spouse. Current immigration law says the same thing, so the proposed change is a bit confusing in
terms of what we're trying to do. We're saying that the person can only come here with one spouse at a time. That's
exactly what immigration law says currently, that you can only come here with one spouse at a time. What it does, on
the other hand, is stop any woman living in a polygamous relationship outside of the country from entering into the
country. That's what this proposed law will change. We all know that polygamy has been illegal in this country for 120
years at this point. Indeed, applying the provision strictly, the women who are in a polygamous relationship will be
subject to removal from Canada as well. Think about an example of woman who is in a polygamous relationship, the
only woman who comes to Canada with her spouse. She comes here and is living with him under conditional
permanent residency, and she cannot leave him because there is a conditional permanent residency bar on her for two
years. She's economically dependent on him. She is also emotionally dependent on him. He is also the father of her
children. What we will do through this change in the law is actually separate women from their children, which already
happens sometimes, for years because they will not be able to enter the country. They will be left behind. Their children
will be brought here, and they will not be able to reunite with their children for many years, which happens.
In terms of the Civil Marriage Act, I want to quickly say that it is interesting to mention that Canada is not a
signatory to the United Nations Convention on Consent to Marriage, Minimum Age for Marriage and Registration of
Marriages, the 1962 convention. We never signed it, and there are many other countries that did sign it. Most of these
countries have a minimum age of marriage between the ages of 16 and 18. Some of the examples include Germany,
Italy and New Zealand. The reality remains that while the age of marriage is federally governed and we do not have a
current minimum age of marriage, most of the provinces do have a minimum age for marriage. Again, we are unable to
appreciate the inclusion of this change. Although we understand it's a good change, we are unable to understand why
this change would be included under the title of barbaric cultural practices.
Coming to the last piece, the forced marriage and the provocation defence, since the release SALCO's report last
year, which I happened to have the privilege of being a co-author of, we got a lot of wanted and unwanted attention.
As to the incidence of forced marriage in Ontario, our report talked about the driving factors of forced marriages,
substantive data, the barriers that clients face and the challenges that service providers face while serving these clients.
While the attention created options for better resources and funding, which we are very thankful for — we are
currently funded by the Department of Justice on a forced marriage project — it has been kind of co-opted, at this
point, to put the focus on criminalization, which is problematic, because one of the strong recommendations of the
report was that Canada, at this point, should not be looking at criminalization because we haven't done point A to
point B. We haven't even defined the issue properly. We haven't even started the education and awareness issue.
The existing law captures issues of forced marriages pretty soundly, I would say. If we look at the criminal law
provisions of duress, harm, assault and kidnapping, as it was discussed in the earlier panel, we have very strong
criminal law, which can apply in a situation of forced marriage if need be. What happens is that when you make the
protection contingent upon criminalizing the family, the women do not want to come forward. They have told us again
and again, in direct case-to-case consultation, through service providers, that they do not want their families to be
criminalized. One of the important aspects, which we haven't talked about a lot while doing this work, is their
experience with the enforcement when they do report and the chances of their actually taking back their report once
they want to have a relationship back with their families. Eighty per cent of my clients, in the last eight years, have had
a chance to reunite with their families in one way or another. Being reunited could be that they just make a phone call
to them. The reuniting could be that they visit them once a year. I'm not saying that they all go back, but they do want
a chance to have a relationship with their family, which criminalization takes away from them.
On the issue of the provocation defence of so-called honour crimes, we want to submit that there is no single
definition of honour-based violence that is appropriate and relevant across communities. The way in which honour-based violence is portrayed produces harmful stereotypes for the communities. In fact, in the unfortunate case of
Shafia, it was the case of the prosecution that they were honour-based violence. There was no defence on the basis of
honour-based violence ever produced or defence of provocation ever used. The reality is that it has been observed by
scholars on this issue that the provocation defence is only successful in cases of non-racialized defendants, and this
suggested change would further stereotype defendants from certain communities. As far as the culture and this partial
defence are concerned, it has been observed, again, by the scholars on this issue — this is not SALCO's work — that
courts have not accepted cultural defence as a mitigating factor, period. It has not been used. It has not been allowed.
In conclusion, to put it simply, we believe that prevention, not prohibition, is important in discourse surrounding
forced marriage in Canada. We believe that education is the most effective preventive tool in this debate. We suggest
that educating and raising awareness within immigration, law enforcement, health and education sectors is the best
We stand for victims and survivors of gender-based violence, whose voices have told us, time and time again, that
they would not come forward if it meant criminal sanctions or deportation of their families. Bill S-7 lacks the
understanding of the complex issues of violence faced by women and children and does not achieve the goal that the
government desires to achieve with this.
Lastly, we respect and advocate for women who speak up and go to law enforcement, but we also stand in solidarity
with those who choose not to report due to various reasons.
Dr. Naila Butt, Executive Director, Social Services Network: Honourable senators, the Social Services Network
thanks the committee for this opportunity to respond to this proposed act. First, I would like to acknowledge how
pleased we are that the government is paying attention to the issue of violence against women and girls, both nationally
We agree that the practices the bill aims to restrict are undesirable. However, the title of the bill has connotations
suggesting that a select, privileged few have the status of the civilized preaching to the uncivilized barbarians. This
language in a multicultural, open and democratic society like Canada, where the majority of the people are immigrants,
will not be conducive to reaching the goals the bill has set to achieve.
If we look at the evidence, Canadians in Bountiful, British Columbia are already practising polygamy. On average,
every six days a woman in Canada is killed by an intimate partner. On any given day, more than 3,300 women are
forced to sleep in an emergency shelter to escape domestic violence. More than 1,200 Aboriginal women are missing.
Both Amnesty International and the United Nations have called upon the Canadian government to take action on this
issue, without success.
I ask the honourable senators: How is the violence inflicted on each of these individual Canadian women any
different from the violence that the bill intends to eradicate? Where is the zero tolerance for the barbaric acts
committed against these Canadian women, or, as the title implies, is that zero tolerance policy reserved for people who
are not born here or who dress, speak or pray differently? Violence against women is a community and public health
issue affecting us all.
According to the Department of Justice, each year Canadians collectively spend $7.4 billion to deal with the
aftermath of spousal violence. There are existing laws in place to tackle the issues raised in the bill. However, to bring
about meaningful change in the lives of the victims, based on extensive work on the issue of family violence in Canada,
there is an urgent need to bring about multi-level change.
Social Services Network has been organizing the Annual Impact of Family Violence Conference: A South Asian
Perspective since 2011 to address this issue and to develop the capacity of local communities, key stakeholders,
government representatives, media and front-line workers from various sectors to raise awareness to better prevent and
effectively respond to family violence. Based on SSN's research, extensive ground work and the voices of hundreds of
participants documented in the annual conference reports, we know that family violence is not unique to a particular
community, ethnic, racial, religious or socio-economic group. However, women with language and cultural barriers
and with disabilities are more vulnerable and more likely to experience violence. They need support.
Concepts of honour, religion and culture provide an easy, simplistic explanation to the complex problems faced by
South Asian families and immigrants in Canada.
Women don't speak up or seek help because of bringing shame to their families and community. There are language
barriers, lack of culturally appropriate and accessible services, lack of information, misinformation, economic status
and associated costs and the fear of jeopardizing their immigration status. Women want the violence to stop, but not if
this means being separated from their families and communities.
Only about 10 per cent of the sexual assaults that take place in Canada every year are reported to police. For some
perspective, let's consider for a moment the Jian Ghomeshi case. Even women who are not confronting the challenges
mentioned earlier face significant difficulties in reporting and have refused to be identified. How is it reasonable to
expect a 16-year-old high school student who does not understand how to navigate the justice system to fight against
her own parents or the patriarchal oppression? Women who do summon up the courage to report violence are forced
to return to their abusers, as there are no support systems in place. Sadly, this is exactly what we witnessed in the case
of Zahra Abdille, who was murdered with her two children by her husband last week in Toronto. She went back to her
husband because she didn't earn enough to afford a place and did not qualify for social assistance.
Criminalization of forced marriage, without the much needed institutional support for victims, would only further
alienate and harm those facing forced marriage and gender-based violence, with the added insult of being stigmatized
that they come from barbaric cultures.
The message that the bill conveys is deeply worrying for the people who have made Canada their new home and for
others who are looking forward to it. Condemning entire cultural groups as barbaric by extrapolating from the actions
of a few individuals will only foster distrust towards the government and shatter their dreams for their new home.
We have to work together to address this issue. There is hope. The federal government, Status of Women Canada,
Employment and Social Development Canada and Ontario Women's Directorate have taken steps in the right
direction. They have funded some successful pilot projects for outreach and to build community capacity to support
South Asian seniors, women and girls to better protect those that need the protection and our services.
There is a need for more resources, education and ongoing funding to replicate these successful models by the
province, by working collectively and not in silos. Thank you.
The Chair: We will go to Ms. Walker.
Megan Walker, Executive Director, London Abused Women's Centre: Thank you. I am here representing the London
Abused Women's Centre, which is an agency located in London, Ontario, that has served abused women for the past
four decades. I come to you with that experience.
We know all women are potential victims of violence and abuse for no other reason than their gender. There is a lot
of controversy over the title. It does appear to me that the word ''barbaric'' does not appear in the long title or
anywhere else in the bill. Given the controversy around the term ''barbaric,'' I would suggest that it be removed and we
just report it as the long title, which is ''An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Civil
Marriage Act and the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.'' I think that covers what
the intent of this legislation is proposing.
We are largely supportive of Bill S-7, and while I know that I can speak to many aspects of the bill, I would like to
use my opening remarks to focus on clause 7, which is the defence of provocation.
We have seen a lot of these issues before the courts in London with defence of provocation, and we know that is it
largely re-victimizes women while allowing men who abuse to get off scot-free.
There was a case in London recently where Melvin Flores was charged with second-degree murder after he
murdered his ex-girlfriend, Cindy MacDonald. He admitted to killing Ms. MacDonald, and while she lay bleeding to
death, she was found by her neighbours. She was found with a 20-centimetre kitchen knife in her back, with only the
blade visible. The autopsy report showed that Ms. McDonald had 53 blunt force injuries to her body, including nine
Flores said that he was drunk and that Ms. MacDonald provoked him, and he didn't mean to kill her. He reported
that Ms. MacDonald had told him that she had sex with another man, who had a big penis. She was pregnant with this
man's child. She said that she wanted to keep the baby because her lover had a big penis.
His provocation defence was rejected by the jury, and he was convicted of second-degree murder. However, he
appealed and it was granted based on four deficiencies, including the failure to review the evidence relevant to
provocation. It then went back to court for a second time, and again the jury rejected the defence of provocation and
found him guilty of second-degree murder.
Provocation is a defence that excuses murder, and no family should ever have to live through a trial where their
daughters, their mothers, their sisters or their friends are being blamed for their own murder. Provocation is founded
on the idea that the victim has caused her own murder, and the victim, in most cases, is a woman.
As we've just heard, we know that in Canada a woman is killed by her intimate partner approximately every six
days. We also know that 50 per cent of women over the age of 16 will face violence in their lives. Women are more
likely to be killed by an intimate partner than by a stranger. They are most at risk of serious injury and homicide at a
time of separation.
Women are murdered because their partners feel that they are no longer able to control women. They have a view
that ''if I can't have you, no one can'' or in murder-suicides they have a view that ''if we can't be together here on earth,
then we will be together in heaven.''
Canadians have been calling for the abolition of the defence of provocation since the 1990s. The beneficiaries of this
defence are exclusively men. In fact, the provocation defence blames women for those men's homicidal rages. It blames
victims by focusing on the victim's behaviour. What we need to do is to continue to work to shift the shame and blame
that women so often feel, from their shoulders to the shoulders of the abuser. The defence of provocation works
against that view.
It is akin to blaming women for their own rape because of what they were wearing or how they behaved.
Men who kill women have not lost control. In fact, they're very much in control, which is why they utilize a number
of tactics to continue to gain and maintain control over women in their relationships. It is when the woman leaves that
he feels he has lost total control and is more likely to take action to kill her. Men who murder their partner should
never be allowed to use the defence of provocation in their defence.
There is one last point I'd like to make with respect to the forced marriage issue, and specifically about a child
reporting her parents to the police if it was criminalized. This was also a concern when we started to talk about women
abuse and domestic violence — that women would not report because of fear. It was also a concern when we talked
about children who were being sexually abused by their parents. We need to recognize that if we don't have criminal
legislation to enforce those things, then we have police officers who arrive at the door and say, ''I'm really sorry, but
there is nothing I can do for you.'' Criminal sanctions are needed in these cases.
With respect to the reconciliation, we have many children who have reported sexual assaults against their parents
and those parents have been criminally sanctioned, and yet down the road we are able to work towards reconciliation.
I do believe that imposing criminal sanctions is the best way to end the exploitation of women and girls, especially in
The Chair: Thank you. We will go to Ms. Go.
Avvy Yao-Yao Go, Clinic Director, Metro Toronto Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic: I am Avvy Yao-Yao Go,
and am the clinic director of the Metro Toronto Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic, a not-for-profit organization
based in Toronto serving members of the Chinese and Southeast Asian communities, providing them with free legal
services. We have done that since 1987. I would like to thank the committee for giving us the opportunity to comment
on Bill S-7.
From the very naming of this bill to the various legislative amendments it seeks to amend, Bill S-7 invokes racist
stereotypes and fuels xenophobia towards certain racialized communities. It exudes hypocrisy disguised as morality. It
mocks the practice of polygamy elsewhere as a sign of cultural inferiority while ignoring the fact that polygamy, both
formal and informal, is being practised in Canada by some Canadians and that all too often marriages break down in
Canada due to infidelity and/or abuse.
The bill claims to protect women in forced marriages while its very effect is to put these women at further risk of
violence. At its core, violence against women is a Canadian problem. Domestic violence affects all women in Canada,
whether they are Canadian-born or born elsewhere. Other speakers have given you some of the disturbing facts about
violence against women in Canada, and I don't want to repeat them. I would just point you to one particular study
released by Statistics Canada in February of 2013 which shows that there is no evidence to suggest violence against
women is more prevalent among the immigrant population and, more to the point, there is no evidence to suggest that
violence against women is more likely to occur in polygamous relationships or forced marriages.
Attacking the issue of domestic violence through the lens of immigration and criminal law is wrong-headed. The bill
seeks to deport people who are engaged in polygamy, and that would include the very women that the government
claims it's trying to protect. The denial of permanent and or temporary resident status to people involved in
polygamous relationships will not have the desired effect of protecting women; it will simply bar women in such
relationships from coming to Canada. Likewise, criminalizing forced marriage will not end its practice but would only
drive it further underground and harm survivors of forced marriage who do not want to see their family members
In cases where the women involved in forced marriage or polygamous relationships have come to Canada as
sponsored spouses, they are put at further risk by virtue of the conditional permanent resident regulations that have
already been in place since 2012, which force a sponsored spouse to stay in the relationship with the sponsor for two
years or risk losing their status.
We all know too well even women with privilege do not report incidents of violence to the authorities. If we think it's
unreasonable to compel, say, members of Parliament who are victims of sexual harassment to come forward and
confront their harassers, then why are we forcing immigrant women to report abuse to the police when doing so would
put their own status and even their own lives at risk?
While we commend the government for taking steps to protect women from violence, I think the government should
be looking elsewhere for more sensible and effective solutions. To end violence against immigrant women, we call on
the Senate to make the following recommendations: First, repeal conditional permanent resident status for sponsored
spouses; second, grant permanent resident status to non-status women who are victims of violence; third, provide
support to victims of forced marriage in the form of housing, counselling and income support; fourth, increase funding
for immigrant settlement agencies and the whole sector; and fifth, enhance employment opportunities for immigrant
women through employment equity and related programs.
As we commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Montreal Massacre, let us rededicate ourselves to
eradicating violence against all women. We can protect immigrant women from violence by ensuring these women have
access to unconditional permanent resident status without fear of removal when they do choose to report violence and
by providing them with all the support they need to integrate into our society.
The Chair: Thank you, Ms. Go. We will now go to the deputy chair for questions.
Senator Ataullahjan: I thank all of you for being here and for your presentations. There are a couple of issues we
would like to address.
You keep saying ''immigrant women,'' but nowhere in the bill is ''immigrant women'' mentioned, just to clarify that.
We consider violence against women barbaric. No group has been specifically targeted. It targets a very specific group,
those who commit acts of violence against women.
Ms. Mattoo, in your publication you co-wrote on forced marriage in 2013, it says that one of the major threats to
clients is that victims may be taken abroad to be married off. Forty-one per cent of the clients you surveyed were taken
out of country. This bill would amend the Criminal Code to make it a criminal offence to remove a person from
Canada with the intention of the person being married against their will. You don't think that's a good step? You don't
think it might help someone who is being taken abroad given the fact that, if you take part in a ceremony or where you
help a forced marriage, you can be liable?
Ms. Mattoo: Unfortunately, the experience of the clinic and my personal experience from working with the clients
has been that young women who are facing this problem do not want any authorities to be involved a lot of times.
What happens in a typical case where a woman is travelling abroad and she contacts the clinic through a school or
through a social worker or anyone she chooses, our clinic or other agencies like ours, the first step is to register her with
the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development as a person travelling abroad, keeping them on alert that
this might happen. A lot of times when they are being taken abroad they don't know whether this will happen or not.
They are thinking it might happen, and in some cases it doesn't happen and they just come back, because it's just a
threat at that point. It's not that the forced marriage has already happened or is going to happen. I think it would have
been useful to look at the DFATD's data and their numbers to see how many cases get registered before travelling
abroad and in how many of these cases repatriation actually happens. I can tell you from my experience in personally
working on these cases that repatriation happens in very few cases as compared to the number of cases where we have
the threat and we register them before going abroad.
The whole condition of putting a kind of bind on them so that you can only get protection and we don't have any
other way of protecting you unless and until you go and report is going to be problematic because we will also see
unnecessary usage of resources when we don't need resources to put in place. And where we actually need resources,
which is the cases where people are facing threats and they need support to register themselves or bring them back, all
those resources will be misallocated.
Senator Ataullahjan: In this case, you think the peace bond the bill proposes could be utilized as a means of action
without pressing criminal charges?
Ms. Mattoo: In ideal situations, I would have wanted a civil order or injunction similar to what the U.K. has, but we
also understand that in Canada the civil order can only be issued through provinces and not through the federal
government, so therefore this is the federal government's way of saying maybe we can have something. The problem
with something, though, is that in the peace bond process, she will be required to face her perpetrators at some point if
the perpetrators choose to get noticed — to appear; and that will delay the process.
That can also mean she will have to face them in the court. It is not going to be as urgent as the need is. Sometimes
when the report comes of a woman who is going to travel abroad, the vendor is really shocked. We only have five to
ten days sometimes to work with them, or even less. I don't think the peace bond procedure is going to work as well,
although SALCO has looked at the provincial provisions of family violence. Some provinces have it. Unfortunately,
Ontario doesn't; but in B.C. we have the family violence provision, which can completely take care of situations like
this. Alberta also has it.
In certain provinces we have the possibility of civil orders, and in some we don't. Civil order is probably the better
way of protecting women, while still giving them an option to be safe and secure.
Senator Ataullahjan: My next question is for Megan Walker. You agree that criminalizing forced marriages will give
our justice system the tools they need to fight against this practice.
Ms. Walker: Yes, we support that. Our basic premise of work with women is that it's a women-centered
organization, so we provide women with choices. We explain to those women what the consequences of their decisions
might be. Every woman that comes into our office, and we served 3,300 last year and responded to 5,500 phone calls, is
given a safety plan. We talk about whether they want to go to the police. Whatever choice she makes is the choice that
we will support for her.
If you don't criminalize it, you are actually taking away a woman's choice to go through that process.
Senator Ataullahjan: We are hearing that victims of forced marriage do not want to see their loved ones prosecuted.
Could we use the same argument, then, for spousal abuse to be decriminalized?
Ms. Walker: Yes, for us they're exactly the same. When we started talking about and advocating for the
criminalization of domestic violence in the early 1980s, there was also a lot of fear that it would just go underground
and that women wouldn't feel supported and would be afraid to come forward. Some women are afraid to come
forward, but we always, as I say, offer them choice and support them in whichever choice they make.
In Canada we have a mandatory charge policy for domestic violence, but the reality is that the majority of women
will never access the criminal justice system — never. The neighbours don't call. People don't call. They don't get
involved. The majority of women don't access the criminal justice system through the police. They access the criminal
justice system through community organizations, through their schools and through health care providers. It's always
about giving them the choice. What do you want to do? What is safest for you in this situation?
Senator Eaton: Dr. Butt and Ms. Mattoo, I listened to both of you make very impassioned pleas. You come across
as though women are victims and that there's really nothing we can do. I agree with you. We probably need more
support services, but I don't think that's a reason to try to see this bill as preventive.
