Cultural barbaric practices here and there -

Cultural barbaric practices here and there


NDP immigration critic Jinny Sims recently revealed that she is uncomfortable with the revised edition of the Welcome to Canada guide—a 146-page document compiled by Citizenship and Immigration Canada and presented last week by Immigration Minister Jason Kenney. Sims doesn’t care about the guide’s monarchist bent, or its omission of  “O Canada” lyrics. But she does take umbrage with the following passage:

“Canada’s openness and generosity do not extend to barbaric cultural practices that tolerate spousal abuse, honour killings, female genital mutilation, forced marriage or other gender-based violence. Those guilty of these crimes are severely punished under Canada’s criminal laws.”

Sims’ problem isn’t with sentiment (she agrees such crimes are barbaric). It’s with semantics.

“All of those practices are barbaric, but they are barbaric no matter which culture they happen in,” she explained. “As soon as you put the word ‘cultural’ in there, you are putting it as if it doesn’t happen here.”

I called Sims and asked her to elaborate. Why the opposition to the word “cultural?”

“It is barbaric,” she said. “You don’t need any other adjective. They are barbaric. Period.”

I tried to press her:  Isn’t there a cultural difference, I argued, when you’re dealing with immigrants who are coming from a place where certain barbaric practices are condoned? Doesn’t the cultural acceptance of those practices render them culturally barbaric, as opposed to just plain old barbaric?

We have our fair share of gender violence, of course, I argued, but our culture rejects it overwhelmingly as immoral. That’s a stark cultural difference.

Sims didn’t want to talk semantics, or ethnicity. When asked if the word “cultural” stigmatizes certain cultures, she changed the subject to the Conservatives.

“I see a little bit of hypocrisy,” she said. “We’re telling newcomers all of these things are barbaric, but my question is, what has this government actually done? What has the government done right here in Canada and internationally to address those issues?”

Although Sims wouldn’t say directly why she objects to the word “cultural,”  the obfuscation in her answers leads me to the following:

Describing vaginal mutilation and honour killings in a cultural context is inappropriate, she and others probably feel, because there is gender violence in Canada. Therefore, labelling imported gender violence as “cultural” is potentially racist and misleading. The same barbaric things happen here as well. Or as Sims said, on average, “every six days a Canadian woman is killed by her partner.”

Forgetting for a moment that the incidence of vaginal mutilation in Canada is probably lower than it is in Djibouti, there’s a glaring logical error in this argument: it confuses behaviour with attitude.

It may be true that gender-based violence and other barbaric practices occur “here” and “there,” as Sims suggests. But if you mutilate a child’s genitals here, you go to jail; there you carry on and go about your business. Culture is attitude.

Jinny Sims likely feels that by condemning certain “barbaric cultural practices,” we are judging entire countries and civilizations. But when behaviours are antithetical to what we believe and at odds with what we consider to be civilized, it’s our responsibility to underline our antipathy in terms that leave no room for misinterpretation.

The “Welcome to Canada” guide says we are a tolerant society, but our tolerance does not extend to intolerance or savagery — here or there. The Canadian government’s rejection of cultural barbaric practices from afar is not a tacit approval of cultural barbaric practices at home. It is a clear message to our immigrant population that where gender violence is concerned, there are no sacred cows.

When I was an undergrad, I tutored adult ESL at a public library. My students were women, the majority of them immigrants from theocracies where “barbaric cultural practices” aren’t barbaric — they’re what you do on a Tuesday afternoon. Many told stories I will not repeat here and don’t like to think about. But I am reminded of their words every time a well-intentioned person like Justin Trudeau or Jinny Sims equivocates and obfuscates in the name of cultural sensitivity.

I am also reminded of the time I tried to discuss with my ESL students, this strange breed of well-intentioned Canadians (which for me, at that time, was a university classroom of white feminists debating the freeing qualities of the burka). They were, I assured my students, really well-intentioned. My students laughed, loudly.

