POLITICS

'Barbaric cultural practices' bill inflammatory, says Canadian Bar Association

05/05/2015 09:15 EDT | Updated 05/05/2016 05:59 EDT
The Canadian Bar Association is expected to speak before a House of Commons committee Tuesday to outline concerns about a proposed law that would bar people involved in polygamous relationships from immigrating to Canada.

The CBA has argued the proposed changes in Bill S-7 — known as the Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act — would prevent women and children forced into polygamous relationships from immigrating to Canada. 

Lawyer Suzanne Costom, who is expected to testify before the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration on behalf of the CBA, said the working title of the bill is needlessly inflammatory.

"We do say that the title is divisive and misleading, and oversimplifies factors that contribute to discrimination and violence against women and children," she said.

"We find that the short titles being used have become more and more inflammatory and should, in fact, be sort of neutral and succinctly reflect the content of the bill rather than try and appeal to peoples' emotions."

The legislation, which originated in the Senate, would make it illegal for anyone under 16 to get married, would explicitly require consent for marriage and allow for a peace bond to prevent someone from participating in forced or child marriage.

It would also make it illegal for someone to remove a child or non-consenting adult from Canada for the purpose of marriage.

Costom argued the proposed changes attempt to solve non-existent issues while creating negative consequences.

"A) We're adjusting a problem that doesn't exist and B) you end up, potentially, creating consequences, which you never foresaw and which are not good consequences for the Canadian public," she said.

The bill passed its third reading in the Senate in December 2014 and is now before the House of Commons.