Ms. Mattoo, when somebody immigrates to this country, they have to fill out a fairly long form stating their marital
status and who their wives are. They may come to this country saying they have one wife. We know that Canadian
immigration is going to be on the lookout for people applying to come to this country who may be polygamists. They
are going to look out for that. They're going to check the sources.
If you misinform customs, you can be sent home. Do you not think that's the right way to behave? If somebody lies
to get to this country and is a polygamist, don't you think that's a bad thing?
Ms. Mattoo: I want to say one thing quickly before answering your question. I'm sorry I'm taking this opportunity
to clarify something.
As far as the criminalization piece is concerned, we are saying that there is an existing provision in the Criminal
Code that can be used. If a woman is attacked or assaulted for a forced marriage, she can go to the police and say she
was assaulted. There is a case from Alberta in which exactly that happened. That case actually went to the court as a
reported case. That's for the criminal piece.
For the immigration piece, I am failing to understand because currently the only people who can come to Canada
through a family class provision or through any other provision is where they have only one spouse. You cannot come
with multiple spouses to begin with.
Senator Eaton: That's right. According to the bill you have to divorce any other spouses.
Ms. Mattoo: What does that really mean? Under CEDAW, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of
Discriminations against Women, we said that we will ensure that women living in Canada and abroad will be
protected. We decided that we would eliminate violence against women. But this bill is saying that women who are in a
violent situation in multiple, polygamous relationships will not be permitted to come to this country. How does that
resolve the issue for that woman?
That's what I'm failing to understand. It resolves other issues that we won't have to deal with another spouse of this
man. I get it. For us, probably it's easier. It's simpler. As a legal clinic representative, it's probably easier for me to deal
with a file like that; but how does it help that woman? I have clients right now abandoned by their spouses, living
abroad for years who have to wait for their minor kids to grow up and potentially earn enough money to sponsor them
into the country. They are the biological mothers of these kids who are living here as Canadian citizens but cannot get
their mothers here.
Senator Eaton: I don't think that's a justification for not putting forth this bill.
Just as you made the remark about Bountiful, perhaps this bill will stop people going to the United States, picking
up a 16-year-old and bringing her across the border. Won't that serve a good purpose?
Ms. Mattoo: It would, but how would it serve the purpose if this person is ready to divorce all his other wives and
bring the 16-year-old? How are we going to stop the 16-year-old coming into the country? If he wants to bring in a 16-year-old, and if he is malicious enough to marry a 14- to 16-year old, he will probably divorce all his other wives. Why
would he not when if he knows that's what he is supposed to do?
Senator Eaton: I'm sorry, but I don't understand your argument. I think if you want to come to this country, you
have to adopt our values; and our values include women as equals and one wife per marriage.
Ms. Mattoo: It's a crime under the code to have multiple wives, right? We established that 120 years ago when we
Senator Eaton: Well now we don't want to encourage people to come into this country under false pretenses. Mr.
Shafia brought his second wife in as a cousin or other. We don't want to encourage people who are going to do that;
and this bill will put an end to that.
Ms. Mattoo: My only humble statement is that it is already part of the immigration legal system.
Senator Eaton: Well, we'll have to agree to differ.
Dr. Butt: I want to add to what Deepa is saying. The way the bill reads is that we're making an assumption that for
people coming from certain cultures this is the norm.
Senator Eaton: No, we're not making that assumption. No, we're not.
Dr. Butt: It appears from the way the bill is framed that this is something where the majority of the people are either
in polygamous relationships or they're barbaric.
Senator Eaton: No, we're not. We're just saying that if you come to this country from wherever, whoever you are,
you only bring one wife. You have divorced the others. That's all that is written in the bill. You are making
assumptions, Dr. Butt.
The Chair: Senator Eggleton?
Senator Eggleton: The problem with that argument is, okay, what if they get into the country? A lot of people stay in
this country for a long time and actually have children in the country.
Senator Eaton: They come here under false representation.
Senator Eggleton: That's fine, but are you going to victimize the women further and the children further?
The Chair: Don't have a debate amongst yourselves.
Senator Eggleton: They made comments and I'll make a comment.
Senator Eaton: Ask your questions.
Senator Eggleton: You're going to victimize the women and children further.
Senator Ataullahjan says there's nothing in here about the word ''immigration.'' In the short title, there are the
words ''barbaric cultural practices.'' When you get into forced marriages and the various issues that come up, you
know damn well that it relates to certain ethnic communities in this country; so don't try to tell me that that's not
relevant to immigration.
Well, if you're entitled to your comments, I'm entitled to mine, and that's the way it goes.
Senator Frum: Okay.
Senator Eggleton: Anyway, three of you suggested that one of the concerns here is that a lot of people — and here
I'm specifically talking about forced marriages — do not want to have their families criminalized. Well, they don't
want to have their families called barbaric either, I suppose, which is what this act does.
Senator Eaton: Practices.
Senator Eggleton: Yes, well, forced marriage, a lot of people will not want to have their parents called barbaric.
You're saying this could drive it underground and could, in fact, victimize them even more because they would have
all the more reason why they may not want to talk about these issues or have them dealt with in a court of law.
I think the first speaker said that prevention, not prohibition, was really more the way to go. What kind of
preventive measures do you think would be particularly helpful? Maybe some of my colleagues over here would be
happy to see some more prevention work done.
Ms. Mattoo: In terms of the prevention, I think some interesting work is happening at this point led by us and by
some other agencies all over Canada. In fact, I was very fortunate to have done a national tour recently of the western
provinces on this issue, where I trained police officers, social service providers and various social workers. What I
heard from them everywhere is that our work in schools is really important, work with the health sector is really
important and work with police officers is really important. It really hurts me when I'm in a meeting with a police
officer and I keep on saying ''forced marriages'' and he keeps on saying ''arranged marriages.'' That's the level of
ignorance we are dealing with at this point in the social service provision for forced marriages. Unfortunately we have
looked at the issue, but we haven't really allocated many resources to it. As I said before, we haven't even really defined
the issue. In terms of the education sector, I think that's where the biggest piece is.
When a girl is taken abroad for a forced marriage while she's in high school, she misses coming back to the same
school sometimes, or, when she comes back, she looks different. She looks married, but no one actually raises an
eyebrow about it. No one actually talks about it. Our school system is not ready for it. The social workers within the
school system need to have resources and support allocated to them.
In the social service model, the NGO model that we have currently, we have done a lot of training, and a lot of us
are on the same page at this point, but not everyone. We don't have a national database. I know the Department of
Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development is currently looking at creating a database, but we haven't had one. Again,
we are jumping the gun, for lack of a better word, in the sense that we haven't done all that allocation, but we are
trying to create a law because that will send a great message out. Is the desire of the government to send a message out
or to really protect women?
That's why I say I think it's the prevention that can work really well. We have used some really interesting tools for
prevention. We do plays. We do theatre pieces. We use cinema to talk about these pieces. We go to the communities
and talk to them. My colleague here has been organizing these conferences year after year after year to get the message
out, so I think some work is happening.
It may be unfortunate that all that work that has been put into this issue to bring an anti-racist framework to it will
be taken away, and I really feel hurt about that because there was a very strong anti-racist framework that was put into
this issue from the unique Canadian perspective, because in Canada we do have very strong laws that can take care of
Dr. Butt: Just to add to what Deepa said, our full Impact of Family Violence Conference reports give four major
recommendations, and they are on how to prevent these issues.
Number one is how do we involve and engage men as partners, as champions, rather than as perpetrators of
violence, although we do know that in the majority of the cases it is men that do that. The second one is education and
information. The third is training of service providers and police officers and the justice system and the public
I think that's very important. There are pilot projects. As I mentioned in my introduction, there have been projects
funded by the federal government that have been successful, like building the capacity of South Asian women and girls,
outreaching to the community. That was a two-year pilot project.
SSN has continued with that work and working with the schools. We have continued doing that work, but the
agencies are resource-challenged. We saw in the Shafia trial that those young girls kept on going to the school system;
right? They were seeking help, but the school system failed them. We have to find the opportunities. We have to build
the awareness at all levels and not work in silos. This involves including the school system, the justice system, the police
service, the NGOs, the faith leaders, the men, all of them. We have to be together. It's a lot of hard work.
Again, the legislation, just criminalization, is the easy part. That's what I would say. The hard work is basically
getting people to sit down to work together to address the issue.
Senator Eggleton: You're quite passionate about that. I think you made good points. If the federal government only
gave you more support, maybe you could do that.
Senator Andreychuk: I fully appreciate all of these support services, and I don't hear anyone saying that this bill will
solve the issue. It is one of the tools. To say it's an either-or, I don't think that's quite the situation. If we just continue
to consult, I'm not sure we're going to get any further for the women today. We might eventually. Every lever that the
government can ever find to help has to be brought forward.
Ms. Mattoo, could you give me what section of the CEDAW — you don't have to do it now — obliges Canada
more than other countries to protect women in the way that you said? I'd like to know the section. My understanding
of the convention isn't quite the same as yours.
I would like to know what section in the Criminal Code today you think adequately covers the issues that are being
tackled in this bill. If they are already there, why have they not been used sufficiently to be the answer and therefore
this bill is not a bill that we should try to work with?
Ms. Mattoo: In fact, it has been used, and that's the example I was giving you about *R. v. Bendacia. I have a list of
various different sections that can be applied, actually, if I can get to that list. Starting from assault to the procuring of
feigned marriage, threat, duress, kidnapping, kidnapping of a child. There is a list of things that can be used and are
used. It's not as if in every forced marriage case there is an assault and no woman has ever gone to the criminal justice
system. That's not really true. That would be a wrong commentary on that. Also, there are the human trafficking laws,
especially when I am interacting with clients who need, say, a temporary resident permit if they are in a forced marriage
situation and trafficked. Human traffic laws have also been utilized and used. To say that no woman has ever gone to
the police would be a wrong thing to say.
At the same time, for none of those provisions was it a condition on her that she has to do it. It was not contingent
upon that. What is going to happen is there will be a culture introduced of forced marriages and criminalization
suddenly into the system, which would mean that any time a woman says, ''I have been in a forced marriage situation,''
she will be told, ''Oh, you know, you can make a report.'' We see that already with the honour-based violence
discourse. As soon as a brown woman says, ''I have been facing violence,'' people throw honour-based violence into
the mix, even if it is a situation of violence which all of us face at different levels.
I don't have the list, but I can most definitely submit the extensive list on all the provisions of the Criminal Code
that can be utilized for the purpose of forced marriages.
Dr. Butt: Can I just add to what Deepa is saying and to your question? We are talking about a behaviour change.
Again, not undermining that the law is at fault, but if you create demand, if you create the awareness, and if you tell
the women that this is your right and then you do not have the services to protect that woman, I think that's where you
fail. These things go hand in hand. While you do create the demand, you tell people of their right, but then you also
give them the backup so that when they go and access the system and they are not let down. That's what my fear is of
this bill. You are generating the demand out there and the services are not out there. We need to work hand in hand,
and that's why I said we cannot work in silos. We have to work collectively.
Ms. Walker: Could I just respond to the resource issue? I think, universally, across the country, agencies would say
they are under-resourced. I think that it's not a federal government issue, as Senator Eggleton said. I think all levels of
government need to take responsibility for that.
I think it's also about looking internally and avoiding duplication within ministries, for instance, at the provincial
level, where some ministries fund certain agencies and others fund others. I think there could be a lot more
I also want you to know that the London Abused Women's Centre has, as our main foundation, that every single
abused woman will be seen within one week of contacting our service, and so we have been very strategic about how we
deliver our service. We work very closely with the community and rely heavily on donations and community funds.
So it is a big issue. I recognize that, but I do believe that you can't just blame the federal government. It's all
governments, all ministries, and I think communities also need to take responsibility. One other thing I'd like to say, as,
really, a point of personal privilege, is that Senator Eggleton was implying that this is a cultural practice, and I'm
sitting here not agreeing totally with my friends. I want you to know that, for me, it's not about culture. No, it's not.
This bill, to me, is not about culture. You're focusing on the title. So, yes, I've suggested that it's not included in the
main title and not part of the law. There's nothing in this bill about ''barbaric'' except for the title. But what I'd like to
suggest to you is that I have spoken with girls and women from Bountiful, and they tell me that regularly when men
run out of girls and women, they bring them in from the United States. That's my concern, and that's my focus.
Ms. Mattoo: Can I read the list, very quickly, of all of the sections?
Senator Andreychuk: No, I don't think we have time. If you could provide it, I would appreciate it.
Ms. Mattoo: Sure.
Senator Andreychuk: You have said that this bill will do certain things because of the criminalization. Yet, you point
to all of these other criminal sections, and you're saying it didn't happen. So I would appreciate why, when we
introduced all of those other measures, the same kind of stigmatization didn't occur because I have heard it in the
others, and I'd like your perspective. But I think the chair would appreciate getting that in writing.
Senator Frum: Dr. Butt, you made the comment — this is not verbatim — that you do want the violence to stop, but
not if this means separating girls from their families. We've heard the argument a few times this afternoon that the
problem of criminalizing forced marriage, specifically, is that it pits children against their families. It divides families.
I would ask: Isn't it just inherent in the practice of forcing an underage child or a young woman to do something
against her will? It is a crime that is committed by parents against their children, so it is inherent in the process.
So, on the idea that we want to not criminalize it so that we can preserve family harmony, I don't understand that
The last witness we heard from told us that, sometimes, bounty hunters are hired to track down errant young
women who don't follow through with their parents' wishes. The term ''bounty hunter'' I think really captures how
these young women and girls are viewed. Right? They're property. They're chattel.
I just don't understand your argument that we're inserting a sense of criminality where none belongs. I don't
understand that argument.
Dr. Butt: If there are those cases that are doing that, they're wrong, but it's not a cultural practice. It's not something
that is —
Senator Frum: I didn't say it was.
Senator Eaton: They're saying it. We're not.
Senator Eggleton: The bill says it, the title.
Senator Eaton: No, it doesn't.
Senator Frum: Nowhere.
Dr. Butt: It does. If there is a criminal action that is happening, it should be treated as a criminal case. Right?
Ms. Go: Whether or not that was the intention behind the bill, certainly, by naming it as such, it does create the
perception that this is about certain cultures only. Right?
So I'm glad to see the various party members saying that that's not the intent and that they're not targeting any
particular community groups. Perhaps the minister who is responsible for the bill should clarify that intent and change
the title, for instance.
As to the question about the criminalization, I think one of the particular issues is that, unlike the current Criminal
Code sections that I think Ms. Mattoo will provide you with, there are additional provisions that, rather than giving
the women a choice, are compelling them to do certain things. Then, the result of their reporting would lead to certain
One of the issues would be, for instance, that any family members who attend any of the ceremonies that they know
or may not know are forced marriages will be charged. Right? So it casts an extremely wide net, apart from just the
parents or the spouse who abused them. It casts an extremely wide net that would lead to certain women being very
reluctant to go forward to report.
There is another provision that even a young person can have an order issued against them under the Youth
Criminal Justice Act.
I think Ms. Mattoo is trying to explain that there are currently provisions in the Criminal Code that allow criminal
action to take place where the women choose to use the criminal route, but we don't need the additional provisions that
come in with this perception of barbaric culture that colours the whole discussion and makes it even more difficult for
women to come forward. At the end of the day, if we go back to the drawing board, some of the provisions might well
be kept, but then you need to change the conversation as a whole because, right now, the conversation is not just about
whether the families are engaged in criminal acts but whether they are doing so out of their barbaric culture.
Ms. Mattoo: Just two points: The list is pretty exhaustive in the Criminal Code, and, as we said before, it's the crime
that needs to be criminalized. There might be criminal action in it, but not every forced marriage is criminal. Most of
the time, it's emotional manipulation. Most of the time, it's a choice that the family is putting forward to the women,
and women don't even know that they were forced into the marriage unless they go to a social service provider or a
social worker and say, ''This is what happened.'' So the way that the consent is obtained is not always violence.
Senator Frum: I agree with that, and, frankly, I think you just made the case for why the title is, in fact, a good title
because it is barbaric to force your own child to marry somebody who is much older than her, whom she doesn't know
or whom she is helping to assist with his immigration plan. It's barbaric to use a girl that way.
Ms. Mattoo: Can I say something?
Senator Frum: Yes, of course.
Ms. Mattoo: Sorry to interrupt you.
Senator Frum: I interrupted you.
Ms. Mattoo: A woman who is told by mainstream society that, ''Now, you're at the age of 27. Your biological clock
is ticking, and you should get married,'' feels the pressure to get married because of her circumstances. Is that not
Senator Frum: The point is that you're saying that a forced marriage doesn't always contain violence; it contains
pressures that get put on women, on girls, from their parents.
Senator Eaton: For financial reasons.
Senator Frum: For all kinds of reasons that are not wholesome.
Ms. Mattoo: Not only parents, though. It's broader. It's much broader. It's the community. It's the people. It's like
the village. It's the city. It's not one set of people; the perpetrators are multiple and manifold, in many ways.
Senator Frum: Right. One of the things this bill is trying to convey is that, in this country, we want women to be
treated as equals, and they don't have to get married if they don't want to. They don't have to do anything that they
don't want to do, and women need to deeply, deeply understand that.
Anything other than that is treating women in a barbaric fashion.
Ms. Mattoo: I absolutely agree with that. My only trouble is that we have just come out of one and a half months of
discourses and media and everywhere saying to us that women don't access resources, don't report. There are multiple
barriers. Forced marriage is not something that faces only women who have pressure coming from the family. It's the
society. If we are going to understand forced marriages from an anti-racist framework, we have to understand that it is
women from many different cultures, including ourselves, who face this.
Senator Eggleton: I'd like to ask a question of Avvy Go.
If the concern here is mainly violence against women, then this act doesn't cover something. I think you point this
out under your section about repealing the condition of permanent resident status, and inasmuch as a man would
sponsor his wife to come over here, but then because the government holds them to the sponsorship, there can be
circumstances where the woman would be abused in that relationship or wouldn't get out of that relationship simply
because she's afraid that the government will deport her, and there has been a tightening up of the immigration laws
here with respect to that. Could you expand on that?
Ms. Go: Sure, and to be fair, honestly, even before the law was changed — it was changed in October 2012 — a lot
of women who were sponsored by their spouse were under the impression that if they left the abusive relationship they
could be deported because that's what the husband tells them, right? And of course previously we could tell them:
''That's not true. It doesn't matter. You can leave him now; it will not affect your status.'' We cannot say that today
because of the change to the conditional permanent resident that binds the women to a conjugal relationship with the
sponsor for two years, unless certain other conditions happen.
Granted, the women can apply for an exemption if there is evidence of abuse and neglect. Then the question
becomes how to prove neglect or abuse and goes back to the question of how willing are these women to come forward
to report abuse and neglect and how willing is our society to provide the support that they need in order for them to
Without addressing those issues, we will end up with situations where some women will feel constrained to stay in an
abusive relationship or lose their status. So if we do want to protect them, the first thing we need to do is to remove
Ms. Mattoo: Can I say something?
Senator Eggleton: That sounds quite useful.
The Chair: I just want to ask a question of Ms. Go.
Senator Eggleton: No, she wants to respond to my question.
The Chair: I haven't asked any questions. I want to ask one question of Ms. Go, and that is, you spoke in the House
of Commons, and here we have been looking at a lot of issues of South Asia. This is not just a problem in the South
Asian community, and may I ask you to take a few minutes to talk about what you presented?
Ms. Go: Yes, and that's why I alluded to my comment about polygamy in the formal and informal way. In fact, the
legislation says that you don't have to be married to be recognized as a polygamous relationship.
So in our situation, in our community, we are aware of a lot of situations where the sponsor or the man may not be
married multiple times, but they have a number of what I guess we would call mistresses, second or third wives,
although there's no legal marriage.
And sometimes we are contacted by these women who are the second or the third wife, or the fourth wife, who are in
Canada with their kids, and they have no other source of support other than the husband. And if something happens,
something goes wrong, the support gets cut off and they are completely isolated. She can't even come forward to say
that she is actually his spouse.
So these women are in an extremely vulnerable situation, but these will not be recognized as polygamous
relationships because, first of all, China is not seen as a country where polygamy is legalized, but it's being practised.
I don't know how, for instance, immigration is going to go after potential people who are going to come in with
polygamous relationships, whether they are just going after the 58 countries in the world where polygamy is legal or
they have a much broader view, or are they going to do some racial profiling? I have no idea.
But the reality is that there are a lot of informal polygamy relationships in Canada right now, and there may be
something we need to do to protect these women, but this bill isn't it.
The Chair: Ms. Mattoo?
Ms. Mattoo: I just wanted to take the opportunity to commend the government for actually making a policy change
recently in the condition of permanent residency, although I think the condition of permanent residency should go
away, as Avvy said, but they did include forced marriages as an exception recently, which was I think after all the work
that has been happening. There was no grand announcement made on that, but it happened this July.
The only reason I want to raise that is that it has been recognized that women coming into this country sometimes
might be in forced marriage relationships, and that's our point, that you should make provisions for these women to
come to Canada rather than stopping them from coming into Canada.