They thought I was telling a joke.


Cultural barbaric practices here and there

  1. Sims is quite right and should have gone farther to point out that the political right has indeed attempted to stigmatize certain cultures as esp. prone to rape, along with child murder.

    It was also right like five years ago when it first became an issue between Trudeau and kenney (when Trudeau wrongly backed down).

    • How has the political right attempted to stigmatize certain cultures? By pointing out the truth?

      It amazes me how you confuse ‘pointing out the truth’ with ‘spin’. Maybe you really don’t understand the difference, which does not bode well for trusting your opinion makings.

    • Mich like Sims, you seem to be unable to articulate what it is that you are talking about. There appears to be agreement that the practices are barbaric. There appears to be agreement that the practices are cultural. Although rare, these practices occasionally take place by immigrants in Canada. Yet for some reason it is impermissable to place the words “barbaric” and “culture” together. I simply don’t get it.

      • ‘everything you need to know was provided in my post.

    • Is it really so wrong to point out the truth that certain crimes that we find abhorrent such as honor killing and beating your wife are not considered crimes worthy of punishment in those cultures? People in Canada call the police when a man beats his wife. Shouldn’t be proud of that fact?

  2. Culture is attitude! Of course.

    Cultures differ by their attitudes taken.

  3. “Canada’s openness and generosity do not extend to barbaric cultural practices …. ”

    “It’s A Girl!” Could Be A Death Sentence, CMAJ March 2012:

    “When Asians migrated to Western countries they brought welcome recipes for curries and dim sum. Sadly, a few of them also imported their preference for having sons and aborting daughters. Female feticide happens in India and China by the millions, but it also happens in North America in numbers large enough to distort the male to female ratio in some ethnic groups. Should female feticide in Canada be ignored because it is a small problem localized to minority ethnic groups?”

    • By bringing the issue of sex-selection abortion to Canadian physicians, the Canadian Medical Association has ensured that “female feticide” in Canada will not be ignored. In fact, physicians who perform abortions will be screening women to find out if they are in fact shopping for this service. Canadians, including physicians and the CMA do not support sex-selection abortion and the procedures will not be occurring in accredited Canadian medical facilities.

      • Darn; there’s that attitude again! :) Good post!

      • Does the CMA impose sanctions against physicians who perform sex-selection abortions? If so, can you elaborate on what they are?

        • I am not aware of any sanctions being imposed against physicians who perform sex-selection abortions in Canada. However, Canadian physicians who perform abortions do so in accredited medical facilities under the guidance of hospital boards and administrators. They are guided by ethics boards. As sex-selection abortion is NOT an accepted cultural practice in Canada, the CMA is contacting physicians to advise them that certain cultures are shopping around for this service and given the fact that this practice in other countries has actually affected the ratio of males to females quite significantly in those countries, they are strongly warning against providing the service. Having said that, obviously physicians are going to unknowingly perform the service on occasion. Do we want them to be arrested because they were falsely led to believe that the women who requested the abortion could not procreate rather than did not want a girl child? This is the problem with abortion law. Suddenly you are going to be arresting nurses who did what they thought was in the best interest of the patient because a disgruntled family member is angry ala Hester Eastman.

      • ” Canadians, including physicians and the CMA do not support sex-selection abortion … ”

        Apparently, Canadians do support it because Canadian women are asking for the procedure, Canadian doctors are performing it and Canadian taxpayers are paying for it. And we have no way of knowing how many babies are murdered annually because The State refuses to release figures about abortion.

        But if it soothes your conscience, you keep on telling yourself how no Canadians support infanticide.

        • As you pointed out Hester, sex-selection abortion is a cultural practice that is NOT supported by the great majority of Canadians whether or not some new Canadians are requesting the service or not. As for your contention that Canadian physicians are providing the service, there is no proof that this is true. The CMA is giving physicians a “heads up” that certain new Canadians may request the service but as yet, we have no indication the service is happening and as your earlier quote indicated the services were being offered in North America…that is not necessarily Canada.

