Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act

Bill S-7 or the “Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act” was tabled by the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Chris Alexander. It had it’s first reading in the Senate, this November 5th. The Bill affects the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Civil Marriage Act, and the Criminal Code. The Bill mostly tackles forced marriages, underage marriages and Polygamy.

The National Post reports that, “In Ontario, agencies reported 219 cases of forced marriage between 2010 and 2012, according to a report. The victims were overwhelmingly female and more than a third were between 12 and 18.” The minister maintains that he introduced the legislation Wednesday to send the message that practices such as honour killings, forced and polygamous marriages are “incompatible with Canadian Values”.

The summary of the Bill taken from LegisInfo is as follows,

Part 1 amends the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to specify that a permanent resident or foreign national is inadmissible on grounds of practising polygamy in Canada.

Part 2 amends the Civil Marriage Act to provide for the legal requirements for a free and enlightened consent to marriage and for any previous marriage to be dissolved or declared null before a new marriage is contracted. Those requirements are currently provided for in the Federal Law—Civil Law Harmonization Act, No. 1 only in respect of Quebec and under the common law in the other provinces. It also amends the Civil Marriage Act to provide for the requirement of a minimum age of 16 years for marriage. This requirement is currently provided for in the Federal Law—Civil Law Harmonization Act, No. 1 only in respect of Quebec.

Part 3 amends the Criminal Code to

(a) clarify that it is an offence for an officiant to knowingly solemnize a marriage in contravention of federal law;

(b) provide that it is an offence to celebrate, aid or participate in a marriage rite or ceremony knowing that one of the persons being married is doing so against their will or is under the age of 16 years;

(c) provide that it is an offence to remove a child from Canada with the intention that an act be committed outside Canada that, if it were committed in Canada, would constitute the offence of celebrating, aiding or participating in a marriage rite or ceremony knowing that the child is doing so against their will or is under the age of 16 years;

(d) provide that a judge may order a person to enter into a recognizance with conditions to keep the peace and be of good behaviour for the purpose of preventing the person from committing an offence relating to the marriage of a person against their will or the marriage of a person under the age of 16 years or relating to the removal of a child from Canada with the intention of committing an act that, if it were committed in Canada, would be such an offence; and

(e) provide that the defence of provocation is restricted to circumstances in which the victim engaged in conduct that would constitute an indictable offence under the Criminal Code that is punishable by five years or more in prison.

Finally, the enactment also makes consequential amendments to other Acts.

In a government memo cited by the National Post, it was said that. “the Foreign Affairs and Immigration departments “will work closely to develop an engagement strategy with bilateral partners to not only make them aware of impending changes, but also to mitigate the expected negative impact of this tabling of the bill and its expected rapid coming into force””.

The full text of the Bill can be found here.