The Chair: I want to thank all of you for your presentations. We certainly learned a lot from you and look forward
to working with you in the future.
We will move to our next panel.
Ms. Miville-Dechêne, we are very happy to have you with us.
Mr. Kurland, you are no stranger to the Senate. We welcome both of you. We know that you have opening remarks,
so we'll start with Ms. Miville-Dechêne.
Julie Miville-Dechêne, President, Conseil du statut de la femme: I want to begin by thanking you for the invitation. I
assume this is due to the fact that we have written two opinion essays on issues of interest to you — one on polygamy,
in 2010, and another one on honour crimes, last year. I have brought a few copies for the parliamentarians and, of
course, you can read this in English and in French —
The Chair: One moment, please. There is no interpretation.
Ms. Miville-Dechêne: I was saying that the Conseil du statut de la femme, whose president I am, has published two
important documents that may be of interest to you, including the following one: Les crimes d'honneur: de l'indignation
à l'action — Honour crimes: from indignation to action. I have distributed a few copies of this document, but you can
also find it on our website.
We think it is urgent to do something about honour-based crimes, as the protection of women and young girls, even
if their numbers are not huge, is absolutely important. We feel that this is the priority, as opposed to some people's
desire to evade the issue so as to avoid community stigmatization or the desire to preserve certain patriarchal customs.
The protection of those women, regardless of their numbers, is a priority. That is what we told ourselves when we
began this research project.
This is clearly a difficult debate, but we think that it is a mistake for the abridged title of this bill to be zero tolerance
for barbaric cultural practices. Of course, punishment must be imposed, but prevention is also important, and using
such a strong title and the word ''barbaric'' may inhibit community cooperation. However, community cooperation is
a necessary part of prevention.
The title should essentially be changed because we think it might encourage xenophobia. However, that is not what
we want, since all individuals, regardless of their origin, must have the right to the same protection and dignity.
We applaud certain aspects of the bill before you. We think that this is a step in the right direction, as the bill
recognizes that forced marriages and polygamy have devastating effects on women and young girls.
However, we do have some reservations. When it comes to polygamy, we understand that the new legislation will
make it possible, without proof beyond a reasonable doubt, to deport men who could be polygamists. Once again,
attention must be paid to women. The deportation of polygamist men is among measures that are probably already
possible, but that possibility would increase thanks to this bill, as the legislation is obviously stronger.
However, we want women, who are not themselves polygamists — and I want to stress this — to be protected and
be able to stay in the country when a deportation takes place. What would be the point of deporting the polygamist
man with his women, who are not polygamists, to their country of origin? We feel that care should be taken to protect
Regarding forced marriages — which are definitely a difficult topic — it is true that we don't know exactly how
many forced marriages take place in Canada or with Canadian citizens abroad. However, we can tell you — because I
went to Great Britain with the researcher to carry out part of the study in that country — that certain tools have been
used elsewhere, including Great Britain, and do work.
As for your intention to criminalize forced marriages, that is certainly a path you can take. However, I do want to
remind you that Great Britain faced that same debate — the use of civil law instead of criminal law to deal with the
issue of forced marriages.
The civil approach was used. Why? Because they knew it would be easier for young women to report their parents if
they were not automatically imprisoned. Believe or not, young women in England still live at home with their parents
who wanted to marry them by force, and they prefer to remain there, so that they can stay within their community,
while also having parents who cannot send them abroad. Otherwise, their bank account would be cleared. The
government takes certain measures to ensure that parents cannot marry young women by force. An injunction is used
to do that, but mostly through a civil approach.
Two approaches were outlined recently — the civil approach, which consists in prosecuting the parents and the
family, and the criminal approach. The victim chooses what approach to go with, and that helps maximize the number
We spoke with the cabinet that issued many injunctions to protect young women, and we were told about the
difficulty of choosing criminal law or civil law to put an end to this practice. Many injunctions have been issued. The
approach has been working relatively well, and the system has managed to protect women and prevent young girls
from being taken abroad.
In closing, I would like to point out that punishment was one of the measures — and we specified in our opinion
essay that laws were needed to punish those who dared marry a young woman by force — but we think that is only one
part of the solution. Several pages of our essay talk about the prevention needed to decrease the number of honour
Without question, the first priority is providing training for stakeholders. After our essay was published, I spoke
with many social and medical workers in order to explain what an honour crime is. You will understand that forced
marriage is only one possibility along a continuum. It became apparent that most workers did not understand the
mechanisms of that type of violence, so they could not respond adequately. One example is the Shafia murders, where
Quebec social services had a number of difficulties, and one of the reasons behind that was a lack of training.
In terms of jurisdictions, we are asking that this bill include envelopes for the provinces — as this comes under
provincial jurisdiction — so that the provinces can provide services and conduct information campaigns. We will never
manage to change things if we don't go into the communities and join forces with women, and if we do not try to
change mentalities through education in schools, as well as in communities. We need targeted campaigns and, for
prevention purposes, we need communities to be with us and not against us. That is why the title of this legislation
must absolutely be changed.
The Chair: Thank you for your presentation. We appreciate it very much.
Richard Kurland, Lawyer and Policy Analyst, Member of the Barreau du Québec, Member of the Law Society of
British Columbia, as an individual: Honourable senators, thank you for the privilege of allowing me here today. It's
I diligently pursued the polygamy issue under access to information for well over a decade. A handful of internal
government documents address precisely the problem. I'm speaking of a 2002 operation training coordinator memo
from the international region: 2002, the Hong Kong Visa Office looked at this issue; 2007, legal analysis from
Immigration Canada's legal services; 2008, training materials for trainers from the immigration branch addressed this;
2009, a policy analyst, internal to the Department of Citizenship and Immigration, was looking for an answer for
Abidjan, Islamabad and UNHCR referrals; and, of course, 2010 analysis of the Lebanese Code of Criminal Procedure
by our Canadian embassy in Beirut regarding polygamy.
Most of the material has this tone: Why are you putting this in writing; and why are you sending it to me? It's
Here's the 10-year synthesis. If the person has never been to Canada before and has practised polygamy in their
home country where it is legal, the person is not inadmissible for having the status of a polygamist. Just being a
polygamist does not make you inadmissible to Canada under current law. Only when the person upon entering Canada
states or gives cause for an immigration officer to believe the person will engage in polygamous marriage or conjugal
relationships once in Canada is that person inadmissible.
The key question becomes whether or not there are reasonable grounds to believe an applicant has practised, is
practising or may practise polygamy in Canada, in which case the immigration officer can find the person inadmissible
under section 36(2)(d) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. That's our law. That's our policy.
I welcome this bill. There are a couple of things that can improve.
First, identification: We have literally a billion-dollar computer system at the Department of Citizenship and
Immigration. For persons of countries where polygamy is known to be an issue, add a few informational collection
fields to gather more information from applicants that would facilitate identification of polygamy cases. This could
include uploading copies of important, personal, family documents such as insurance policies, wills and property
ownership documents in order to illuminate beneficiaries.
Consent: As part of the application process, individuals should provide consent to the Government of Canada to
enable our officials to legally consult foreign information sources that would reveal the legal structure of family
Grandfather: Provide a window of opportunity to persons who are legally in Canada to come forward, identify
themselves and seek relief from the provisions of Bill S-7. That's only fair. The specific group I have in mind are the
people from Saudi Arabia providing welcome public service as medical professionals in hospitals across this land. It's
not fair after the fact to penalize them and their families.
Sanction: I'll end after sanction. Put teeth into Bill S-7. There is no sanction for individuals who flout the law during
their temporary stay in Canada, illicitly engage in polygamy and then leave. That needs to be changed. A monetary
penalty can and should be imposed. Penalty collection can be done the same way. Corporate commercial collection
transactions are done internationally, globally, on a contingency basis by private third-party bill collectors in the
country of origin. The key is to have the applicants agree to the penalty process and potential monetary sanction as a
term and condition of their initial application to visit Canada.
How about that for some creative thought? Those are my five minutes.
Senator Ataullahjan: Thank you for your presentations. I have a question for you, Ms. Miville-Dechêne. Your
organization's report on honour crimes defines honour-based violence. How did you differentiate it from spousal
abuse or domestic abuse?
Ms. Miville-Dechêne: I will answer in French, since interpretation is being provided.
The Chair: No problem. Our country is bilingual.
Ms. Miville-Dechêne: There is a significant difference between the two, although some similarities can be noted. The
considerable difference is that, when it comes to honour crimes or honour-based violence — whether we are talking
about forced marriages, overly strict monitoring of young girls, control over their sexuality, costs, and so on — not
only the nuclear family is involved. These practices involve an extended family, if not a whole sub-community. I dare
not say the word culture because of the controversy involved. However, it is clear that part of the community agrees
with that violence. I think this is the main obstacle. Conjugal violence is a societal problem, but, in general, people
outside the nuclear family are denouncing such practices or refusing to accept this as a standard. There are some
distinctions to be made, of course, but the difference is that part of the community is complicit in honour-based
Senator Ataullahjan: How common is polygamy in Quebec, and does the law in Quebec handle these cases
differently from other parts of Canada?
Ms. Miville-Dechêne: Like the rest of Canada, we do not have any data. However, an Ontario organization has
helped identify 219 cases of forced marriages in three provinces over the past two years. That figure probably does not
reflect the reality, since many forced marriages do not reach the ears of groups that are working on this issue. We
believe that forced marriages and polygamy exist in Quebec.
As a journalist, I covered a case of polygamy in the past. The man was of African origin, and he ended up getting
deported. He came to the country without any problems, and his wife — the second or the third one — reported him
following various problems. He had to face justice because she reported him. There are a number of cases of polygamy,
but it is impossible to say whether there are many of them or not. I want to reiterate that, even though the issues of
forced marriages and honour-based violence do not affect all women and citizens, we believe that women and young
girls, regardless of their origin, have the right to legal protection. This bill is certainly not perfect, but it does send a
very important message — marrying a daughter or someone in the community by force is prohibited, as is polygamy.
That said, some aspects of the bill could be improved.
Senator Andreychuk: I found your comment, Mr. Kurland, rather intriguing, that what we're trying to eradicate
here, we're not eradicating when it happens in Canada in that specific incident. Recently, in international law, we've
been moving for extraterritoriality, getting at acts in other countries, human trafficking being the obvious one. The
person has left. The crime was committed here, should it be a crime. How do we blend international law and national
law? It is rather intriguing to me.
Mr. Kurland: Honourable senator, the way out of the box is to treat the penalty civilly, with an administrative fine
rather than a criminal sanction. In the same way that the City of Toronto would be able to farm out collection of
unpaid traffic parking tickets to bill collectors, domestically, potentially internationally, that same legal process can be
unfolded for the administrative fine. The good news is that it does not require hiring an extra public servant or
engaging new law. It's an administrative system.
Senator Andreychuk: Within the Immigration Act?
Mr. Kurland: On the immigration side, yes.
Senator Eggleton: Ms. Miville-Dechêne, you've said that if polygamous people come over here and if action is taken
pursuant to this act on the male personage, then you feel that the woman, though, who is a victim, and I suppose by
extension her children, should be allowed to stay?
Ms. Miville-Dechêne: Yes.
Senator Eggleton: It was also suggested by one of the past witnesses, Ms. Avvy Go, and I don't know if you heard it,
that there is an additional problem in terms of abusive relationships where women come over here sponsored by their
husband and, particularly with the tightened immigration provisions in October 2012, fear that if they talk to the law
about it, they're going to get deported as well. Do you have any thoughts on that?
Ms. Miville-Dechêne: Yes. We are looking into these legislative issues and realizing that this is problematic. Very
often, women who are sponsored to come here are not familiar with the regulations. We think it is very important to
provide those women with information sessions, so that they can know that conjugal violence is one of the reasons they
can use to leave the relationship.
It is clear that the laws have been tightened up and things have become more difficult. This remains a priority for us
because, in stressful situations where money is lacking and so on, the potential for difficulties and violence within a
couple is real. So, yes, this is a major concern for us.
Senator Eggleton: And part of this is the fear they might be deported.
Ms. Miville-Dechêne: Of course, women would keep quiet to avoid getting deported. There are ways for them to
stay, but the process is complicated, and not everyone is prepared to take the necessary measures. Women are afraid,
and some of them live in fear. So they need help, training and information.
Senator Eggleton: We have two possible amendments I'm sure all will want to address and embrace that will help
protect women from abuse.
Mr. Kurland, you pointed out regarding polygamy that there are provisions right now when somebody tries to enter
the country. Well, then why these additional provisions? What difference do they make?
Mr. Kurland: Well, there was absence of clarity causing frustration for front-line visa officers who, perhaps on
receipt of information from their senior managers, issued permanent resident visas after following certain guidelines, or
punted the problem to the front-line port of entry officers to say the person is not inadmissible because the person is
physically present outside Canada, so it's not my problem under the present law.
With this amendment, this law, Bill S-7, the visa officers can refuse visas for the inland people if they were in a
The comments you've heard from the witness regarding their plight, quite well founded. I hear this across the
country, and it is, I'm sad to say, a trend in British Columbia. I've been receiving anecdotal evidence in certain parts of
British Columbia, such as Surrey, where males, the profile is 40 to 55, are commencing immigration processes to bring
in, in effect, wife number two or wife number three. Behind, there is a wake of social damage as a result, and that's why
this type of law is required now.
The Chair: Mr. Kurland, that's interesting. I haven't heard about it, but we both come from B.C., and you obviously
are aware of it. Does that mean that the husband will divorce the first wife and then bring the second and, from what
you have heard, both wives live in the same house? I haven't heard about it, so can you elaborate on that?
Mr. Kurland: Just to commence, I know the honourable senators are aware, but we are in the presence of one of the
most well renowned immigration lawyers in Canada when the honourable senator is not here in Ottawa.
The process is that the immigration lawyer will look at the case-specific information and find a way around the issue
of inadmissibility. Divorce is a common outcome. There is no follow-up on whether magically there is a reconciliation
or whether magically the new family is in a very large home, duplex or triplex, all living under the same roof; or if that
family arrangement cannot be possible, there are other methods of entry, including temporary status, work permits,
student permits, work permits in the family business. The personal servant exception is all too common.
The problem is in the illumination of the arrangement by our immigration authorities. We don't have the flashlight
to do the job well.
Senator Eggleton: Coming from British Columbia, you might be quite aware of this. Polygamy has been illegal in
this country for a long period of time, and yet we've never had a successful prosecution. In British Columbia you have
Bountiful. Why do you think we should be now focusing on this immigration part when we can't seem to get anywhere
with doing this on a domestic basis with people who are Canadian citizens? In fact, some of them are probably born in
Mr. Kurland: That begs the question: What is my interest in this dossier for over a decade? It will soon be almost 30
years I've been practising law, and at this stage I know I'm on the back nine. So my goal is to leave the Canadian legal
system and the rule of law in better condition than when I entered this profession, and the honourable senator is
perfectly accurate in pointing out, for whatever reason, that a polygamy prosecution has been less than successful, and
my interest is the rule of law and systemic integrity of our legal system. Either it is a crime or it is not a crime. It is no
excuse to say we have not been successful in prosecution.
Senator Eggleton: But is it a double standard to be putting this in here and not pursuing the thing sufficiently within
the Canadian context?
Mr. Kurland: Well, I think we should be doing what we are capable of doing right now. I suspect that having worked
with various individuals over the same period of time to combat the practice within Canada of polygamy, a strategy, a
multi-state accommodation solution is under way. I suspect that as time progresses, the polygamy situation in
Bountiful, if not other places, will wither on the wine. Moving slowly prevents martyrdom.
Ms. Miville-Dechêne: Senator Eggleton, I just want to add that we should not just give up on this simply because the
legislation, as you say, has not been successful. That is true for all sorts of cases that affect women in particular. Some
laws work, and others do not. In the case of the Bountiful sect — which is the worst example of where polygamy can
lead — some strong legal efforts were made, and no one gave up. However, some people say that this legislation
contradicts religious freedoms. I do not think that's the case, but that is at issue. Moreover, it's not enough to say that
we cannot have a more specific piece of legislation that applies to only one type of polygamy — the polygamy from
abroad. I personally believe that we should use all the tools at our disposal, so that the fewest women possible would
end up in these types of situations.
Senator Eaton: Mr. Kurland and Ms. Miville-Dechêne, I just want to clarify something that you were talking, I
think to Senator Eggleton, about.
If somebody comes to this country and is found, after he has immigrated with a wife or two, under whatever
circumstances, to have misled the authorities, yes, fine, we deport him and take way his residency status. Are you
suggesting it would be a good idea or we should amend the bill to say that the wife, however, the wives and children
who are settled in Canada, should be free to remain in Canada?
Ms. Miville-Dechêne: In my case, absolutely. That's exactly what we are saying. Why should she pay for what he did
if we consider that he is polygamist but she's not polygamist?
Senator Eaton: Do you think more women would be tempted to come forward if they knew they would be protected
and he could be deported?
Ms. Miville-Dechêne: We could hope for that. We can hope that with different laws women could come forward,
especially if they were assured that they could stay in Canada with their children.
It's quite important to differentiate between men and women in that situation; and I don't think the law does that.
Mr. Kurland: With due respect, there are some portions where we may reasonably agree to disagree.
Ms. Miville-Dechêne: It's okay. I'm a feminist.
Mr. Kurland: I believe women are equal to men. I don't believe in the weak, vulnerable woman as a human being.
From that as a premise, I can take issue with the social values component. However, the practical point is this: Should
something be done? Yes. I think it is critically important to provide a window of opportunity in a grandfathering
clause that expressly provides that individuals in a polygamist situation are entitled to come forward, identify
themselves and seek relief under section 25(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. That really ought to be
there. If it cannot be in Bill S-7, it can be done in the form of a ministerial instruction at the Department of Citizenship
and Immigration. That's another tool for relief. A lot of this stuff can be creatively solved.
I've provided the border officials near Alberta with a simple mechanism to deal with the wife import business: At the
port of entry, require the individual coming from the target group to fill out a form with the name, address, telephone
number, date of birth, and marital status of the person's parents and siblings. On average, it was taking three to four
hours to complete the form because there were 24 to 50 siblings. Any wrong answer opens the door to
misrepresentation, a bar to Canada for two years. There are creative ways to deal with this.
Senator Eaton: I want to pick up on something Ms. Miville-Dechêne said. It's not a reason to do nothing. I listened
to former witnesses who didn't see the point of the bill because it could be impossible to enforce. Doesn't this bill arm
our immigration officials and our judges? I don't think people come to this country wanting to break the law. People
want to come to this country and be like everybody else and settle into their communities. I don't think they want to
break the law.
Do you think this law could be seen as a preventive educational way that this is wrong — that by Canadian values
and standards women are equal and it shouldn't be allowed?
Ms. Miville-Dechêne: Yes, I think the message sent by this legislation is the one you are talking about. However, the
abridged title takes things too far. With this title, you clearly risk alienating all the Canadian communities that we want
to convince or that can help us with prevention.
Senator Eaton: What if we were to remove the word ''cultural''?
Ms. Miville-Dechêne: Oh, no! The entire expression ''barbaric cultural'' is problematic.
Senator Eaton: But if we were to remove the word ''cultural'' —
Ms. Miville-Dechêne: And we kept ''barbaric''?
Senator Eaton: Yes?
Ms. Miville-Dechêne: No. There are all kinds of ways to say something, such as ''unacceptable practices'' or
''practices against''. I understand that you may find those less colourful.
Senator Eaton: I cannot agree with you.
Ms. Miville-Dechêne: Either way, there is no problem with us disagreeing. I think the title should be changed.
That said, I think having to use the Criminal Code in all cases of forced marriage instead of having a civil option
would decrease the number of reports at the end of the day. The idea of sending her parents to prison for five years will
put some young girls off. I am just telling you what I heard in Great Britain over the course of this long thought
Senator Eaton: So there is no preventive merit to this approach at all?
Ms. Miville-Dechêne: That is not what I said.
Senator Eaton: But that is the question.
Ms. Miville-Dechêne: I said that a message was involved, and I think that message among Canadians is strong, but I
feel that fewer reports than we expect would be made. I think that, in order to achieve full preventive merit, the
government should couple this bill with funded preventive measures or with funding for provinces, so that they can
implement preventive measures. I think that would give the bill more credibility, as it would contain both punitive and
Mr. Kurland: I've liked the consistency ever since I read the proposed law. It's consistent with foreign policy
principles in the field now. It is consistent with sending a message to the world as to what constitutes Canadian values.
It is consistent to a commitment to furthering the protection of women and the furtherance of women's rights.
Senator Frum: If I understood you correctly, you made the point earlier that the similarity between some of these
laws and spousal abuse is that spouses don't want to report on their spouses, but at least there is no cultural acceptance
of spousal abuse. I understand that you support all the measures in the bill except for the name itself. You made that
point, which I thought was a very good point, but I don't understand the reason you dislike the title, because that's a
really good point. Spousal abuse is not culturally accepted, but some of these practices are culturally accepted.
