Setting cultural relativism firmly aside, Canada’s Conservative government has introduced a bill in Parliament barring the border to immigrants in polygamous or forced marriages and making it a crime punishable by up to five years in prison to even participate knowingly in a forced marriage or one involving an under aged person.
The bill’s title, The Zero-Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act, seems to be a deliberate jab at Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, who in a misaimed stab at multiculturalism in 2011 criticized the government for terming honour killings “barbaric.” The new bill also takes a kick at honour killing, removing the right of defendants in a murder case from citing honour as a mitigating factor at sentencing.
The bill’s sponsor, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Chris Alexander, explained: “Honour-based killings are nothing more than murders. We will be working through this bill to make sure such killings are considered the murders that we know them to be.”
Gwen Landolt, national vice-president of Real Women of Canada, was entirely supportive. “This has been a long time in coming,” she told LifeSiteNews. “Honour killing is a heinous crime and barbaric. To kill someone for purely egocentric reasons, not for self-defence or in anger, but in cold blood to protect your reputation, that is heinous.”
Landolt was equally supportive of the new immigration rules related to polygamy, that even allow polygamous immigrants to be deported. “Polygamy is totally contrary to Canadian values and the courts have said so,” she told LifeSiteNews. “That, child and forced marriages all attack the dignity of women. They treat women as a bounty, a bargaining chip.”
Though girls as young as 12 are currently married in Canada with parental consent, the bill would set 16 as the minimum, and the federal Justice Ministry is asking provincial governments to require a family court judge’s consent for marriages between 16 and adulthood.
In introducing the bill, the federal government is responding to the notorious Shafia case, in which an Afghan immigrant teamed up with his second, polygamous wife and son, in 2012, to murder his two daughters for adopting “Western” values, along with his legal wife for supporting them. The three collaborators cited honour as their justification but were all convicted of murder in 2012.
The government backgrounded the bill with an Ontario study from an immigrant services agency reporting 219 cases of forced marriages in the province between 2009 and 2012. The government also claimed there were two dozen cases of honour crimes in Canada since 1995.
But Deepa Mattoo, the co-author of the forced-marriage study, told LifeSiteNews she was appalled at the tone of the government’s announcement. “It’s sad as hell. It is totally ‘othering’ of immigrants. It talks as if immigrants are bringing spousal abuse to Canada, as if it is not already here. Violence is not cultural. Polygamy is already here. This has no sensitivity to the feelings of certain communities already here in hundreds of thousands.”
Mattoo, a staff lawyer with the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario, said polygamy and honour killings were to be condemned. But the ban on immigration of polygamous families would prevent women trapped in such relationships from escaping by coming to Canada. “So I ask, ‘Who is this helping?’ Not those women.”
But Real Women of Canada’s Landolt disagrees. “That’s a fantasy. They don’t come and escape. They come and then stay in the marriage. Everyone should support this bill. It will stop people coming here with a denigrating attitude toward women.”
An internal briefing note leaked to the Canadian Press warned the government of possible repercussions from the 62 countries that permit polygamy, any of which could impose retaliatory restrictions on Canadians seeking to visit or live there. The bill “will certainly create bilateral irritants.” The same memo, however, expected the government to pass the bill anyway as quickly as possible.