The Senate has approved a bill that would remove mention of “barbaric (Islamic) cultural practices” from a law that outlaws Muslim practices of forced child marriage, female genital mutilation, honor killings, and more.
National Post (h/ Richard S) Liberal Sen. Mobina Jaffer introduced the bill in December 2015, shortly after the Liberals won the federal election and less than six months after the previous Conservative government passed the so-called “Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act” into law.
In a speech introducing her bill — which does nothing more than remove the title of that law — Jaffer said the use of the term “barbaric” is “insulting to Islamic cultures in Canada.”
The issue here, frankly, is the pairing of the words ‘barbaric’ and ‘cultural.’ By pairing these two words, we are instead removing the agency from the individual committing an action that is clearly wrong and associating it instead with a cultural group at large. We are implying that these practices are part of cultures and that these cultures are barbaric.”
The Conservative law, called Bill S-7 when it went through parliament, sought to address the issue of forced marriage in a few ways, including by adding polygamy as a reason to deny someone’s admission to Canada, by setting 16 as the minimum age for marriage and by creating new offences related to forced and underage marriage.
It also removed provocation by “wrongful act or insult” as a partial defence in murder cases. The legislative summary for the bill cites a 2006 case at the Ontario Court of Appeal in which a man accused of killing an allegedly unfaithful wife cited “family honour” in arguing the defence of provocation was relevant. The court disagreed and said the premise that violence against women is sometimes accepted is “antithetical” to fundamental Canadian values.
Conservative Sen. Salma Ataullahjan agrees with Jaffer that “barbaric” is a problematic word.The short title, “in my view, is incendiary and deeply harmful, as it targets a cultural group as a whole rather than individuals who commit the specific acts,” Ataullahjan said Monday evening in the Senate.
This isn’t the first time a politician has taken issue with such language. When he was a backbench MP in 2011, now-prime minister Justin Trudeau made headlines for challenging the Conservative government’s use of the term in Canada’s citizenship guide, arguing the use of the term “barbaric” to describe “cultural practices” was not neutral enough.
Jaffer’s bill awaits first reading in the House of Commons.