Ms. Miville-Dechêne: Would you call spousal abuse ''barbaric?'' Would you have a law saying the ''barbaric spousal
The question is —
Senator Frum: I'm not afraid to call it ''barbaric.'' It's barbaric. A man hitting his wife is barbaric.
Ms. Miville-Dechêne: Yes, but we do not have a law that labels spousal abuse as barbaric.
I am saying that what is needed in these matters is balance. Violent acts and rapes occur in Canada; we saw that with
the #beenrapedneverreported movement on social media. Spousal abuse is rampant. So let's use terminology that is
Senator Frum: Your argument was that we do not accept spousal abuse. We do not accept beating up women or
using their physical strength over women. It is culturally rejected in this country as a way of expressing yourself. You
also said correctly that forced marriage and polygamy and female genital mutilation — you didn't cite these examples
but these are things covered here — are culturally accepted. That's the struggle. You said that. That's part of our
Ms. Miville-Dechêne: I don't think I'm contradicting myself in that, as I said, in the legislation, the violence that
occurs between people from other countries was not labelled; those acts were not labelled as ''barbaric'' in legislation.
What I am saying, then, is that if prevention is the goal, we need to call a spade a spade. From that perspective, we
used the harshest terminology. Forcing someone to get married against their will is a form of violence, forbidding a
young girl from taking part in an extracurricular activity is a form of violence. We used the word ''violence'' where it
was necessary. We did not skirt the reality, in our view. Labelling violent acts as ''barbaric'' creates another black mark
that will make it difficult to convince communities to change their attitudes. It's strictly a matter of terminology, and
the terminology is key, in this case.
Senator Frum: It is very important, and we are trying to undermine cultural support for certain practices. That's
what the title says. We can agree that there is cultural support for certain practices. As you said, call a spade a spade.
Ms. Miville-Dechêne: I think we'll have to agree to disagree when it comes to the use of the term ''barbaric.'' At the
Conseil du statut de la femme, we decided that it was best to call a spade a spade, so we use terminology that
appropriately describes the practice in question, ''violence against women,'' ''honour-based violence'' and so forth.
Senator Eggleton: I just want to help out Senator Frum here. We're talking about abuse. She keeps saying that this is
a case of physical violence where a man hits a woman. There are other cases of abuse, are there not? There's financial
abuse. There could be psychological abuse. There are all sorts of ways of abusing a woman. Some people may not
consider all of them to be barbaric. Some of them, yes, I suppose one's common belief might lead them to believe
they're barbaric, but not all abuse is barbaric, would you say?
Ms. Miville-Dechêne: I don't mean to split hairs, but the word ''barbaric'' is obviously very strong. I am not
suggesting that spousal abuse is strictly a private issue. The fact that it is still going on after so many years means that
society is, to a certain extent, turning a blind eye to it, that we are not conducting the right campaigns. There are men
who still believe that they have the right to abuse their spouse behind closed doors. Certainly, acceptance of this
behaviour continues to exist somewhere, allowing this violence to persist. Attaching the adjective ''barbaric'' to
honour-based crimes but not the types of violence we are concerned about suggests that the two types of crimes are
judged differently, and I have a lot of trouble with that. Domestic violence kills women in Canada. So I would not
apply the label ''barbaric'' to forced marriages but not to other types of crime. That is the problem. We have to be
careful with the terminology we use, and I think the terms ''violence'' and ''honour-based violence'' accurately describe
the act in question; women are being killed in the name of a so-called honour that does not exist.
Mr. Kurland: I put polygamy in the same national policy bucket as gender-based eligibility for drivers' permits. I
understand diplomatically the insult the name will cause certain countries in the Middle East and elsewhere. Do I care?
The Chair: I have a few questions of you. One is that you've been practising immigration for a number of years.
How many polygamous cases have you come across?
Mr. Kurland: For decades, I have lived in fear of a question like that, due to confidentiality.
The Chair: But have you had cases?
Mr. Kurland: Yes.
The Chair: You are known for accessing information from the government. We haven't got data as to roughly how
many polygamous cases exist in Canada.
Mr. Kurland: The data is brought to Canada from the United Kingdom. They have done some studies. Anecdotally,
the regional centres, so the Canada Immigration centres, will report the use in the old days of ministers' permits and
currently on humanitarian and compassionate relief with a certain code, a discretionary code.
The issue is that the computer system over the last 20 years plus never had a specific field to identify subcategory
polygamy. We now have that field for things like human trafficking and the like. That's why Canada never collected
systematically that data. There weren't resources to do it. The case numbers were so small. But what seems to be
implied is that the global figures are similar to the U.K., around 200 or 250 immigration-related polygamy cases,
excluding the evident ones in southern Alberta.
The Chair: Do you have a copy of the bill in front of you?
Mr. Kurland: The bill here? Yes.
The Chair: May I ask you to look at section 41.1, which describes polygamy. It says that a permanent resident or a
foreign national is inadmissible on grounds of practising polygamy if they are or will be practising polygamy with a
person who is or will be physically present in Canada.
I have asked officials, and this is what I understand. I want your interpretation. A man comes here alone, not as
permanent but as a visitor, a temporary resident. If he's here, he's not going to be practising polygamy here. He's come
on his own as a visitor. He will be admitted. Is that correct? Is that how you read this?
Mr. Kurland: I'm reading the French version where I see ''la pratique actuelle ou future'' and it is similar to the ''are
or will.'' If they're not physically present in Canada at the same time, where is the condition precedent?
The Chair: So the man can come alone?
Mr. Kurland: Or the woman.
The Chair: Of course. If they came as a couple, even if the third person was left behind, they will be practising
Mr. Kurland: This is where the information base is so key, and the only hammer available is the tool of
misrepresentation. Did the person fully disclose those domestic details at the time of application and when they
appeared at the port of entry? Even without the man, if two wives arrived in Canada without the husband, they are
The Chair: My question is for Ms. Miville-Dechêne. It concerns the Shafia family.
The minister has spoken a number of times about this family. Since we have you here and we have all been interested
in the Shafia case, what lessons have we learned? What preventive things do we need to put in place in the future to
help young girls with these challenges?
Ms. Miville-Dechêne: There are many things.
The main lesson, and one of the biggest problems, is communication. In that case, Montreal's francophone youth
protection agency was alerted once, and then, its anglophone counterpart, Batshaw Youth and Family Centres, was
subsequently alerted. There was likely no communication between the two, because had it been known that a second
report had been made, the case would not have been closed. It really came down to a lack of communication, which
just goes to show how important it is for the various stakeholders to communicate with one another.
In cases where honour-based violence is suspected, Great Britain has established statutory committees, where all the
stakeholders come together to discuss cases; representatives from both the school and social services agencies take part
in these committees. I must tell you that training is key. Alberta is way ahead of the other provinces in that regard. In
September, in Calgary, I believe — because a police officer from Great Britain was more familiar with the situation
than the others — all police officers and aspiring officers, as well as social workers, take a mandatory course on
honour-based violence; the course is several hours long. That kind of training is still not available here, nor in any
other province, as far as I know. The Shafia case exposed the ignorance around this kind of violence. The point is not
to assign blame to anyone but, instead, to train them so that it does not happen again. The youth protection
stakeholders took action to ensure the flow of information between the two agencies but, as far as training is
concerned, there is still a long way to go.
Senator Hubley: I just want to clarify something, if I might, Mr. Kurland, and that was your response to the word
''barbaric.'' I may have misconstrued it a bit. You were saying that it will send a message that Canada considers certain
activities barbaric, and that message would go to certain countries. I'm wondering how that will affect Canadian
citizens who are in our country that might have that kind of heritage, a shared heritage. Would that have any effect on
how they might see the word being used?
Mr. Kurland: Fortunately, over the many years that I was engaged in the polygamy dossier, I consulted external
stakeholders from the affected communities. It turns out that the number one reason why people move to this country
is freedom. It is the desire to remove themselves from precisely these countries that countenance this kind of societal
value. I was urged on by these stakeholders to combat the issue of polygamy, notwithstanding that it was legal in their
countries of origin. These individuals that I spoke to were embarrassed by the existence, as they said, of polygamy in
Canada and wanted me to put a stop to it. I think that would be part of the Canadian integration process success story
to find that our Canadians who are physically present in this country, having voted with their feet to live here in a
system of our Canadian values, thumb their noses at the old ways in the old country.
Ms. Miville-Dechêne: Technically, my colleague is right. For example, the Shield of Athena organization in
Montreal does a terrific job of reaching out to women from different communities that may have forced marriage
customs. I have been told just how difficult this kind of outreach work is. Every precaution has to be taken to make
these women feel at ease. Simply using the word ''barbaric'' to describe practices that are thousands of years old,
unacceptable though they may be, can hurt efforts to reach out to these women and explain to them their rights her.
Mr. Kurland: It warms my heart to see that the main bone of contention is the Christmas wrapping around the gift.
The Chair: Mr. Kurland, thank you for your presentation and your appearance before the committee today.
Honourable senators, we are pleased today to welcome Alia Hogben, Executive Director, Canadian Council of
Muslim Women; and Aruna Papp, Research Fellow, Frontier Centre for Public Policy. We look forward to hearing
from you. I understand both of you have some remarks to make. We will start with Ms. Hogben.
Alia Hogben, Executive Director, Canadian Council of Muslim Women: The Canadian Council of Muslim Women
thanks the committee for this opportunity to respond to this proposed act. Within the allocated five minutes, I will
focus on the most significant issues and hope we can have the rest in discussion.
Our organization of believing Canadian Muslim women has been working to improve the lives of women and their
families by collaborating with sister organizations, advocating for their full participation, and developing educational
resources on Islamic and Canadian laws and values. It is critical for us that our objectives are founded on the shared
values of Islam and the Canadian Charter, which to us are equality, social justice and compassion.
First let me acknowledge how pleased we are that the government is paying attention to the issues within violence
against women and girls. There is definitely a kernel of genuine concern being expressed by this act, and we support the
intent of addressing the issues of forced or early marriages, polygamy and other forms of gender-based violence. We
wholeheartedly agree with Minister Chris Alexander that violence against women is a heinous abuse of human rights
and has no place in Canadian society.
However, it is unclear and puzzling regarding the government's rationale for creating these new amendments. The
reality is that all the issues raised can be dealt with under existing laws, as the current legal framework is sufficient. For
example, sections 293 and 290 of the Criminal Code criminalize both polygamy and bigamy. The use of provocation as
a defence is also in the Criminal Code.
What is badly lacking is the application and enforcement of the current legal provisions. For example, there has
been no prosecution of polygamy in over 60 years, and governments can charge individuals now if they want to
because of the B.C. reference case of 2011, which confirmed that polygamy is harmful for women and children. We also
have the Civil Marriage Act, which defines marriage as a lawful union of two persons to the exclusion of others.
Regarding forced marriages, I am unclear as to who is going to be responsible for obtaining the peace bond from the
court. Should it not be the police, rather than the young woman? It's highly unlikely that a young woman will go to
court against her family.
We are sure that the government means well, and so we highly recommend that the lack of adequate resources for
the system should be addressed promptly. What is required is that increased, effective supports be provided to all
victims, immigrants and other Canadian women and girls. There is no need to focus on one group of families and
women, such as immigrants, when we know there is widespread violence against women in all strata of our society.
The highly disturbing issue, which you've been hearing about over and over again, which affects not only Canadian
Muslim women but all women, is the title of the act. It is disheartening that we as Canadians would use such language
for our legislation.
The title is racist, discriminatory and further exacerbates the racism and stereotyping of some of us in Canadian
society, including someone like me. We should all remind ourselves of the treatment meted out to our First Nations,
who were seen as barbaric, primitive and uncivilized. Look at the results of such discrimination and racism present
The overt message of this act is that these barbaric practices will be brought into a pristine Canada where there is no
violence, where women and girls are not subjected to these horrible practices of forced or early marriages, where
polygamy is abhorred, and where there is no femicide — that is, no killings of women and girls. Our organization
objects strongly to the label of honour-based violence, and we hope we will discuss this later.
As one example, please let us not ignore how little has been done for the women of the Mormon community of
Bountiful, where many of these barbaric practices are still taking place.
The Mormon community has been using most of these practices since the 1950s. Their justification is based on their
''religious freedom,'' and why have we, as a society, been reluctant to address the welfare of the Mormon women and
Why would our government, committed to a Constitution that includes the Canadian Charter of Rights and
Freedoms and the Canadian Multiculturalism Act, consider using such racist language?
So what should be done? We do not need these amendments. Rather, we must strengthen the existing legislation and
policies so that they are implemented promptly and appropriately. We must strengthen our resolve and our
commitment to ensure that there are adequate resources, across the country, to provide essential services and to do this
for all Canadian women and girls. Included in these services are educational programs in schools, with families and
with service providers.
We wish the government had consulted with some of us prior to drafting this legislation, and we hope that there will
be respectful consultation between the government and community groups so that a concerted effort can be made to
address the issues of violence against women.
We commend the government for playing a leading role, with Zambia, at the UN on banning child marriages and
forced marriages. We suggest that as we Canadians have a good reputation in the world, and at the UN, using
discriminatory language such as ''barbaric practices'' of immigrants only will not be seen as nuanced and sensitive by
other nations. Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to our discussion.
The Chair: Thank you very much for your presentation. Now we will go on to Ms. Papp.
Aruna Papp, Research Fellow, Frontier Centre for Public Policy: Often individuals are invited to committees like this
who are service providers or policy-makers and who come and tell you that they have spoken to victims and/or have
done research. Seldom are victims themselves here. For professionals, it is a paid job, and they are doing a very good
job. But I am one of those who have survived 18 years of forced marriage, and I can attest to the fact that it is nothing
less than slavery sanctioned by family and community.
For the past 34 years, I have worked directly with women who are victims of domestic violence, intimate partner
violence and honour-based violence. My work has resulted in founding three non-profit organizations in Ontario. One
of them, Settlement Assistance and Family Support Services, is an agency that I started 25 years ago; on November 21
it had its twenty-fifth anniversary. They have 65 full-time workers, several other part-timers and volunteers. Their
budget of $4 million.
At the celebration I met a young girl who was eight years old when I first met her and I didn't remember her. She
came running up to me and said, ''You remember, you drove us to the shelter and you said I was talking too much and
I should become a lawyer. I am a lawyer.''
I'm not just a survivor, but someone who has been standing for women's rights, and it's not a job. It's a lifelong
dedication. I was 17 when I was forced into a marriage and 21 when I immigrated to Canada with two little girls and an
abusive husband. The only thing I remember about coming to Canada is what the missionaries had told me when I was
a child. ''In Canada,'' they said, ''women are equal to men. They have the rights.'' I knew that my kismet was doomed
because I was already married, but my daughters had a chance. I believed that I had left behind culturally rooted
violence against women and had come to a country where women have the same rights as men. I believed that in
Canada, the Canadian values will protect women as they protect do men.
For the last 30 years, I've been speaking on behalf of immigrant women. Today, on behalf of the thousands of
women that I have met in the past 30 years, I'd like to thank the Canadian government for taking a stand and
acknowledging our voices.
Today, many in Canada seem to be perturbed by the terminology — barbaric cultural practices. This term was first
used in 2010, in my paper Culturally Driven Violence Against Women, published by the Frontier Centre for Public
Policy, from Alberta.
Let me tell you why I think this is the most appropriate title for this bill. I had an office right next to the Centenary
Hospital in Scarborough, and from time to time I was called to be the interpreter. One day, there was an emergency. As
I came into the emergency room there were doctors and nurses, screaming and yelling, and there were police. On the
gurney was a young girl, age 8 or 9, screaming in pain. The doctors were saying, ''Sedate her! Sedate her!'' and
somebody was calling, ''Police!'' The mother was screaming, and I was told to restrain the mother.
The girl's genitals had been mutilated and her privates looked like a big melon full of puss. That, I believe, is
barbaric. I believe forcing young girls to marry old men is barbaric. I believe forcing young girls to marry their first
cousins is barbaric. I believe forcing women, who are divorced from abusive men, to marry other men because being
divorced is shameful and will bring dishonour to the family is barbaric. I believe that forcing widows to marry old
dilapidated men is barbaric, just to save the family name and give them a man's name. I believe that forcing gays and
lesbians to marry is barbaric, and condemning them to a life of torture and slavery is barbaric. There is no gentler or
tolerant way of identifying this growing problem in Canada.
Today, too often, Canadians have shied away from standing up to those who are determined to erode Canadian
values, because they're fearful of being called racist. This is the time to say, ''I will stand up and I do not fear being
called that name, because we stand up on behalf of those who cannot stand up for themselves.''
Yes, the definition of the word ''barbaric'' is cruel, brutal and uncivilized, and these practices are uncivilized and
contradictory to Canadian values that I believe this country stands for.
It is understandable that those who oppose this bill declare that young girls will not stand up and charge their
parents or report the abuse.
Thirty-two years ago, I was interviewed by Senator Frum's mother, and she said, ''What can we do?'' I was the first
South Asian woman to speak on national television about wife abuse in the South Asian community. The backlash was
humungous. Threats were made. They said, ''We worship girls. We have goddesses. We don't beat our daughters.
There is no domestic violence in this community.''
Today, nobody can deny that there is domestic violence globally. Women are victims of abuse globally, but the
manifestation of violence within homes is rooted in cultural practices. The scripts on how to control women are
culturally developed and manifested.
I believe that it is time for Canada to take a stand and say we will protect those who cannot speak for themselves,
my daughters and those that are not able to be here.
For the last three years, I have travelled all over Canada. If you look at my website, all I am doing is training police
officers, family court judges and social workers about how honour-based violence differs from domestic violence and
from intimate partner violence. There are 30 points that they need to know before they do a risk assessment. If they
don't know those 30 points, then the intake is flawed. If the intake is flawed, the risk assessment is flawed, and then the
safety plan is flawed, and then we have to fish women out of canals because people say, ''It was not on my radar.''
It is time to recognize culturally rooted barbaric practices. Stop the excuse that we are going to be called racist or we
will be stigmatized. We are Canadians, these girls are Canadian, and they have the right to be protected. Thank you.
The Chair: Thank you.
Senator Ataullahjan: Aruna, what do I say to you? I thank you for your honesty. I thank you for your compelling
testimony. You have lived a life that some of us around the table and some of the witnesses can only talk about, but
you are talking from experience.
Ms. Hogben: I'm sorry, I can't hear you very well.
Senator Ataullahjan: I will pull the microphone closer.
In your report on culturally driven violence against women, you said that training should be required for both men
and women who want to immigrate to Canada regarding Canadian values and gender equality. In Ms. Hogben's
report on violence against women, it is claimed that it is important to involve men, and especially young men, in
combatting domestic violence. Why is it so important to involve men in the conversation, and why haven't we involved
men in the conversation as yet?
Ms. Papp: I fully agree with my colleague that men should be involved. They should be trained and educated very
early in life in schools. All men, regardless of who they are. Why we have not been able to focus on men has to do with
how the government funding has been allocated. For 30 years, we have been trying to get funding. You can only get
funding for women's programs. When men come for counselling, they have to pay. The majority of the time, the
counselling services charge them. The services that I started did not charge men for counselling.
There are ample reports that show that 90 per cent of the time women go back to their abusers in the immigrant
community. That is why we started working with men. You sit the men down and say, ''Why is the abuse happening?''
If we can help them with their settlement issues, if we can help them with what they need and keep the families together,
it can work. Mediation in families works, and that is one of the things that have gotten me into trouble, because the
funding deliverables do not allow counselling for men.
Senator Ataullahjan: Alia, in many cases of honour killing in Canada and elsewhere, Islam is used as justification
when there is no support for honour killings in Islam, the Quran or sharia law. Could you comment on that? Why is it
the case that Islam is brought up when there is no basis for it in the religion?
Ms. Hogben: I don't think it's just religion, and people talk about cultural practice and values. We need to separate
out what has become the norm and what are the highest values that people have. There is absolutely nothing in the
Quran or, as you say, in the laws or anything that justifies any kind of killing of women. However, that should be
known. I know it's not known. We as an organization are always stressing not to focus on Muslims only, that it isn't
just something that happens amongst us.
Senator Eaton: Thank you both very much. I don't know if you heard the previous witnesses. One of their big
criticisms of the proposed law is the fact that women will be scared to come forward. I think that's sort of encouraging
women to keep on being victims. However, I have never been in your position, Aruna, so I'm speaking intellectually,
not having gone through it.
Ms. Papp: Several countries in Europe have criminalized forced marriage. We now have three — Belgium, Norway
and the U.K. — where the reporting has gone up. The young girls are reporting more and more. Thirty years ago,
everybody was saying immigrant women are not going to report domestic violence. Yes, they are reporting. They will
report. But there has to be protective resources for them. When they report, then what?
Right now, when I'm doing training with the police officers and social workers, for example, they say, ''We're going
to go to this home where a 17- or 18-year-old girl is and she is going to be forced into a marriage. We're protecting her.
