NEWS

'Barbaric cultural practices' bill debate limited by Conservatives

03/12/2015 02:34 EDT | Updated 05/12/2015 05:59 EDT
The government has limited debate on proposed legislation to make child marriages and forced marriages illegal.

The Conservatives moved a time-allocation motion Thursday morningto cut off debate on the proposed "Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act" after two days.

MPs were debating the bill when the motion passed, leaving Monday, March 23, as the final day of debate at second reading. The House will vote on the bill that evening before it is expected to go to a committee for further study.

Thursday is the second last day of the sitting before MPs go on a one-week House break to return to their ridings.

The legislation, bill S-7, originated in the Senate and would make it illegal for anyone under 16 to get married. It would also explicitly require consent for marriage, block anyone in a polygamist relationship from immigrating to Canada and allow for a peace bond to prevent someone from participating in forced or child marriage. Finally, it would make it illegal for someone to remove a child or non-consenting adult from Canada to have that person married.

Polygamy allegations aren't unheard of in Canada. One community leader in Bountiful, B.C., has repeatedly fought charges of polygamy. Two residents have also been accused of having unlawfully removed a child under 16 from Canada with the intention of sexual interference or invitation to sexual touching.​

Government officials have referred to a report by the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario that said it was aware of 219 cases of forced marriage originating in Ontario and Quebec between 2010 and 2013. But the organization last fall said the "barbaric cultural practices" bill shows the Conservatives aren't listening.

"The government's statements in support of these changes are not based on any statistical data or research, perpetuate myths about practices of polygamy and forced marriages, and lead Canadians to believe that violence against women is a 'cultural' issue that happens only in certain communities," it said in a news release.

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