  4. Nice try but this effort falls flat. One could substitute male circumcision genital mutilation and it takes on a whole new meaning, doesn’t it? Try to explain the difference.

    • Although I am NOT in favor of routine male circumcision, the two procedures cannot really even be compared. Male circumcision can be argued to actually have health benefits by some (less urinary tract infections; less spread of HIV) with very little loss of sensation during sexual intercourse. Female circumcision is actually mutilation ranging from removal of the clitoris and the clitoral hood all the way to removal of all of the structures outside of the vagina. Not only does the woman lose all sexual sensation but the woman suffers many medical problems as a result of the procedure including increased urinary tract infections, etc. While male circumcision might be done for religion reasons or for health reasons (prophylactic) or because men want their sons to look like them, female circumcision is performed so women won’t become sexually promiscuous. While I understand and appreciate that male circumcision is not a procedure to be taken lightly, it is no longer routinely covered by healthcare and parents are the ones that must approach a surgeon and request that they perform it. Those same parents must pay the surgeon in cash for the procedure. Meanwhile, female circumcision is outlawed in this country.

    • only if you removed the entire tip! female circumcision is done to remove any pleasure by the woman and make her a machine that has babies! the comparison is ridiculous!

      • I guess, culturally, it is of no consequence whether or not the women have pleasure during sex. I agree with Diogenes: cutting the genitals of both male and female babies qualifies as barbaric. Cutting parts off babies is never a good thing.

        • You are so right that “culturally, it is of no consequence whether or not women have pleasure during sex” and guess who in the culture is deciding that women should have no pleasure during sex? Men. Men are also deciding that all female fetuses should be aborted. Those men who run these cultures are a real swell bunch. What do you think sex is like for women who can derive no pleasure from it? I wonder if they even get lubrication or if the sexual intercourse is actually painful. Does anybody care?

          • HI. Nobody “runs a culture” and you are well aware of that.

          • Oh pleese! Men dominate these cultures. Otherwise women would be valued the same way men are. You surely cannot be that naive. Even in your belief that male circumcision is wrong (which I happen to share), it is men who are making the choice to have their sons circumcised.

  5. “…. (which for me, at that time, was a university classroom of white feminists debating the freeing qualities of the burka).”
    We Aren’t The World:

    IN THE SUMMER of 1995, a young graduate student in anthropology at UCLA named Joe Henrich traveled to Peru to carry out some fieldwork among the Machiguenga, an indigenous people who live north of Machu Picchu in the Amazon basin.

    In doing so, Henrich expected to confirm one of the foundational assumptions underlying such experiments, and indeed underpinning the entire fields of economics and psychology: that humans all share the same cognitive machinery—the same evolved rational and psychological hardwiring.

    The human brain is genetically comparable around the globe, it was agreed, so human hardwiring for much behavior, perception, and cognition should be similarly universal. No need, in that case, to look beyond the convenient population of undergraduates for test subjects. A 2008 survey of the top six psychology journals dramatically shows how common that assumption was: more than 96 percent of the subjects tested in psychological studies from 2003 to 2007 were Westerners—with nearly 70 percent from the United States alone. Put another way: 96 percent of human subjects in these studies came from countries that represent only 12 percent of the world’s population.

  6. It’s odd that Kenney forgot to mention that child rape is an unacceptable “cultural practice” for the benefit of all those Catholic priests coming to work in Canadian parishes.