Where do we put her?'' We'll, don't put her in a group home. That is the most horrible place to put a teenage girl from
a South Asian community. I've seen it so many times. They grow up in a very protective, sheltered place. The only
problem they are having is they are being Westernized because they want to go to school and choose their own spouse,
so the parents are arranging their marriage.
They don't know what is happening with young people in group homes. For example, they put them in a group
home where these young people are sexually active. They're smoking, drinking and dating. The group home takes them
to downtown Toronto for a movie or a club. Now this child cannot go back because she now has a boyfriend that she
didn't have before, and that was encouraged. Now she has smoked and now she's sexually active. There is a problem
As this law takes effect, we need to, first of all, have service providers trained properly. I've had prosecutors sitting
in my training, saying, ''Where were you? I needed these 30 points. Everybody who is in this service should have these
30 points so they can do the right assessment.'' Then we need to have a place that is safe and culturally appropriate,
and we need to focus on mediation.
Last year, the U.K. advertised in schools to tell all the girls that if you're being forced out of the country, put a
teaspoon in your underwear. In one month at Heathrow, 1,800 girls were caught with teaspoons. Eighteen per cent
were boys. That's the number. Can you imagine if we told Canadian girls to put teaspoons in their underwear? Where
would we put these girls? That's my worry.
So we take them to the shelters. I had to go to Bradford because this woman who is a victim of abuse couldn't fit
into the shelter that was designated for intimate partner violence. Where do I take her?
Senator Eaton: You're saying that what we do with battered women we have to now consider how we handle
potential victims of forced marriage.
Ms. Papp: Definitely. In October I spoke at a tiny church where there were 160 people, standing room only. In the
parking lot, there were 17 teachers from the Durham region standing in the dark. I asked why they were in the dark.
They said they didn't want to be recognized and that I had no idea what was happening in the school; and they told me
and said, ''We don't know what to do.''
Senator Eaton: Do you think this law will have an effect as a preventive measure? Will people think twice about
forcing their children into forced marriages?
Ms. Papp: There are two things we have to do simultaneously. One is to inform the community that this is the law.
We have to train the teachers. They are the first people who hear about the girls. I don't want the teachers running for
the hills, which they're doing right now. Then, police officers, judges and lawyers have to be trained to judge what is
domestic. There are teenagers, and I've had four of them, and normal teenage problems. You ground them when they
haven't done something. Every parent who has a teenager does that. ''You will be grounded if you don't clean your
room,'' or whatever.
This kind of grounding is different. They are in a support group of women who have survived abuse. I was a guest
speaker where a mother was complaining about her daughter. She said, ''My daughter is driving me crazy. She's been
in the basement for three months and I'm not going to let her —'' I said, ''Excuse me, that's against the law.'' There
goes my support group. She didn't realize that keeping her daughter locked up for three months is against the law.
We need to educate those people, and we need to provide education for service providers as well so they know what
normal discipline is and what honour-based violence is. There is a clear difference where life is threatened.
Senator Eaton: Do you have a comment?
Ms. Hogben: Yes, I do. Unfortunately, what we're hearing is not anything different. I've been a social worker
probably as long as Aruna has. I worked in the field of violence against women, and it was not with immigrants. It was
not with newcomers but with good old long-standing Canadians in southeast Ontario.
Anything you're hearing now I have dealt with, which was not to do with immigrants or brown people or visible
minorities or anything like that, in particular religious groups. This kind of stuff has been going on anywhere. If we're
going to sit here and tell stories, I can tell you stories too; but that's not the issue.
Senator Eaton: This bill is only aimed at barbaric practices, not at any one given community. It's aimed at violence
against women. It is not aimed at any community.
Ms. Hogben: It is aimed at new immigrants.
Senator Eaton: No, it's not.
Ms. Hogben: I'm so sorry, but I've heard Mr. Alexander talk about it as part of immigration and refugee protection.
Senator Eaton: That's so the border will police people trying to come into polygamist marriages.
Ms. Hogben: What about what's happening here? That's fine. I would say to you as a woman that I've been in
Canada for over 50 years. I see myself as Canadian as anyone else. People keep talking about Canadian values. Mine
are Canadian values, but I'm a Muslim. I'm a visible minority woman, but my values are as Canadian as anyone else's.
We must not keep separating —
Senator Eaton: Don't you believe women are equal?
Ms. Hogben: Absolutely.
The Chair: I have a number of questions for both of you. I have known both of you for a very long time, and I know
that you work in education.
If you were designing the programs, what would educating the community look like? What would educating service
providers look like? Aruna has covered it, so I will start with you, Alia.
Ms. Hogben: If I were to design something, I would design it as something that would be universal and apply to all
children, girls and women when they're older. I would not separate it by different immigrant groups or cultural groups
or religious groups. That's my first thing.
Second, I would insist that each person be seen as a unique, individual person. The distinctive needs of the
individual woman should be seen.
I also believe that people should be trained in what I will call cultural competency. That just means knowing when
you come from different countries, particularly to Canada, that we base it on the Charter and the Canadian
Multiculturalism Act that we see each woman as different.
If I may, senator, I would like to raise the Shafia case. I lived in Kingston, and we were very involved with the
presence and so forth. The thing is that in Montreal, these children were seen as not Canadian. They were seen as
different, as immigrants, and their culture was seen as different. There were amber alerts put out by the police for these
children. They went to shelters and community services; and all of them failed. The police failed them because they saw
them as different from other Canadian children. Many of them were under 16 at the time.
That's the point I'm trying to make. If we see all our children as Canadian with the same values, the same high
expectations we should have for them, then we'd be okay. We can't go around separating women and children into
Ms. Papp: The training I provide is divided into two modules. First, we talk about the ideology of honour-based
violence. The ideology of honour-based violence is not particular to any community or any religious group. Honour-based violence happens in 59 countries around the world. It's more prominent in the southern hemisphere.
What is the ideology about? Honour-based violence is not new to Canada. Immigrants didn't bring it. From 1950 to
1970 there were 350,000 White Canadian girls who were institutionalized because they were unwed mothers and had
brought shame to the families. That was dishonour. Honour-based violence has been in Canada for a long time. It just
looks different because I'm different. My father's culture was different, so we need to talk about the culture. We need
to get away from saying honour-based violence only belongs to a particular group. It's been here, but it looks different
in your community and mine. We are all honourable people. Sometimes honour gets misused. That's what we spend a
lot of time on.
Then we talk about patriarchy. Patriarchy exists in every culture. White Anglo-Saxons are patriarchal as well. It
looks different in their family than it looks in mine and in an African community or in a Spanish community. We talk
about that. We make it more general. People become comfortable in my workshops. I ask them, ''What is your
culture?'' Often the response is, ''I've never talked about my culture because I'm White.'' ''Why not?'' I ask. White
people have cultures. I was very shocked to know as a new immigrant that White people have cultures — Polish,
Russian, Italian, et cetera. There are all kinds of cultures, but we don't talk about them. We only talk about brown
people and their culture.
We spend a day on that. It's a four-day workshop, and the next two days are spent on risk assessment. There are 27
tools used just in Ontario to assess domestic violence. It's mind-boggling. None of them applies to immigrant women,
not one of them. So how can they apply to honour-based violence?
Well, this is what we've got; let's see how it works. That's a bad question to ask an immigrant. Don't ask. You walk
into a Sikh home and say, ''Do you go to mosque?'' No, you ought to know better. That's a Sikh gentleman, and he
does not go to mosque. This kind of common-sense information is missing. We do eight hours a day for four days and
many participants keep coming back. That's the module that I've created after 30 years of working with colleagues
who are well-meaning, wanting to work but don't know how.
The Chair: I know you have been a social worker for many years, Ms. Hogben. When I was doing apprehension
work, the biggest challenge was to go into the home of a young girl or boy and get the child out of the home because
they were abused. There is no choice. You have to do it. But when you get that child out of the home, it's the child that
leaves the family. It's the child that leaves the community. It's the child that becomes rootless.
As both of you, I worked on this for years. With forced marriages, I'm glad the minister has introduced it and that
we are talking about it, but my concern is the little girl, the 14-year-old, 15-year-old, 16-year-old who will come for
help, as she should. When she comes for help, it will be she who will be removed from the family. It will be she who will
be removed from the community. It will be she who will become rootless. Then what happens? There are no services.
Ms. Papp: Absolutely.
The Chair: I want that child to get help. Honestly, for me, this bill is raising expectations without the resources. I'm
really worried about the child, and I want both of you to comment on that. I'll start with you, Ms. Hogben.
Ms. Hogben: Thank you. Can I go back a little bit? When we were talking about what's called honour-based
violence, Aruna rightly said that it applies to everybody. Everybody has honour and so on. The thing to remember is
that the fundamental issue about any of this discussion is patriarchy, and patriarchy is alive and well in Canada as well.
We are dismantling it, thank God, and we are doing a good job, but it's not that it's not there. I think we could all talk
about patriarchy rather than honour-based violence.
About the children, I was thinking of an example from when I first started to work. If a woman was abused in a
home and the police were called, about I'd say now 20 years ago, if the woman withdrew the charge and said, ''Oh, no,
he isn't hitting me,'' in Canada, then the police didn't have any grounds for doing anything. They had to leave.
Fortunately, that law was changed where now the responsibility and accountability has shifted to the police force.
Aruna has one set of statistics about Britain. I have another set where they're saying that nobody is coming forward
and it's not working very well and they're worrying about it. But it's just a new one. The law in Britain has just changed
recently. I think we should not compare ourselves with any country, not even Britain. They have very good models, so
definitely use models, but don't compare ourselves. In Britain, the majority of immigrants still come from Pakistan,
and the relationship they have with the government of Pakistan is very different. We're not like that. Our immigrants
come from absolutely everywhere, so we need to see that this is a Canadian issue.
About making the person rootless, it is because there aren't enough services out there. I think Aruna would agree
with me that there is no use putting more laws into effect until we know how that person is going to be supported.
The first case that I got involved with was about 10 years ago. It was a young girl who had been sent back to another
country, and it doesn't matter which one. She was just under 16. All of us galvanized, the school included, the
psychologist, and brought the child back under child welfare because she was just barely under 16, but the family
rejected her. It was 10 years ago, and the family has now accepted her.
It is quite right that the services need to be provided, but the services need to be provided for anyone who is leaving
the home. As I said, cultural competency can be for all of us, not just for immigrants or particular religious
Ms. Papp: I just met with the minister before I came here, and I warned him. I said, ''If I speak to this bill, I want
resources to follow, and that is very important.'' He has recognized that. I think we are moving in the right direction.
We are doing prevention and starting education in schools and talking to all the parents, starting in elementary school.
People are shocked when the girls come home and they're teenagers and say, ''I want to go to school. I want to choose
my spouse.'' In their homes, ''I want'' is not something that is encouraged.
Before I finish, I want to say that not all people who come from these 59 countries abuse their daughters and wives. I
am only speaking of those who are my clients, the people I have met. The majority of the immigrants are integrating
well. They are beautiful Canadians, enjoying the life and the country, and they're supportive of Canadian values and
enjoy the opportunities that are given to them. We should never think that all immigrant Canadians are killing their
daughters, but there is enough happening that we need to pay attention and prevent what is happening. Some day we
hope that we won't need social services and shelters. In my lifetime, that's my hope.
The Chair: Well, the thing is that there aren't enough shelters for everybody, not just one specific group. So it's
resources. To be fair to the federal government, a lot of resources come from the provinces too, so it's a mixed issue.
What I would like to hear from both of you, because this is something that we could look at, is what exactly you
mean when you say resources need to be available. Say this bill comes. It won't be tomorrow because it has to go to the
House of Commons, but say this bill is passed by next year. What would you want in place? When we raise the
expectation of the little girl that she will get help, she leaves her home with faith that she will get help. What can she
Ms. Papp: I think that if the teachers are trained to identify honour-based violence, if the social workers and police
officers are trained to identify, we can do prevention before she needs to leave. That's my goal, and that's why my
workshops are so packed, so we can do prevention. How do we support the family where we think there might be
issues? What kind of support does the family need? Taking the child out of the house is the last measure.
I want to go back and talk to Grades 5, 6 and 7. We are talking to parents. We are talking to teachers first. If we can
take the two modules and share them with everybody so people have access to this information that I've collected over
30 years, that's a good start.
Ms. Hogben: I am going to disagree so strongly and with such passion against the discussion of its being honour-based violence. I swear to you that anything you call honour-based violence is exactly the same as any other violence. If
we name things like that, what we're doing is we're separating women again into categories. There's no such thing as
honour-based violence. It's all to do with patriarchy, and that is definitely cultural forms. One family can be far more
patriarchal than another family, no question, but those do not lead to the kind of services or training that we need to
If we really do believe in what we call Canadian values, what are they? We're going to say that everybody should be
treated equally under the law, that men and women should be treated equally, that all our children should be protected
whether they're black, green, brown or yellow, that the schools should be well-resourced and financed and that there
should be enough social services.
This separation makes me so sad to say that just because a child comes out of an immigrant group and is considered
to be under honour-based violence, she shouldn't go to a group home. Well, change the group homes. Don't separate
that child from her other friends and from her school. If we keep saying ''honour-based violence,'' please give some
thought as to what it is exactly you're doing and what it is exactly you're pushing.
Senator Eggleton: Let me ask you a couple of things. I want to ask about the peace bonds. If a young girl feels that
she's about to be forced into a marriage, taken out of the country or whatever, this provides for her to go to a court. It
talks about a person fearing on reasonable grounds that another person will commit one of the three new offences. She
could go to a court or somebody could go to a court on her behalf. How likely is that to happen if it means taking her
parents to court?
Ms. Hogben: It's not likely to happen. This is why I raised the example which changed. It used to be that a woman
had to lay the charges in the case of violence against her, and now it's the police. That's a shift that should take place to
not put the onus of accountability on the child, even if she is 17 or 18, if not 16. One has to look at who is accountable
and takes responsibility for ensuring the safety of that child. The child should not have to fight for her safety and
Senator Eggleton: You both talked about teachers at some point. I take it we're talking about teachers in the school
system. Are they engaged in any of this? Do they pay attention or do they just wipe their hands of it?
Ms. Hogben: As you know, the response of many boards of education, when we tried to work with them, is always
that they are so strapped for resources and finances that they can barely do the teaching, and they're not trained to be
social workers, they say, to do the work. This is where we are talking about adequate resources. There are all sorts of
gaps in the system that need to be filled. It isn't just the responsibility of teachers.
Senator Eggleton: That's one of the big problems.
I'm curious about your classes. Where do people come from who attend your classes?
Ms. Papp: They call me. People who were here before talked about what happened in Calgary and that police in
Calgary had hired me to conduct the workshops. The young man who answered the phone rescued the girl. The
Calgary Herald mentioned the workshop I did. The three of them were sitting there when somebody called and said
that a girl was being taken out of the country and forced into marriage. The three people said to each other, ''Aruna
said we learned this in the workshop.'' They went to the airport and rescued her. Within two months they rescued three
girls, and the Calgary Herald wrote about it because they knew the 30 indicators that I had shared with them. I have
been from Red Deer to Fort McMurray, and I've been to every country.
Senator Eggleton: Did the police refer those people to you?
Ms. Papp: It was by word of mouth from social workers as well as shelters. I am in the process of developing a
program just for shelter workers because they have long-term counselling. I'll be working with Inspector David
Kotowski of the Calgary Police Service to develop a program just for the police, who respond to honour-based
Senator Eggleton: Do any schoolteachers come to your program?
Ms. Papp: It's very difficult to get into the schools, as Alia just mentioned, because of the resources. They don't have
the time, as well. That's the front line, so we need to get into schools and we need to get in early and not just pick on
children who are immigrants. Everybody needs to know that children can call for help.
Ms. Hogben: I've known her for 100 years.
Ms. Papp: I'm not 100 years old.
Ms. Hogben: I feel like 100. She does very good work, if she would just remove herself from focusing on honour-based violence. She's teaching the police or the social worker to be culturally sensitive to that particular child and that
particular family. You could focus on that rather than on honour-based violence training. This is something else
training; that would be fine.
Senator Frum: I thank Ms. Papp for remembering my mother.
I just want to follow up with you, Ms. Hogben, about this idea that there is no such thing as honour violence or
honour killing. You said you were from Kingston where we had the most high-profile honour killing in the country. I
have difficulty reconciling this insistence of yours that that killing was not motivated by a cultural code of family
honour. It had to do with the daughter not dressing the way the father wanted, with making her own choices of who
she would date and dating at all. That was all part of the testimony.
Ms. Hogben: Who defined this as honour-based? The family did not. It's a term that's being used as it's very
titillating and exotic. It's very alien to call it honour-based violence. Therefore, should we treat those children
differently? I've given the example of how sadly in Quebec they were treated differently. Why were they not just
Canadian children whose parents were having trouble with them? Why do we emphasize the motivation of the father or
whatever? Why can we not concentrate on the father being controlling and manipulative, as was the brother; and
sometimes mothers are drawn into it. Why can we not concentrate on what happened to the children rather than on
honour-based violence? Who defined it? They never use that in the courts. It came from many of the newspapers and so
on in Kingston. The paper loved it and they kept calling it honour-based violence. Do you know why? Because they
were Muslim and from Afghanistan.
At the same time, there were other killings. There was a man who killed his doctor. He's still around in Ottawa or
Montreal; I can't remember. Mr. Turcotte killed his children just to get to his wife. That to me is just as much an
honour killing as the other. It's any kind of controlling of a woman and hurting a woman in any way that would really
damage her; and killing her children did it.
We called it honour killing because they were Muslims, because they were exotic, because they were from
Ms. Papp: Honour killings are usually done by parents, and they usually kill their daughters. Honour killings are
premeditated. Look at the risk assessment — 90 per cent of the victims killed. In Canada, we have had 23 honour
killings where men were also included. The media only talks about 12 of them. There have been 23. Honour killings
happen because they have brought shame to the family by their behaviour. They have become Westernized. That is the
reason honour killings happen. The majority of the time the killing is done by parents and is premeditated, not a
surprise. Many in the community know about honour-based violence. It is very much like organized crime, honour-based violence. People are consulting and talking about it. We talk about 30 points in my workshop that make honour-based violence different from other forms of child abuse.
Senator Frum: Again, my mother would say, unless you understand something, you can't solve it. You have to call
things by their real name. You can't make progress if you don't want to look squarely at things.
Ms. Hogben: You mustn't miscall them either. Aruna brought up the issue, I didn't; but it's a good point you raised.
When I was a young social worker, if a girl was pregnant and not married, she went into hiding for the whole
pregnancy. That's honour-based as well. Why are we focusing on honour-based violence? Why not focus on violence
against that particular child or woman? Of course, you must look at my background and what's important to me in my
culture and religion. You've got to understand that, but it shouldn't drive you to treat me differently than you treat
yourself or your sister. To keep on focusing on honour-based violence is narrowing the issue. It's very racist and very
much involved with one group of people, who are not White Anglo-Saxon Protestants or Catholics. We shouldn't keep
Senator Andreychuk: I apologize, but I had another meeting that was scheduled before these meetings, so I didn't
hear the first part of your testimony.
The first time that I ran into ''honour killing'' as a phrase was overseas where cultural groups and countries were
talking about honour killing — this is what our culture was and this is how we've been evolving. But there is a certain
small segment that is using or abusing what it used to be and saying it is still valid today. They were calling it honour
killing. So it is to identify the source of where this started. Today, when we meet with women's groups in many
countries, not 59, but many, they use the phrase ''honour killing.'' They're saying, ''It's archaic and that it was in our
culture, like many things were in our culture, and we want to move our culture beyond that.'' And we've moved our
culture, but there is a certain power group that are putting women down, using or abusing their culture for that
purpose, and they've named it honour killing. That's when I heard it first. Therefore, if we have people coming to our
society from there, they have imported that phrase with them. Many of the women that I talk to say that they don't
want honour killings here. And how do you get us to help women in Afghanistan, Pakistan or what have you? There
are excellent books and novels written by women who have suffered this in their community. I don't know how we can
avoid using it, if we want to get rid of it. I was wondering if you could help me with that?
Ms. Hogben: I think as an organization, the Canadian Council of Muslim Women, we are not denying that it's
happening to everybody else and they can use whatever language they see fit. We keep saying we're Canadians, and
what language and labels do we want to use? We are a country of immigrants, except for the First Nations, so therefore
we need to develop our own language and our own values. We talked about Canadian values. I think we're saying that
we don't want to use that term here. We are not going to go to Jordan and tell them about the difficulties that they're
having. It's all based on patriarchy. Their society is far more patriarchal than ours is. As I said to you earlier, for years,
this is very patriarchal, but we are dismantling it in Canada. The newspapers have been full of stories of violence
against women — Jian Ghomeshi, Bill Cosby, all these people. It has nothing to do with immigrants and nothing to do
with honour, but it's violence against women. So for us to label something, but label it incorrectly — we should say
when somebody is coming here, ''These are Canadian things and we don't even accept the label or the language of
honour killing.'' Can't we do that? Can't we talk about it as violence against women and as patriarchy, and deal with it
in that sense? Can we not say to the men who come to our shores, ''You're not going to be patriarchal here; your wife
or your daughter has equality rights''?
