Feds brace for backlash against new immigration rules

If it becomes law, the bill would eliminate early and forced marriages from Canada’s immigration system


OTTAWA – The Harper government is bracing for international backlash to its proposed new law that would ban people in polygamous and forced marriages from immigrating to Canada, The Canadian Press has learned.

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander announced the legislation Wednesday, calling such practices “incompatible with Canadian values.”

The Conservative government promised in its 2013 throne speech to take steps on forced marriages and so-called honour killings.

If it becomes law, the bill would eliminate early and forced marriages from Canada’s immigration system and the country as a whole, said Alexander. The measures would not include arranged marriages.

There are “at least hundreds” of cases of immigrants in polygamous marriages in Canada, the minister added.

The bill responds to cases in which Afghan men in Canada were accused of killing female relatives. Alexander said provisions in the bill will do away with the ability of perpetrators in such cases to use provocation or cultural differences as a mitigating factor.

But the “Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act” might not go over so well in some Arab and African countries, suggests an internal government briefing note, obtained by The Canadian Press.

The memorandum dated Oct. 27 and stamped “Secret,” notes that polygamy remains legal in dozens of countries.

“This new admissibility provision related to polygamy, even with the availability of tools to mitigate impact, will certainly create bilateral irritants since polygamy is recognized under civil law in 50 countries (e.g. United Arab Emirates) and under customary law in 12 countries (e.g. South Africa),” said the document.

“This could also lead to reciprocity-related decisions by partner countries.”

In the case of the U.A.E., negative fallout could undo three years of hard work by Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird to repair what had been a damaged relationship.

When Baird became foreign minister in 2011, relations with the influential Gulf state were in tatters.

It started when Canada wouldn’t give two emirate airlines extra landing rights they were seeking. The government was trying to protect Air Canada.

The U.A.E. retaliated by kicking the Canadian Forces out of one of its military bases, a key staging ground for the Afghanistan mission. It also imposed a hefty visa charge on Canadian travellers.

Baird has since worked hard to repair relations, making numerous trips to the U.A.E. and welcoming his counterpart to Canada.

The internal memo says 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.”

Asked for further details, Baird’s office deferred to Alexander’s office, which did not immediately have a response about the engagement strategy.

The bill would amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, making permanent residents or temporary residents inadmissible if they practice polygamy in Canada.

The bill would also amend the Civil Marriage Act to ban marriage for anyone under the age of 16.

It also changes the Criminal Code to impose a maximum five-year prison term on anyone who “celebrates, aids or participates” in a marriage rite or ceremony knowing that one of the persons is being married against their will, or is not of legal age.

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

He cited another case in which 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.

“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.”


Feds brace for backlash against new immigration rules

  1. “incompatible with Canadian values.”

    I’ve noticed that phrase being used a lot lately.

    For years people complained that Canada didn’t seem to have a national identity…..now we are apparently awash in ‘Canadian values.’ Ones I’ve never heard of!

    Were you asked about Canadian values? Was there a referendum I missed?

    I don’t care if people practice polygamy….it’s traditional marriage after all….right in the Bible….and murder is already against the law.

    Not to mention we have homegrown Bountiful, BC!

    So let’s offend 50 countries by calling them ‘barbaric’??

    This govt is ‘incompetence deluxe’

  2. Well, I’m surprised we need this Act; I thought these things were already against Canadian law.

    As for its name – “Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act” – is it just me or does that seem deliberately inflammatory?

    • Since polygamy is still not legal in Canada, it should not be legal for a landed immigrant to sponsor more than one wife. Now he’ll just have to pick his favourite wife and sponsor her. Lucky girl.

      • Only the first wife counts….the others are listed as ‘cousins’.

        Same as everybody else does.

        • And this is perfectly acceptable to you of course. When you’re not whining about “the 2000 years of patriarchy in western society”, you’re defending the barbarism that is oppressing women everywhere else. You want equal rights, but the little brown sisters will just have to suck it up, because we arrogant westerners have no business trying to teach other cultures right from wrong.

      • “Now he’ll just have to pick his favourite wife and sponsor her.”

        Not according to the article above. Did you bother to read it?

        • Sure did. Known polygamists won’t get in.

          The bill would amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, making permanent residents or temporary residents inadmissible if they practice polygamy in Canada.

          Such a law would preclude bringing a harem of wives over, and allow for the deportation of anyone who does. Thus the expected backlash from the hand-wringers who think “respect for other cultures” should supersede western values and Canadian laws.

  3. ““Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act”

    Was there a Naming of Acts to Appeal to the Bases Preadolescent Intellect Act?

  4. Lot of proggie outrage over the “polygamy” part, not so much on the “you’ll be marrying your 40 year old cousin the week after your 10th birthday” stuff. Not that we shouldn’t wring our national hands over discomfitting nations where this is sort of thing is part of their gorgeous multicultural mosaic by pointing out it isn’t acceptable here (at least to most of us, present company excepted, it would seem).

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