Feds to ban ‘barbaric’ cultural practices

TORONTO – Legislation aimed at curbing “barbaric” cultural practices from occurring in Canada would be introduced on Wednesday, Citizenship Minister Chris Alexander has announced.

Although he refused to provide details, Alexander said the legislation would also take aim at “honour-based” violence against girls and women.

“We intend sending a very clear message to anyone coming to Canada that such practices are unacceptable,” Alexander said.

“We will be standing up for women and girls who have come to Canada for a better life.”

The legislation, entitled the “Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act,” follows cases in which Afghan men in Canada were accused of killing female relatives.

The minister said provisions in the bill will do away with the ability of perpetrators to argue provocation or cultural differences as a mitigating factor.

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“Honour-based killings are nothing more than murders,” Alexander said.

“We will be working through this bill to make sure that such killings are considered the murders that we know them to be. There is absolutely no room for ambiguity.”

Among other measures, the legislation would eliminate early and forced marriage from the country’s immigration program as well as domestically, Alexander said.

The measures would not include arranged marriages.

Changes would also enhance the ability of immigration authorities to clamp down on polygamy of which, Alexander said, there are at least hundreds of cases.

“Polygamists are not welcome in this country,” he said. “If and when we find them in our immigration stream, they will be removed.”

The minister, accompanied by Status of Women Minister Kellie Leitch, heralded the legislation at a women’s centre in Toronto’s west-end.

He noted the case of an Afghan immigrant accused of stabbing his wife to death last year, apparently because he felt dishonoured by her independence.

In another horrific case he cited, an Afghan-Canadian man, his second wife and their son were convicted of first-degree murder in the deaths of his three teenaged daughters and his first wife – also because he felt they were bringing dishonour on the family by dating or dressing in ways he found offensive.

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The Conservative government promised in its 2013 throne speech to take steps against forced marriages and “honour” killings.

“We will stand up for the protection, the physical well-being, and the flourishing of women and girls in this country to make sure they reach their potential,” Alexander said.

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