The Chair: I want to take this opportunity to thank you both. We could have gone on for another hour. Thank you
for your presence, and we appreciate you taking the time to make your presentations.
We have on video conference Craig E. Jones, Q.C., Professor of Law from Thompson Rivers University. We also
have J. Michael Spratt, Partner, Abergel Goldstein & Partners. Mr. Jones, we will ask you to start, please.
Craig E. Jones, Q.C., Professor of Law, Thompson Rivers University: Thank you, Madam Chair, I don't think I can
stand without going off-screen.
The Chair: Please sit. Thank you. People don't stand in front of us.
Mr. Jones: Madam Chair and members of the committee, thank you. It's a great honour to be invited to speak with
I have some opening remarks, and I would be pleased to answer any questions that I can.
I understand that I've been invited here because the committee feels that I might be able to provide some assistance
with respect to those aspects of the bill that deal with polygamy. My knowledge of this subject comes from the research
that I did in the preparation for the polygamy reference a couple of years back in British Columbia. I was the lead
counsel for the Attorney General of British Columbia in that case. That was the Reference re: Section 293 of the
Criminal Code of Canada, on the constitutionality of section 293, which is of course the criminal provision dealing with
At the outset, I should clarify that I'm certainly not speaking for the Attorney General of British Columbia today. I
left the ministry two years ago when I took this post at the university.
I appreciate that the focus of Bill S-7 is on the prevention and the exploitation of children and in particular girls
through underage and coerced marriages. It has always been open to immigration authorities to refuse status to
polygamous immigrants on the basis that the practice of polygamy is criminal in Canada. There have been, to my
knowledge, a few cases in which immigration has been denied on that basis. This history, coupled with the
strengthened provisions in the bill dealing with child brides and coerced marriage, might lead some to conclude that
specifically addressing polygamy is redundant or unnecessary. I want to explain why I don't agree with that.
In the course of the evidence produced in the polygamy reference, and we had an extensive evidentiary record from
both expert witnesses and from people who had experienced polygamy and polygamous communities, and most of the
witnesses in those instances were from the polygamist fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints —
fundamentalist Mormons — from both Canada and the United States. There was extensive expert testimony and there
was also evidence from Muslim communities in Ontario and abroad.
The evidence about polygamy's harms was extremely compelling. I thought that rather than tell you what the court
found in that case, I might actually just read a few paragraphs of Chief Justice Bauman's judgment, and he said this:
 Based on the most comprehensive judicial record on the subject ever produced —
And there, I think he's right.
— I have concluded that the Attorneys General and their allied Interested Persons have demonstrated a very
strong basis for a reasoned apprehension of harm to many in our society inherent in the practice of polygamy as I
have defined it in these reasons.
Then he turned to the harms that were reasonably apprehended and he said this, based on the evidence before him:
 Women in polygamous relationships are at an elevated risk of physical and psychological harm. They face
higher rates of domestic violence and abuse, including sexual abuse. Competition for material and emotional
access to a shared husband can lead to fractious co-wife relationships. These factors contribute to the higher rates
of depressive disorders and other mental health issues that women in polygamous relationships face. They have
more children, are more likely to die in childbirth and live shorter lives than their monogamous counterparts.
They tend to have less autonomy, and report higher rates of marital dissatisfaction and lower levels of self-esteem. They also fare worse economically, as resources may be inequitably divided or simply insufficient.
 Children in polygamous families face higher infant mortality, even controlling for economic status and other
relevant variables. They tend to suffer more emotional, behavioural and physical problems, as well as lower
educational achievement than children in monogamous families. These outcomes are likely the result of higher
levels of conflict, emotional stress and tension in polygamous families. In particular, rivalry and jealousy among
co-wives can cause significant emotional problems for their children. The inability of fathers to give sufficient
affection and disciplinary attention to all of their children can further reduce children's emotional security.
Children are also at enhanced risk of psychological and physical abuse and neglect.
 Early marriage for girls is common, frequently to significantly older men. The resultant early sexual activity,
pregnancies and childbirth have negative health implications for girls, and also significantly limit their socio-economic development. Shortened inter-birth intervals pose a heightened risk of various problems for both
mother and child.
 The sex ratio imbalance inherent in polygamy means that young men are forced out of polygamous
communities to sustain the ability of senior men to accumulate more wives. These young men and boys often
receive limited education as a result and must navigate their way outside their communities with few life skills and
 Another significant harm to children is their exposure to, and potential internalization of, harmful gender
 Polygamy has negative impacts on society flowing from the high fertility rates, large family size and poverty
associated with the practice. It generates a class of largely poor, unmarried men who are statistically predisposed
to violence and other anti-social behaviour. Polygamy also institutionalizes gender inequality. Patriarchal
hierarchy and authoritarian control are common features of polygamous communities. Individuals in polygynous
societies tend to have fewer civil liberties than their counterparts in societies which prohibit the practice.
 Polygamy's harm to society includes the critical fact that a great many of its individual harms are not specific
to any particular religious, cultural or regional context. They can be generalized and expected to occur wherever
That it was an exempt from Chief Justice Bauman's decision. It's a very long decision, and I believe it's a couple
hundred pages. It's a thorough exposition, I think, on the evidence. The point that we were trying to make in that case,
as the Attorneys General, both of Canada and British Columbia, was that the harms from polygamy go well beyond
the harms to the participants in polygamous marriages and polygamous families, and they actually externalize the
harm very broadly throughout the communities in which polygamy is practised at a non-trivial rate.
Let me give you an example, because one of the things we're talking about is child marriage. One of the
mathematical effects, if I can put it that way, of polygamy in a closed or more or less insular community — I don't
want to put it in crude economic terms — but the shortage of brides will lead to an increased sexualization of girls at a
younger and younger age. We see that across the spectrum, wherever polygamy is practised. The point is that this is a
harm that will manifest both in polygamous and in monogamous relationships within that community simply because
of the arithmetic involved. Simply saying that we're going to focus on polygamous communities and child marriages
within polygamous relationships is kind of missing the point that these harms are broader and more generalized than
I consider myself to be a fairly socially liberal person, and when I began my study of polygamy, I really thought of it
as a personal choice, something that the state shouldn't take any official interest in, sort of like sexual orientation. I no
longer believe that to be true.
With the benefit of my years of study and reflection, and having seen the overwhelming evidence that was
introduced in the polygamy reference, I have concluded that the reduction of the rates at which polygamy is practised
here and internationally is really of pressing concern if we're to adequately protect the most vulnerable among us, and
by that I mean principally women and girls. It is appropriate to do what we can to ensure that polygamous enclaves are
not established in Canada.
One caveat that I would offer is that our polygamy laws should be applied in a way that is cognizant of the
vulnerability of the women and children already in such households. I'm concerned that the federal government should
work with the provinces to ensure that the criminal immigration law provisions against polygamy don't backfire and
that family rules don't do harm to the very people we're trying to help.
I think there must be greater efforts at outreach to communities where polygamy is practised, particularly insular
enclaves, to ensure that those who are suffering as a result receive the necessary support and assistance.
The criminalization of polygamy and now the formal introduction of a rule against polygamous immigration and
perhaps one that provides for the removal of people in polygamous families have the potential of further isolating the
women and children in polygamous households, and both federal and provincial authorities should be conscious of
this. My point here is just that targeting polygamy in an attempt to help vulnerable members of our society can, in
some cases, hurt the very people we're trying to help. It's not an all-win situation when you take on polygamy through
the criminal law or, perhaps in this case, through immigration law.
My own conclusion is that, on balance, the advantages of prohibition outweigh its deleterious effects, so I support
the inclusion of the references to polygamy in the present legislation as part of a global effort to de-normalize and
eventually eliminate this practice, but it is, as I say, not without its risks, and it needs to be balanced with many of the
things your previous witnesses were talking about with respect to community outreach and meaningful social work. I
can see a lot of reluctance of a woman in an unhappy polygamous household coming forward to authorities if she
believes that she and her children might be deported as a result of her attempting to escape the situation, so I think a
nuanced approach is going to be necessary. That's, I appreciate, not the subject of the bill.
The only other thing I would say in closing before I'd be happy to answer any of your questions is that the other
thing I would suggest is unhelpful in the bill is the reference in the title to barbaric cultural practices. As you've heard, I
am deeply opposed to polygamy, and I don't think any reasoning person could support child marriage or coerced
marriage. I understand the use of the language of barbarism when we're confronted with almost unimaginable evils
such as so-called honour killings, but I do think that if we wish to help women and children who are seeking
alternatives to polygamy, it doesn't assist to brand them as practitioners of barbarism or to imply that they are
members of a barbaric culture. I think it risks reinforcing their isolation and will make them less likely to reach out to
authorities for help. Clearly it's not an operative part of the statute, so I would just finish my comments with an
expression of that. Thank you for your attention.
The Chair: Thank you very much for your presentation, Professor Jones. Now we will go to Mr. Spratt.
J. Michael Spratt, Partner, Abergel Goldstein & Partners, as an individual: Thank you for inviting me to speak on
this important piece of criminal legislation. My name is Michael Spratt, and I practise criminal law here in Ottawa. I'm
a partner with the law firm Abergel Goldstein & Partners. I'm a past board member of the Criminal Lawyers'
Association, am currently on the CLA's legislation committee and am the vice-president of the Defence Counsel
Association of Ottawa. I frequently comment and write on new legislation and criminal law policy. I have represented
individuals charged with murder, and I've litigated cases involving the use of provocation. My firm has also been
involved in homicides that were alleged to be honour-based. Although I'm here as an individual, I'll preface what I say
by saying that all of the criminal lawyers that I've spoken to share my views on this legislation, but what I will be
testifying to or talking about are my views.
I must say it's strange to be appearing before the Human Rights Committee on a piece of legislation that is
predominantly concerned with criminal law issues. The title of this bill, as has been mentioned, has attracted
considerable and I think justifiable criticism. The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration has said that all violence
against women is barbaric. This is true and unfortunate. Violence against women unfortunately does not, however,
limit itself to specific cultural boundaries. This bill's title links that violence to specific cultures, and again I say that is
unfortunate. I say it's unfortunate because this bill will have major impacts on our criminal law, but it's a criminal law
bill that's cloaked in the language of culture and presented by the Minister of Immigration. That's not entirely
unexpected. I think it's consistent with this government's legislative history, which I submit to you is designed to
obscure major legislative changes and limit debate. In that context, I think it's important to accurately detail the
impacts of this bill on our criminal law. In doing so, I'm going to make some references to some case law and to some
testimony you've heard from the minister.
I want to specifically speak about provocation and peace bonds. Provocation is currently governed by section 232 of
the Criminal Code and provides for the defence of provocation, which reduces the charge of murder to manslaughter
where the accused acts in the heat of passion caused by sudden provocation. Provocation is a historic allowance for
human frailty made by the common law and now codified in our Criminal Code. It requires that there be a wrongful
act or insult that would be sufficient to deprive an ordinary person of the power of self-control and cause that person to
act on the sudden before there was a time for any cooling of the passions. Provocation reflects a recognition of
mitigating circumstances. In other words, provocation is an allowance made for human frailty, which recognizes that a
killing, even an intentional killing, may be extenuated by a complete loss of self-control and is thus less heinous than an
intentional killing by a person acting with a more rational intent.
Now, there are limits on provocation. The minister told you that measures in Bill S-7 would amend the Criminal
Code so that legal conduct by a victim cannot legally be considered as provocation. This is already the case. The
Criminal Code makes it clear that one cannot be legally provoked by someone who is doing anything that they had a
legal right to do or by doing anything that the accused incited him to do.
The fact is that our courts have time and time again rejected religion and honour as a basis for provocation. The
minister, when questioned about some court cases, mentioned the case of Stone from the Supreme Court. This case has
nothing to do with honour killings and only peripherally deals with provocation. It is a case about non-insane
automatism and automatism issues. It is simply not applicable to our discussion and, quite frankly, is a little bit dated.
I would like, on the other hand, to talk about some cases that do deal with honour killings and do deal with
provocation, cases that the minister was either not aware of or didn't see fit to discuss with you.
The minister suggested that changes to the rules governing the Criminal Code provisions of provocation are
necessary to stop honour killings. 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 and cause that person to act on the sudden.
Honour killings don't meet these criteria. Provocation deals with the ordinary person test. This, the Supreme Court has
confirmed, is the ordinary Canadian person, and I think we can all agree that the ordinary Canadian person is repulsed
by religious-based killings.
The Supreme Court made that clear in the case of Tran. They said that in the context of provocation, the reasonable
person is informed by contemporary norms of behaviour, including fundamental values such as the commitment to
equality. The Tran case, 2010 SCC 58, actually upheld the conviction that was entered on appeal for a murder where
the accused claimed to be provoked by the sight of his estranged wife having sexual relations with another man. What
was ultimately clear in that case was that whether the defence of provocation ultimately goes to a jury depends upon
their being an air of reality to that defence, something that the courts carefully scrutinize.
Now, the government has maintained that these changes are necessary. Quite simply, they're wrong. The minister
used the Shafia case as justification for this change in provocation. Of course, the facts of that case are well known, but
what also is well known is that provocation wasn't raised at the Shafia case, and that Shafia was convicted of four
counts of first-degree murder.
Importantly, in 2006, the Ontario Court of Appeal, in a case called Humaid, upheld a conviction for first-degree
murder and denounced honour killings in language that even someone not trained in criminal law and not the Minister
of Justice would be able to understand. The court said that assuming that an accused's religious and cultural beliefs
that are antithetical to fundamental Canadian values, such as the equality of men and women, can never play a role at
the ordinary person phase of the provocation inquiry. In fact, the Court of Appeal went one step further and said these
types of rationales don't result in provocation, but they are evidence of motive.
The court goes on, and I would commend this committee to take that case into account. It can be found at 81 of the
Ontario Reports, third edition, 456.
The case of Sadiqi, an Ottawa case, an alleged honour-based killing, also made its way to the Court of Appeal, and
the Court of Appeal agreed with itself from 2006. The accused in that case attempted to claim provocation in relation
to an honour killing. Sadiqi was convicted of first-degree murder. Expert evidence was allowed at trial, and the defence
Now, this bill does more than limit the application of provocation to honour killings, a situation that rarely, if
never, arises, and rarely, if never, is accepted by the courts.
This bill also prevents provocation from applying to a range of other cases that have historically found an air of
reality in the defence. Racial slurs, hate speech, mistake of fact, all of these situations will be limited in terms of the
ability to raise a provocation defence.
One can imagine a variety of situations where provocation under these circumstances may be applicable, may at
least have an air of reality. Imagine the father of a young girl who has committed suicide due to cyberbullying and
online harassment. That father is then confronted by the bully in that case, who drove his daughter to kill herself. That
bully says the most despicable and inhumane things to that father, spits on his daughter's grave. This person would not
be able to raise provocation if he acted in the heat of passion, on the sudden, before his passions had a time to cool.
Even if we combine offences such as corrupting morals, making sexually explicit material available, corrupting
children, indecent acts, exposing genitalia to a person under 16, violence to the clergy, disrupting a 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 with the most despicable but
lawful language you can imagine, provocation would not apply. This bill would be an absolute bar to it.
Perhaps it speaks to this government's blindness to the case law or a lack of imagination on their part or simply a
lack of compassion, but in limiting provocation to prevent something that rarely, if never, will arise, provocation is
removed from a variety of cases that it may legitimately apply to, and for that reason, this bill simply goes too far.
Now, I think I'm running into the clock here, but I would like to talk about the peace bond section for a minute.
Peace bonds already exist. Section 810 arguably covers what is sought to be covered in section 810.02 under this
legislation. It's fine to add on another section of the Criminal Code. We have to realize that we're all expected to know
the law. Ignorance of the law isn't an excuse, and the more things we put in the Criminal Code, the harder it is to know
what's in that book.
But let's not forget that even if it's not undesirable to add this section, to clarify this section, let's not forget what the
peace bond process entails. This government is suggesting that a 14-year-old girl or a child or a teacher takes it upon
herself to lay a peace bond against her family or their family. Of course, that doesn't end matters. When one goes to the
court and swears the documents to start this peace bond process, it doesn't mean that the peace bond is automatically
imposed. We still have something called due process in the court process here. The matter would be set for a hearing.
The girl would need to testify and present information and evidence to prove her case.
I'm not saying that that's bad or that this section is bad. It's just not a cure to the ills that this bill aims to correct,
and it's not going to be effective in limiting these types of situations. It seems to be nothing more than mere puffery
because it's not going to play out in court how it's been billed. This isn't something that is going to be routinely used by
a 14-year-old child against her parents. And to that end, although it's less offensive than changes to provocation, in my
submission, it's something that shouldn't be viewed as a panacea or a cure-all in terms of this legislation.
The Chair: Mr. Spratt, I have a question for clarification. In clause 7 proposed new subsection (2), under
provocation, it says, ''Conduct of the victim would constitute an indictable offence under this Act that is punishable by
five or more years of imprisonment . . .'' Are you saying that changes the heat-of-the-moment defence that we had for
Mr. Spratt: It removes the act or insult, and it limits provocation in the range of offences it can apply to. It limits the
type of situation, so no longer would the most offensive verbal insults, slurs, racial language or hateful language be
able to trigger provocation, but you need to have a very serious crime underpinning the act that is the provocative act.
Senator Ataullahjan: My question is for you, Mr. Jones. One of the questions I am hearing from my community is
whether temporary or permanent residents who are in a polygamous relationship and come to Canada alone, without
any spouses, could remarry here in Canada. The fact that polygamy is already a criminal offence here should deter
them from doing so. What are your thoughts on that?
Mr. Jones: Well, I'm no expert on international marriage law, but my understanding is if they were legally married
in another country, came to Canada and then sought legal marriage here, their concern wouldn't be over the polygamy
provisions but, rather, the bigamy provisions of the Criminal Code, which would bar the attempt to legally solemnize a
marriage when a person is already legally married. Does that answer your question?
Senator Ataullahjan: If the man comes alone, what's to prevent him from remarrying? If he doesn't disclose that he is
already married or that he had to leave his wives behind, can he come here and get married again?
Mr. Jones: Well, of course, that's the danger not only with polygamists, but if a husband came here alone leaving a
single wife in another country and then attempted to marry here, he would technically be committing a criminal — not
technically. He would be committing a criminal offence of bigamy.
Senator Eggleton: Let me start with Professor Jones again. How do you see this bill as better than the current law in
terms of people being processed through immigration or coming into this country? Apparently, the questions and the
ability to single out polygamous people already exist. How do you see this bill improves upon that?
Mr. Jones: Yes, senator, I think that's exactly right. I mentioned there were a couple of cases — I don't have the
dissertations before me — where people have been barred because they have essentially admitted to intent to commit a
crime in Canada — that is, to practice polygamy once they're here. So in that sense — this is a point I made earlier —
one could argue that this provision, which formalizes that, is a bit redundant.
I'm not a policy person from the point of view that I appreciate it is Parliament's prerogative to be redundant and to
be emphatic, if I can put it that way, and there may be some value in formalizing and codifying the law, even if only
from sort of an educational advantage point of view. It's not as easy to cite case law to people as it is to point to a
Senator Eggleton: Okay. Another provision of this bill on polygamy, and you touched on this a bit in your
presentation, is that it deals with both the man and the woman and any children that are involved. Of course what we
have been continually hearing is that a key objective of this legislation is the protection of women who are abused. Yet
here is a case where if they're already in the country and then subsequently, through whatever processes, it's
determined that they shouldn't be here, there doesn't appear to be anything that protects the victim — the woman or
Would you think that there need to be provisions, that the minister needs to be able to take into account their case,
allow them to stay in the country even though they may deport the man involved?
Mr. Jones: I certainly wouldn't be opposed to that sort of discretion. This is a difficulty that we struggled with in
respect to section 293 as well because, of course, it criminalizes all the participants in a polygamous marriage, including
the women. I wouldn't want us to think that that's necessarily an altogether bad thing, because we've seen situations,
and we have testimony about situations, where the existing older wives in a relationship were quite active in bringing,
in many cases, teen brides into the polygamous household and facilitating that.
If I were drafting the legislation, I wouldn't write in sort of a blanket exception to women. We have to be sensitive to
the way these things are enforced.
I know the authorities in the United States, in the state of Utah, when they are prosecuting polygamy have done it
under a policy that they will prosecute only in cases of exploitation. Their prosecutions have only been with respect to
men, so far as I know.
I would hope for that discretion to be exercised and for that level of nuance, but I wouldn't want it written into the
legislation, a blanket exception for the women.
Senator Eggleton: Let me ask Mr. Spratt about provocation. You're saying, first of all, that there isn't any example
of what is called an honour killing having been successful in any court case or any final appeal, but you're concerned
that this goes beyond the thoughts that were being expressed by the minister about that very subject and that it's going
to affect people who have less cultural aspects of provocation involved. You cited a couple of cases.
We've talked about it always being the man using the provocation provision in terms of women, but are there cases
where the woman would use the provocation provision?
Mr. Spratt: There was a case in Ottawa recently where a battered spouse used provocation in terms of her actions.
In many of those cases, there may be a criminal offence punishable by five years or more that would lead to the
applicability of provocation. However, it would have to be sudden, before the passions had time to cool. The point is it
may unduly limit provocation, whether it's a man or a woman who is claiming provocation.
The example of blanket rules or rules that are overly restrictive to cure something that isn't really a problem may
lead to unintended consequences. You'll only need to look as far as mandatory publication bans on the names of
victims of child pornography. It sounds like a great idea, and no one can think of a case where a victim of child
pornography's name should be published, so let's have a mandatory ban. Of course out East we're looking at a case
where it looks like the public interest is being affected by such a blanket rule.
Rules that are overly broad to prevent something that isn't really a problem inevitably — we see this in minimum
sentence legislation all the time — will capture conduct that we can't think of right now that will result, I submit, in
Senator Eggleton: I take it you're also saying that the courts can decide how to weigh all of that information and it
should be left that way?
Mr. Spratt: They do, and one can see the evolution of this type of thinking in our common law. No longer is
adultery able to raise provocation. In the past we've seen that sort of defence being raised in a sexual-based context.
Homosexual advance was tested in court in the 1980s. We don't see that much anymore because the courts have
resoundingly said, as the Supreme Court did in the Tran case, that there needs to be an air of reality to it. The concept
of provocation has to take into account the ordinary person, which of course is the ordinary person with the full
respect for values of equality that the ordinary Canadian would have.
Senator Eaton: Professor Jones, has there ever been — and if not, why hasn't there been — a successful prosecution
of anyone at Bountiful who is practising polygamy in marriage?
Mr. Jones: How long do you have, senator?
Senator Eaton: We have 15 minutes before we have to go and vote.
Mr. Jones: The short answer is there are actually three prosecutions presently under way for polygamy and child
exploitation at Bountiful. I'm not involved in those at all. They've all occurred since the reference was successful.
As you know, there was a great deal of controversy and uncertainty about the constitutionality of the polygamy
provisions. Until that was settled by Chief Justice Bauman, I think it's safe to say that the British Columbia
prosecution service was reluctant to engage in any prosecutions.
The question of why there haven't been prosecutions in, for instance, Ontario, where, from what I read in the
newspapers, there has been, at least at one mosque, open polygamous marriages being performed, I really can't answer.
Prior to the Bountiful controversy, if I can put it that way, I don't believe there had been a prosecution for
polygamy in Canada since the early 1900s, and only one or two then. To say it's an underutilized or unutilized law is
probably correct. I think I've said before in other fora that I don't think that's necessarily a reason to take it off the
Senator Eaton: Do you think that Bill S-7, with the attention, is going to, certainly in many places in the country,
encourage prosecutors to take polygamists from Bountiful to court to prosecute?
Mr. Jones: Yes. I mean, I hope generally that the recognition that we saw beginning with the polygamy reference
and all the evidence there will embolden people to realize that this is a harmful practice and harmful to society beyond
even the harms to the people in the polygamous marriages and families themselves.
I don't think a lot of prosecutions are necessary. I think one role of the criminal law, and perhaps with the
immigration law in tandem with it, is to socially de-normalize the activity and express something about fundamental
values that we hold. Whether or not there are any prosecutions, I see value in the law in that regard.
Senator Frum: Mr. Spratt, it's been a pleasure to see you at Legal Affairs and seeing you here tonight.
I wonder if you could clarify for me your concern about the changes to what constitutes provocation, and
specifically the example you gave about a father being provoked by confronting the cyberbully who caused his
daughter to commit suicide and then utters other words and spits on the grave.
I'm not sure, as a non-lawyer, that I understand how that is not excluded from the provocation as it's written. As
you said earlier, it is still provocation if you're killing somebody who has done something that would constitute an
indictable offence punishable by five or more years of imprisonment. Causing somebody to commit suicide through
cyberbullying would fall into that category. I'm just wondering about your specific example.
Mr. Spratt: One can think of many examples. You're right; the courts may expand the definition of provocation in
response to a situation like that and say, ''Well, it no longer needs to be an act that inflames the passions before they
have time to cool — a contemporaneous act. It can be something that happened historically that might inflame your
passions.'' But just switch the example. It's not someone who was involved in any of those offences but merely someone
else who comes up to that father and says that he agrees with what happened, and that he says awful, awful things that
might cause any normal father's passions to inflame and cause them to —
Senator Frum: To commit murder?
Mr. Spratt: The point is there can be a case, especially when combined with some of the other sections that are
punishable by less than five years — corrupting the morals of a child, exposing oneself to a child. These are all
situations that may be excluded under this definition of provocation.
There have also been other provocation cases that have relied on legitimate and honest mistaken belief in facts. For
example, you're coming around the corner and you see your spouse, what you think, being attacked. She's partially
undressed. Someone is on top of her. She's yelling and being assaulted. You think that that person is assaulting your
spouse, so you are provoked to act in the heat of the moment, and human frailties are inflamed. If that person was not
an assailant but someone who is rendering assistance, and there's a mistaken belief of fact, you would not be entitled to
claim provocation. There have been —
Senator Frum: I'm not a defence lawyer. You are. But I'm not sure you would claim provocation; you would claim
Mr. Spratt: That mistaken belief wouldn't justify an intentional killing, but provocation would. I litigated a case in
L'Orignal that was very similar to a situation like that, where a young man returned to a bar to pick up his girlfriend.
She was yelling that she was being sexually assaulted, and she was actually being carried out of the bar by bouncers,
and a confrontation ensued. In that case, provocation was successful. A jury recognized that, under extreme
circumstances, circumstances that may not be captured by this law, provocation may in some respects and some
circumstances have an air of reality and should be left to the jury to decide.
The problem with this section, quite frankly, is that it's overly broad. It prevents what we all agree shouldn't be
provocative — honour-based religious violence — which the court of appeal said is more often a motive than any sort
of excuse or justification. We can all agree that that shouldn't be provocation, and under this section that's not
provocation. But there are other acts that may fall into a grey area that would be excluded in this section that would be
properly put before a jury for their consideration. Ultimately, if they're successful or not, that's up to the jury. But the
problem is that an overly broad piece of legislation designed to cure a problem that really isn't a problem, according to
our courts of appeal and Supreme Court, may have unintended consequences.
Senator Frum: I guess the question then becomes, is the unintended consequence really a problem? I don't know
about that. I'm not sure I'm convinced, but I appreciate your answer.
Mr. Spratt: What I have learned through the practice of criminal law is that there is more variety of situations than
one could possibly imagine. We see that with minimum sentences. Bill C-10, when the government says a loaded
restricted firearm, three years of course is the appropriate sentence. Anything less than that would be absurd.
Of course, there have been hypotheticals: victim fine surcharge legislation. There are reasonable hypotheticals that
make that legislation unfair, and there could be reasonable hypotheticals here. My fear is that this is a major change to
provocation. It may be that provocation needs to be revisited. It may be that there needs to be a debate about it. But I
would urge this government not to place what should be a very important debate in what's labelled as an immigration
bill that uses a sort of rhetorical or rhetoric-filled title that might stifle that debate.
The Chair: Mr. Spratt, I have one question I would like you to clarify. Presently, if we assume, and genuinely
assume, and accept that the minister's concern is that provocation will never be used for honour killings, at the
moment, this is covered, right? You've already said it, but I'm just confirming it: No court in the country has said that,
for honour killings, you can use the defence of provocation.
Mr. Spratt: Not that I'm aware of. Quite the opposite; that sort of reasoning is not what the ordinary person, the
ordinary Canadian person, would consider, and it speaks more to a motive rather than to provocation.
The Chair: Professor Jones, I was interested in hearing what you were saying. Many times you talked about
polygamy happening in communities and it being part of a community, like Bountiful. That's where you have had most
of your experience. What I foresee in this Bill S-7 legislation is more a second wife coming into the family rather than
into a community. The remarks you made, would any of that change? Not that I'm saying that that should happen, but
because you said that many times, I'm wondering: Would your opinion about anything change? Because I believe that
this would be an individual bringing a second wife into his own home, not into a community.
Mr. Jones: Yes, and I think it's safe to say that the problems of polygamy, to the extent that they're externalized
from the family, are going to be felt most keenly in the more insular the community that they happen in, because then
you've got a sort of discrete group, a significant number of members of which are practising polygamy. The individual
harms of polygamy arguably will be present, whether it's isolated families across the country or whether there is
anything resembling an enclave.
The country with the greatest experience with polygamous immigration in the West was France, where, for a period
of time, to permit reunification of families of people who came as initially guest workers from French North Africa
mostly, they ended up with I think 300,000 members of polygamous households in France within a 10-year period, and
they had to reverse their direction and shut that off because it was starting to create those problems.
The evidence before the chief justice in the polygamy reference indicated that the most vulnerable people, should the
polygamy law be struck down, would be those members in isolated immigrant communities or isolated communities
like Bountiful. Bountiful is quite a unique situation, a sort of homegrown polygamist community. But the experience of
France and other countries would indicate that if polygamy is going to establish itself in a non-trivial way in Canada —
when I say ''non-trivial,'' that is sort of the threshold of harm — it's going to happen in immigrant communities where
people may already be vulnerable and where they may already be isolated.
Senator Andreychuk: I have a supplementary on provocation, Mr. Spratt. Maybe I'm going to provoke you.
Mr. Spratt: I hope not.
Senator Andreychuk: You said that if we change the provocation here, it might have some unintended consequences,
and you laid them out. But then, in answer to Senator Jaffer, where you said there have not been any within the honour
killing, then maybe, if we don't address it now, there could be. Just because the courts have not ruled that way to this
point, I don't think it's definitive yet before the courts, and there could be case examples, as our society is changing,
that it would be used and would be justifiable, because the ordinary, reasonable man is not in stone. It changes with
what a cultural value is, what societies are like, et cetera. So the reasonable man is tested every time you go to court,
unless there's a definitive decision, and I don't see a definitive decision yet. There may be an unintended consequence.
It's a question of which one we should weigh. Is that correct?
Mr. Spratt: I guess it could be the case that, as the Supreme Court says, the ordinary person who has Canadian
values, maybe at some point in the future Canadian values will embrace honour-based violence. I don't think we would
go there. I don't think the courts would let us go there, and I don't think Canadian society would go there.
Certainly if the ship could sail in that direction, it would be against all sorts of winds. It's something that I think is
very unlikely to happen. Appellate courts and the Supreme Court have spoken very definitively that that's not where
we are, and that's not where we're going. In the absence of this legislation, could a defence counsel or a self-represented
accused person raise the prospect? It's possible. Lots of crazy defences are raised.
Senator Andreychuk: Surely you are not saying that about the bar association.
Mr. Spratt: But the crazier the defence and the more out of line it is with the courts and society, the less likely that
will have an air of reality and even make it to the jury.
Senator Andreychuk: But my point, if the inference wasn't there and you didn't catch it, is that if the government, by
public policy, wants to say ''Don't go there,'' whether it is an errant case or not, it's a denunciation that is going to be
felt across Canada within lawyers, judiciary and the public. So they're going in the trend we're going, and they're
saying that we want to be absolutely certain that this isn't even raised because we want to be consistent in saying
honour killing is not an excuse and should not be practised in Canada.
Mr. Spratt: That is definitely a reason to do it. In my humble opinion, it would be an overemphasis on denunciation
and the denunciatory effect of declaring things through legislation. Since we don't have it yet, perhaps in 20 years we'll
be looking back on this and saying, gee, I wish they had left provocation the way it was because there is a tragic
example that has come before the court, and unfortunately this provision is either struck down or doesn't apply in a
case where it should have applied.
Senator Andreychuk: As we know, criminal law changes; acts are passed when there's a need, so it is often a case that
maybe in 20 years we'll revisit this again. It might be in five years. If a government, which has the responsibility to look
at public policy, makes a choice, then they're making the choice that they don't want that used. Provocation should not
be a defence, and perhaps there is some merit, from a public policy point of view as opposed to a legal defence point of
view, to do so today.
Mr. Spratt: That's a type of rationale that is used for minimum sentence cases and mandatory minimum sentences.
Unfortunately, by the time those minimum sentences or that legislation is found to be unconstitutional, a great number
of people have suffered consequences that they would not have otherwise suffered on the back of unfair legislation.
Senator Andreychuk: Are you saying this section is unconstitutional? That is a different issue, minimum sentences
that may or may not be unconstitutional, but a public policy choice is not a constitutionality. It's the response of the
government to do the best on behalf of citizens. Are you now saying that that section is unconstitutional?
Mr. Spratt: No, I brought up the comparison with minimum sentences to illustrate the point that blanket rules and
trying to prevent something which is already adequately dealt with is not warranted. When we look at this, we often
said — it has been said today — that we use discretion in police charging, on prosecutors prosecuting, so that
unintended victims of polygamous relationships aren't charged. That's something that we talked about today.
All I'm saying is that to make sure there aren't further unwarranted consequences, let's use some judicial discretion
and let the courts, as they have done, make sure that legislation is applicable where it needs to be applicable, limited
where it needs to be limited, but most important, don't overly constrain the application of provocation through this
legislation, because whether it's minimum sentences, this law, victim fine surcharges or retroactive parole changes,
inevitably that sort of legislative process can lead to some unfairness.
Senator Andreychuk: That is a public policy debate.
The Chair: I wanted to clarify something, because there are people who may be watching us here today. There is
nothing that mentions honour killing in the bill itself.
Mr. Spratt: No.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Professor Jones and Mr. Spratt, for making yourselves available at very short
notice. You certainly enabled us to understand the issues better.
Honourable senators, for your information, we only have one witness, unfortunately. We did try very hard to get
more witnesses. There is no witness from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the first one, the superintendent Jean
Cormier is not here, but Superintendent Tyler Bates, Director, National Aboriginal Policing and Crime Prevention
Services. He is also from the RCMP. You can see that from his uniform.
We very much welcome you for being here with us today, and we apologize for keeping you waiting. I understand
that you have some opening remarks.
Superintendent Tyler Bates, Director, National Aboriginal Policing and Crime Prevention Services, Royal Canadian
Mounted Police: Thank you for the invitation. I appreciate the opportunity to provide some awareness as to our
prevention efforts relative to honour-based violence and forced marriage, some of the advancements that are taking
place organizationally in that regard.
Thank you for the opportunity to contribute to the discussion of Bill S-7, the zero tolerance for barbaric cultural
practices act. I'm Superintendent Tyler Bates and I'm the director of the RCMP's National Aboriginal Policing and
Crime Prevention Services.
We are responsible for a variety of RCMP violence prevention and intervention initiatives, a number of which we
deliver within ethnic communities. We're pleased today to outline a number of RCMP national and provincial
initiatives which address these important issues.
In the fall of 2013 in the Speech from the Throne, the government announced it would take steps to address violence
against women in Canada. This included addressing the issue of early and forced marriage. Immigrant women in
Canada face unique challenges of vulnerability, both pre- and post-arrival. There is particular concern regarding early
and forced marriages involving Canadian citizens or permanent residents.
Early marriage is deemed to be any marriage under the legal age of marriage in the jurisdiction in question, and
forced marriage is when one or both parties do not consent to the marriage. Preventing and adequately responding to
early and forced marriage touches sectors that fall under the jurisdictions of all levels of government, namely child
protection, education, law enforcement, victim services, immigration, border and consular services. As a result, any
coordinated federal response requires partnership with relevant key provincial services and culturally relative
Since 2007, the RCMP has been working diligently with the Interdepartmental Working Group on forced Marriage
and Honour Based Violence to assist in drafting the legislation and developing training and tools for front-line
workers. The interdepartmental working group is comprised of government organizations such as the Department of
Justice, Status of Women, Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Canada Border Services Agency and the Department
of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development.
Currently, many serious acts of honour-based violence and early or forced marriage may go unreported. Therefore,
the key is to raise awareness about current or proposed legislation and gain the trust of the communities and persons
who are or could potentially be vulnerable to family violence. Early police intervention can serve to prevent future
tragedies. Currently, these crimes are detected through standard investigative tools, an ability to communicate
effectively with victims and the cultural competence of our diverse workforce.
Research indicates that much of the violence experienced by women is committed by somebody they know,
frequently a family member or an intimate partner.
Under the federal Family Violence Initiative, the RCMP administers a funding program to help develop
community-based projects supported by our detachments that help address family violence. The $450,000 envelope
funds projects up to a value of $25,000 apiece. This funding initiative is one vehicle of prevention utilized by the RCMP
to prevent early and forced marriage. For example, the culturally integrative Neighbours, Friends and Families
campaign in London, Ontario, is funded by the Family Violence Initiative. This campaign serves to develop
community awareness materials to be distributed in ethnocultural communities. The materials are presented to
community members and will include necessary information to recognize the signs of family abuse and appropriate
strategies for intervention.
The campaign leaders in London, Ontario, will facilitate cross-training workshops with law enforcement and other
service providers and ethnocultural community leaders aimed at strengthening culturally appropriate prevention and
intervention response capacities.
With respect to investigations, the RCMP's response to cases of family violence is governed by policy, which differs
from the response to other violent crimes in several important ways. In family violence cases, investigations must be
built around evidence that can stand on its own without reliance on the victim, as often victims of family violence will
recant their story after the initial incident.
If evidence exists to proceed with charges, policy dictates that charges will be laid regardless of whether or not the
victim wishes to pursue these charges. The RCMP's online honour-based violence, early and forced marriage training
recommends taking a sworn statement, commonly called a KGB statement, from a victim. This statement is audio and
video recorded in its entirety, including a warning oath, solemn affirmation or solemn declaration for the preservation
of testimonial evidence by victims believed to have been subject to honour-based violence or early or forced marriage.
Part 3 of Bill S-7 provides law enforcement with new tools. Charges can now be laid for forced marriage under
section 293.1, and section 293.2 for polygamy. Changes to section 295 also mean that not only the polygamist but
anyone who celebrates, aids, participates in or solemnizes such a marriage is guilty of an indictable offence. Bill S-7
articulates new conditions issued by a provincial court judge under section 810.02 of the Criminal Code, an attempt to
prevent a person from committing an offence in the first place. These are conditions such as to prohibit a defendant
from making arrangements for a marriage, whether in or outside Canada; to prohibit a defendant from leaving the
provincial jurisdiction; conditions that may require the defendant to render their travel documents; to prohibit
defendants from communicating with specified people or from going to any specified place, amongst other possible
conditions of that peace bond process. These conditions provide law enforcement with new tools to protect those
vulnerable to family violence.
Police have a dual responsibility to ensure victim safety and conduct investigations that hold offenders accountable
to the law. Victim safety is the initial priority in any occurrence. Information to assess risk is gathered from the
moment a call is received. The use of standardized risk assessment tools helps bring consistency to the determination of
risk levels. Information gathered in the risk assessment process will assist the investigation on whether to detain or
release an accused and in the development of appropriate safety plans to protect the victim.
Victim safety planning is critical to the management of family violence files. Planning includes identifying safe
accommodations and available victim supports, pursuing enforceable release and bail conditions, and the development
of communication plans should conditions of release change. In high-risk cases, partners such as Crown counsel,
corrections and probation, child and family services, transition houses and other community services may assist in the
safety planning, victim support and offender accountability.
Training and online resources available to RCMP officers at the national and divisional levels ensure that domestic
violence investigators are current with respect to best practices, legislation and policy. Discussions on violence against
women must include the concept of family-based honour crime. To increase RCMP understanding and capacity to
investigate these crimes, the RCMP has finalized an online course focused specifically on honour-based violence and
forced marriages. This course is currently available to RCMP employees across the country and will be made available
to all police forces in the coming weeks.
While as police officers we recognize our responsibility to enforce the law, it's our conviction that significant effort
expended in prevention, intervention, community education and awareness initiatives combined with expanded police
training will result in greater opportunities to protect women and girls before they become victims of honour-based
violence and early or forced marriage.
Thank you for the opportunity to contribute to your work by discussing some of our initiatives, and I look forward
to the results of your study. I'm pleased to respond to any questions you have.
The Chair: Thank you very much. I'm going to start off. I have a question. When we were first looking at violence
against women, the women had to lay the charges and that was a challenge, and then for the RCMP or the police force,
it became mandatory that they would lay the charges; it wouldn't be the woman. Can you tell us if that's what you
foresee here? Also, can you walk us through how the peace bond would work?
Mr. Bates: Absolutely. Where there is evidence to suggest that there has been spousal or intimate violence, the police
of jurisdiction are compelled to act and lay the appropriate charge. With respect to the preservation of testimonial
evidence, sometimes we have challenges in the investigation of that particular offence in that a victim, as I mentioned,
may recant the initial disclosure that they made to the police with respect to the incident in question for a variety of
reasons, clearly. It could be through peer pressure or they've reconciled with their loved one or otherwise.
There are processes in place whereby that testimonial evidence can be preserved. As I mentioned, sworn statements
can be obtained, commonly referred to as KGB statements, whereby the statement provided during that initial
disclosure can still be admitted as evidence through the court process.
Senator Eggleton: I'm just laughing about that. Does the acronym KGB have a Canadian flavour to it, or are we
talking about the KGB in Russia?
Mr. Bates: I don't think there is a direct association to that, but it is a sworn statement that can be admitted as
evidence in the absence of the victim in person.
Senator Eggleton: That was an aside. First of all, I was impressed with how much time you spent on talking about
prevention, intervention, risk reduction and education. I think that's a very good thing that you're doing, and I
commend you for that.
You mentioned the law. You attempt to enforce the law with respect to the age limit, except the law is different in
different parts of the country. In different provinces it is either 18 or 19. This bill is talking about 16, but in some
provinces it's 18 or 19. There is some provision for a person under the age of 18 being allowed to marry if they are
widowed or divorced, with the consent of their parents, guardian or by court order. How do you sort all that out, all
these different ages in different parts of the country?
Mr. Bates: I think that's certainly something we have to be mindful of, the variances in the applicability of the
legislation as it relates to different parts of the country and provincial legislation that we have to be mindful of as well.
Certainly where there's any question about the applicability and the appropriate age, that would be the subject of a
consultation with our provincial Crown attorney around giving legal consideration to the applicability of the
legislation, depending on the jurisdiction. It is a challenge.
Senator Eggleton: It complicates it when you have both the provincial and the federal governments legislating in the
same area for the same reason.
Mr. Bates: Correct.
Senator Eggleton: One of the things we heard earlier was the case of possible forced marriage where a young girl of
14 is being matched up with somebody of her parents' choosing, not of her choosing, and she may be about to be
ushered out of the country. The peace bond seems to be the way to deal with that, but I think what we heard in
previous testimony was that these young girls are not likely to take their parents to court, in effect, go to a court to try
to get some order against their parents.
How do you see that being handled?
Mr. Bates: I firmly believe that we have a lot of work ahead of us as an organization on the awareness front.
Certainly there needs to be a lot of messaging across a number of spheres within the ethnocultural communities and
even within school-based education that speaks to the fact that honour-based violence and forced marriage are not
lawful and are inconsistent with our Canadian values. Beyond that, messaging that support is available and that there
are agencies that can stand in the gap when young people are potentially facing those types of circumstances.
I see the peace bond as a meaningful tool for police that can provide the opportunity to intervene at an earlier
juncture and hopefully curtail activities that we know are likely already on track and may result in the forced marriage
or relocation of an individual for that purpose.
I think that those tools, to have some enforceable provisions, are meaningful, but I agree wholeheartedly with your
perspective that we have our work ahead of us in making sure that potential victims are aware of the possible supports
available to them. We have to work with our ethnic communities in that respect as well to provide that awareness and
meaningful support so that they have the courage of conviction to be able to stand up against these practices.
Senator Ataullahjan: Superintendent Bates, I just wanted to go back to the Shafia case. We kept hearing that these
girls would ask for help, and yet because they were young girls, it was mandatory for youth services to contact their
parents every time a report was made. Is any special consideration being made now in these specific conditions?
Mr. Bates: I certainly would hope that the online training we're looking to provide to police personnel, not only in
our organization but across the country, provides some awareness of some of the risk factors at play and some of the
vulnerability factors. Hopefully we're able to provide some tools across agencies for the recognition of some of the
risks at play and we end up with fewer of these types of situations, just through that early detection and awareness of
risk factors that might have been missed historically.
That would be the hope. In terms of training, the online training is the first step of a number of adjustments to the
training that's provided to our members. We will look down the road to consider relevant training that could be
provided right within our Depot training academy in terms of awareness and problem-based experiences that they have
directly in their scenarios and training that is responsive and recognizes honour-based violence and forced marriage as
a scenario that they might encounter over the course of their service to Canadian communities.
We will also look to provide new tools to our school resource officers through our centre for crime prevention. At
our Centre for Youth Crime Prevention we have a myriad of presentations that we make available to our school
resource officers across the country through that portal. Certainly we would look to provide new materials that focus
on this particular priority as well that they might be able to utilize to provide broader awareness within their schools
and within their inter-agency relationships that they have with partners as well.
Senator Ataullahjan: My next question was going to be about training. Is there any type of culture-based training?
Mr. Bates: At this juncture, the online training that is provided is introductory training. That is how I would best
describe it in terms of some of the cultural contributors and risk factors that they might see as it pertains to honour-based violence and forced marriage.
We have to work closely with our partners. In every division there exist cultural advisers who provide advice to our
commanding officers. The Commissioner of the RCMP also has an advisory committee from diverse communities that
provides input and feedback on how best we go about delivering service within their communities.
Leveraging those relationships and making sure that as we progress, in terms of the provision of necessary tools to
our police personnel and the awareness information that we would like to provide within our communities, we do so
armed with that knowledge and feedback from those who recognize the challenges within their own ethnic
communities and can provide meaningful input into how we best go about that.
Certainly there is a need for additional training tools beyond the ones we've begun rolling out. It's a good starting
place, but as we move forward with respect to school-based initiatives and with respect to community-based projects
that could be funded through our Family Violence Initiative program, there are a lot of great community-based
projects that could be submitted for our consideration and approval every year. Those are community-driven, police-supported projects in which we would be reliant and leverage the knowledge of our ethnic communities for meaningful
prevention work. I look forward to that advice and those types of initiatives to provide additional tools to our front-line resources.
Senator Eaton: Superintendent Bates, I see you're part of the National Aboriginal Policing and Crime Prevention
Mr. Bates: Correct. I am the director.
Senator Eaton: We could get into a whole other subject, but I will stick to the one at hand. These tools for
intervention and prevention you're talking about. Is Bill S-7 perhaps another tool by educating the community at large
that polygamy is against the law? Will that help you? Do you think it makes a difference?
Mr. Bates: Absolutely. Some new provisions provide us not only with enforcement avenues but also with the ability
to intervene to prevent earlier forced marriages, whether it be a section 810 peace bond or otherwise. It provides an
opportunity to develop awareness and educate. We have to come alongside partners within our ethnic communities in
that work to undertake that.
Senator Eaton: You talked about tools for intervention, and you had some programs in London, Ontario.
Mr. Bates: Yes. The Family Violence Initiative fund provides the opportunity to fund myriad community-driven
Senator Eaton: Can you give us an example?
Mr. Bates: One specific to honour-based violence and forced marriage is the London example which I raised. Suffice
it to say that many family violence initiatives delivered across Aboriginal communities also pertain to communities at
risk of —
Senator Eaton: Once you have done the intervention either in a school or somebody has come to a teacher who
called on you for help and support, is there enough follow-up? In other words, if a young person is involved who has to
be pulled out of a family situation, do you have the mechanisms to look after that young person? Is it culturally
appropriate? We heard a lot about that this afternoon — that it's no good putting them in a culturally inappropriate
place where they'll be swamped or over their head.
Mr. Bates: It's a broad question, but I'll do my best to answer. Many intervention diversion processes are considered
best practices across the country, whether the RCMP's Youth Intervention Diversion Program, the Stark model in
Manitoba or the Hub model in Prince Albert. Those types of intervention diversion processes are designed to look at
those situations where risk is prominent. A risk assessment is undertaken, and when a particular youth is deemed to be
at high risk, the hub or the stakeholders available within that model, whether the Hub model, the Stark model or
another best practice model, we look at what interventions and diversions are necessary to provide protection for that
youth and to ensure that safeguards are in place.
In some circumstances, they might need safe shelter, or there might be an addiction issue, or there might be anger
management issues at play. A risk assessment evaluation is undertaken, and then those interventions can have a
Senator Eaton: You talked about addiction and anger management. Those would not really be for the people who
might be going into a forced marriage. In other words, what you've learned in the hub situation, you could transfer to
Mr. Bates: Absolutely. For the risk assessment process with respect to domestic violence, there are a number of
recognized tools. I should mention as well that we have specialized domestic violence units across the country whose
specialty is domestic violence investigations. As we provide the training, the tools and the awareness of this particular
trend and priority, this area of risk will be considered in those cases where it may be present and we might have specific
considerations with respect to vulnerability that we need to consider given a particular case. As you mentioned, we
would have to provide the necessary cultural supports and victim services supports that are responsive to the risk at
play and the cultural components that may be contributing to that particular situation.
Senator Eaton: Big job.
Mr. Bates: Absolutely.
Senator Frum: In your initial presentation, you cited proposed section 293.2 of the bill, which says:
Everyone who celebrates, aids or participates in a marriage rite or ceremony knowing that one of the persons
being married is under the age of 16 years is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term
not exceeding five years.
We heard a witness earlier today who said that one of the reasons a young woman in a forced marriage situation
may not want to report is the perception that not only might her parents face consequences but also everybody who is
potentially at the ceremony where that young woman was wed. I'm interested in this from a policing perspective. How
do you interpret this idea of everyone who celebrates?
Mr. Bates: With respect to the bill as authored, we would have to seek the opinion of our Department of Justice
partners of what would constitute celebrating. I understand what you're saying and the fear involved in terms of a
potential victim not only being the subject of ostracism from her family but also her culture at large and potentially
putting other people at risk.
Senator Frum: It could be from a denunciation point of view — it says what it means, not unlike what we did with
the cyberbullying bill. If you forward a message or an image, you participate in that crime. If you are present and you
know you're present at a forced marriage, there are consequences for you as well. Maybe once it comes into force,
you'll have a better sense of how you're going to apply it.
Mr. Bates: Indirect involvement of that nature certainly would be something that we would consult with our Crown
prosecutor about and whether it specifically fits a particular scenario. I can see how it would cause some additional
angst for those who might consider the ramifications of coming forward. Certainly, these are challenging
investigations. There are many potential hurdles and language barriers in terms of trust of the police, depending on
where victims or potential victims have come from. There may be hurdles with respect to their perception of police and
level of trust. It's possible that their encounters with the police in their homeland may be negative; so some bridges
might need to be built to get to the place where there can be trust and a willingness to step forward with confidence that
the supports will be available.
There are lots of challenges. Just the challenge of isolation and the victim potentially not having familial support or
broader cultural support within their ethnic community are very real fears that we need to be sensitive to in the
provision of victim services and in the provision of the social supports to potential victims and victims as well.
Senator Andreychuk: I presume that the practices are still in place that I was familiar with, and that is that for any
new legislation that has impact on you, there will be some training sessions and some directives going out on how to
interpret it so that there will be uniformity. Is that correct?
Mr. Bates: Yes, absolutely. We do see the need for training tools beyond the introductory online portion that has
been rolled out to our membership and will be rolled out to the broader police membership. Some consideration of our
existing violence-in-relationship policy will be a natural consideration in terms of whether or not there are
enhancements, amendments or improvements that are required as far as those directives are concerned, and really a
rethink as well with respect to the front-line training that we provide right from the outset in our training academy at
Depot and the tools that we're providing for community awareness and presentations potentially within a variety of
community and youth venues.
Senator Andreychuk: There is this section of ''celebrates, aids or participates'' in the marriage knowing that a person
is in that situation. We have had in our marriages, ''If anyone knows any reason why this couple should not be joined,
come forward or forever hold your peace,'' but that was spiritual and religious. This is pretty specific. I'm reading it
and wondering whether you're reading it the same way. You would knowingly participate, so there's the act. You
would have to have done something, so there has to be the mens rea and the actus reus. We're back to basic law here.
Mr. Bates: Absolutely.
Senator Andreychuk: It isn't just generally anyone who happened to be at the wedding. They couldn't all be charged.
You would have had to have been a very knowing and active participant?
Mr. Bates: An active participant.
Senator Andreychuk: That's like concealing it or supporting the forced marriage.
You've been using the term ''honour-based violence.'' Is that part of your instructions and directions when you go
out to the communities, whether they're ethnic or otherwise? Do you talk about honour-based violence? You've used
the term quite often in your testimony here.
Mr. Bates: The first comment I would make is that this type of violence is not specific to any one community. It can
apply to any community. It is violence that is intended to protect the honour of the family, and where it's perceived
that somebody dishonours the family, that is the motivation behind it. I recognize that it's completely dishonourable
and there's nothing honourable about this type of violence. It can only be described as gender-based violence, but it is
grounded in cultural values and beliefs. It has no place in Canadian society. I hope that the use of the term doesn't
detract from the fact that it is horrific and most dishonourable. I certainly wouldn't want that to be confused. It's
about the motivation behind it, and that's why the term is utilized.
Senator Andreychuk: I wasn't questioning the motive. In your practice when you meet the community, is that a
common term that is used?
Mr. Bates: It is a common term that is used. However, I certainly would suggest that it is controversial in terms of
the fact that what we're talking about is domestic violence, familial violence in its purest form, and the title has to do
with the motivation behind that act. It still is specifically domestic violence, familial violence, at its roots, gender-based
violence in most cases.
Senator Andreychuk: The way you're approaching the community, you're putting it in violence and you're putting it
in the domestic scene. In your policing and working with the communities, as issues come up that hit violence against
minors or forced situations, can you easily adapt to any changing situation? In other words, it was not so long ago that
we would not have been looking at domestic violence in the sense of a husband assaulting a wife. It wouldn't have been
very easy to lay charges. It took some time and work in the community to get an awareness and an acceptance that
that's inappropriate and get really strong community response behind you. We were looking at the Aboriginal-specific
situation, as you said, to ensure that their communities are protected and they're afforded the services they need, and
now we're talking about forced marriage. Does it all fit into a continuum of trying to address violence and
inappropriate behaviour against either gender-specific persons in our society or a group in the society?
Mr. Bates: Absolutely, it all fits together. It's about power and control and domination of women. In this particular
scenario that we're talking about, it's a basic human right to be able to decide who you want to marry. That is, as
Canadians, what we generally accept as proper and appropriate. It's no different from power and domination and
violence against Aboriginal women. We're talking about circumstances here that affect other ethnic communities, but
it's still about power and control and domination and a deprivation of basic human rights that every woman living in
this country should have.
Senator Andreychuk: The overwhelming situation is power against women and their inability to fight back or get
equality, but there are some cases of the same situation with males; is that correct? Do you address those differently or
the same way?
Mr. Bates: Domestic violence, irrespective of who the victim is, is dealt with in the same manner. We have zero
tolerance in Canada with respect to the laying of charges. Where evidence exists to pursue a charge, that's something
that the police are compelled to undertake. Certainly we don't have the same volume of circumstances that involve men
as victims, but I have seen a number of them in my career, and the power and control elements are no different and
Senator Nancy Ruth: Following up on the language, superintendent, I was interested in the use of your words
''power, control and domination.'' That is what language so often does. All afternoon we've heard conversations
around the use of the words ''barbaric cultural practices'' and so on. I was interested in your use of the word ''ethnic.''
Does the RCMP have any alternatives when you're talking about so-called ethnic groups? The reason I'm raising this is
because of power, control and domination, and the word ''ethnic'' is used in relation to Whites, Christians, whatever. I
would like the RCMP to search for a new word. I'm afraid I don't have a suggestion to give you, but it's all in the same
venue as that.
Is there any discussion about that, though, in the RCMP?
Mr. Bates: Certainly amongst our partners and the work we do with the diverse communities across Canada, I think
there are conversations that take place on that level about what is most respectful. I don't know that there is always
consistency or agreement amongst the different opinions, but certainly I would hate for language to get in the way of
awareness and prevention efforts that we need to do within our communities. When you cause offence, at the outset it
can certainly have that effect.
We're sensitive to it, and we certainly seek to accord as much respect as possible within the groups that we operate
and to try to be respectful as best we can. Where we cause offence, certainly I've been apologetic more than a time or
two in that respect, but it is challenging to come to agreement on it.
Senator Nancy Ruth: I have no doubt that you are respectful of communities, but if we are to be a truly unique
example of an interracial society, then we had better all work on it.
Mr. Bates: Absolutely.
The Chair: This afternoon we had a witness who spoke about treating everybody alike, the same. She stated that
perhaps the Shafia children were treated differently. They were seen not as Canadian. They were seen as different —
these are not my words, they were her words — brown and different, so they were not treated equally.
I have no doubt that you don't do that, that you treat everybody equally, but it's challenging sometimes to draw the
line, because you have different things like culture being thrown at you, and diverse communities have different needs.
Do you have ongoing training? All afternoon we have heard about training the RCMP, training the police. When I
was more active in the legal world there wasn't much training of the RCMP on different things, maybe an hour at the
end of your course. I'm wondering how many hours of training are you doing to deal with diversity?
I sit here and listen, and I think the province I come from, I'm mainstream. I come from British Columbia. I don't
think people would call me ethnic anymore in British Columbia. Maybe I'm wrong.
Things change, society changes, and I'm wondering what kind of training do you do.
Mr. Bates: I would have to get back to you on the specific number of hours that are covered with respect to diversity
training in Depot. That's certainly something that I can get back to the committee on, but experientially, from my 22
years in the RCMP, I can certainly say I have seen some advancements.
Most recently there's a diversity and inclusion week where activities over a whole week take place to provide
education and awareness and knowledge of the different cultural groups that make up a particular region or province.
All across the RCMP every division is active in the diversity and inclusion week, and quite often it involves good food,
so it draws a lot of people out to have those discussions surrounding some of the unique practices that are specific to
the diverse makeup of our workplace.
We're looking forward in January to our diversity and inclusion week, and it will bring people out from all different
cultures to speak. We have booths set up throughout our headquarters environment where people can provide some
awareness and education to those passersby that are inquiring, so there are lots of positive initiatives of that nature on
a local level.
The diversity and inclusion week is centrally driven by our employment equity folks to ensure that we have some
broad participation across the country and that some of those diverse voices are heard and some awareness is provided
to the general membership about some of the different things to be celebrated. But I will get back to you specifically
with the Depot piece, and a lot of the other initiatives are local in nature.
The Chair: Ongoing training, because things change. I'm sure over the last 22 years you've seen many differences.
Since this bill has been tabled, and certainly this afternoon, the word ''barbaric'' has been very much in the
forefront. I would never ask you to comment on that, it wouldn't be fair to you, but it has also been used against
Aboriginal people. I would be remiss if I didn't take this opportunity, as you are the director of Aboriginal policing. It
preoccupies us about a national inquiry. I do not want you to comment on that, but are we improving services to
Aboriginal women, especially when it comes to the RCMP?
Mr. Bates: Certainly there is a consideration of what our best practices are in terms of the prevention work that
we're doing as it relates to service specifically to indigenous Aboriginal communities. Recently we met with a group of
commanders that work within vulnerable communities to explore best practices and to speak about what are the
recognized best practices relative to intervention and diversion, relative to the prevention of addictions abuse, relative
to sexual exploitation and human trafficking. What are some things that are meaningful contributions? What are some
family violence initiatives that have functioned well in other parts of the country? Those discussions have taken place.
With respect to planning to maximize our efforts within those communities that are most vulnerable, we are
working not only with our federal partners but also very closely with the divisions and the detachment commanders
working in these communities who will be engaged locally with their community leadership and provincial and non-governmental organizations to maximize the efforts of those involved in contributing to this priority.
So absolutely, I think significant progress is taking place. I think the first step of that progress was defining the
situation within the broader Canadian context. What is the reality of the situation from a statistical vantage point, and
what are some of the risk and vulnerability factors that we need to be mindful of contributing to?
I think we've got a good starting place, and we're working in a real, collaborative way to try to impact those
communities that are most vulnerable.
The Chair: Are you working with Aboriginal women's groups as well to find solutions? While we speak, we are
losing some Aboriginal girls. We just lost two. It's heartbreaking. As a country, we point fingers to call some people
barbaric, but our country has a lot to answer for as well. It's a real worry.
Are you working with Aboriginal women groups?
Mr. Bates: Absolutely. We have partnered very closely with the Native Women's Association of Canada. We share
their concern with respect to the overrepresentation of indigenous women as victims of homicide, as victims of going
missing and disappearing, and we feel that we're stronger working together in terms of our focused efforts on those
areas of vulnerability that are well known, and there is much that can be done in terms of action.
We have worked on awareness and prevention initiatives in the past with respect to poster campaigns relative to
hitchhiking practices and domestic violence prevention messaging, as well as the importance of early reporting as it
relates to missing persons. If somebody is missing in your community, the police need to know about it very quickly,
because evidence can be lost and investigations stalled if time passes and we don't have that early phone call.
We continue to work very closely with the Native Women's Association of Canada. In fact, they're continuing to
partner with us in the work we're trying to undertake in the vulnerable communities that we're focusing our efforts
The Chair: I want to thank you for appearing today at very short notice. We're hoping that in the future we can talk
more in detail about the work you really do, your day job. Thank you very much.
We will adjourn.
(The committee adjourned.)