    • I think it is quite well established that the priests who were raping children were home-grown. It isn’t that every Canadian, including Catholics don’t find the practice which is illegal to be also morally reprehensible. What is truly disgusting is that the administrators of the Catholic church were aware of that some of their priests were molesting children and they chose to cover it up and transfer these priests to other communities where they were free to victimize other children. FYI, Jason Kenney to my knowledge is not Catholic. However, I would be careful in equating membership in a church to being okay with what priests in the church did over 20 years ago. It is well known that the people of the Province of Quebec overwhelmingly belong to the Catholic Church as do many of their parliamentary representatives. I don’t think it is fair to say that they had any knowledge or in any way were complicit in sex abuse of minors by priests.

  7. This kind of “we’re so much better than them” is particularly ugly so soon after Stuebenville and the Reteah instances.

    • No one is saying we are so much better only that we recognize when something is unjust and we try to do better.

  8. This is the problem of those that fall into the trap of moral relativism ! of course it is cultural as the barbaric practise is just that barbaric and it is accepted by the culture – the culture itself is barbaric and should be culled from the gene pool if you can’t change it! any culture that condones honour killings is barbaric case closed period as well as with female circumcision – this idea that becuase another group of people do something that is evil can be explained away and that the culture is somehow separate is absurd! any culture that carries out these evil practises needs to be changed or gotten rid of !

    • OMG, nothing barbaric about your point of view, cough cough. So we should kill off cultures that appear to be barbaric to you then, Wayne?

      • cultures evolve and change and die out all the time – I do not suggest killing or maiming people olny barbaric ideas that have no place in a modern society and yes evil is evil and not defined by me but by the principle involved – I know you can not understand this and it goes against everything you believe if indeed you do belive anything anymore you have drank too deeply of the kool aid and become befuddled – which is my point – the liberal philosophy has so denigrated your sense of any real value you can not see this. Moral Relativism believes that there are no aboslutes that everything is relative! This is a sign of a weak mind, a useless heart and a warped soulthat has no foundation and sooner or later this phislosophy dies out along with it’s holders. Yes cultures that practise evil must be gotten rid of and indeed will be – thing is they always re-surface – life is a striuggle!

    • “This is the problem of those that fall into the trap of moral relativism !”

      Agreed. Let’s outlaw male circumcision and hitting children.

      • sounds good to me!! I agree


    Normally i don’t take much issue with what Emma has to say – and i don’t on the PC language aspect of this story.
    I tend to find Siddiqui a bit too culturally senstive most of the time. But i think he makes a couple of good points here. I particularly like the reference to reminding immigrants to obey the traffic laws instead of trying to imply there is any danger of truly importing these barbaric practices to Canada.[ did we experience a sudden outbreak of them until uncle Kenney came along to smack everyone’s fingers? No, we didn’t.]

    He seems to take issue with your assertions that there is an real risk of this happening here Emma. Well, it’s the point you miss anyway. So, the question is, why is he using the term barbaric? Is it merely to state the obvious or does the creepy little twerp have an agenda of his own?

    Nice job of picking the most clownish shot of JK you could possibly manage there TS. Wouldn’t be intentional would it? It makes Kenney appear like a demented worshiper at the altar of multiculturalism – something i dare say he’d not appreciate.

    • More for the sake of being argumentative than anything else :-) :

      I suspect most 1st world people would not normally describe the driving practices of some countries as barbaric – chaotic, disorganized, scary-as-hell all come to my mind; but not barbaric. Whereas female genital mutilation would be aptly considered barbaric.

      Disobeying traffic laws happens in, for the most part, a public venue. The likelihood of being seen is reasonably high. The likelihood of being caught is non-negligible. This reduces the risk of the offence continuing for an extended period of time.

      Whereas I imagine most female genital mutilations occur in the privacy of a home and are performed by a relative or other close associate. So the likelihood of it being observed by an outsider or the perpetrators being caught is negligible. This is especially so given that it’s a non-repeatable offence, unlike disobeying traffic laws. Couple that with the very real significant permanent damage guaranteed by female genital mutilation, and it then makes sense that the government would pay more attention to the importation of that particular practice than bad driving habits.

      • I’m pretty sure the author wasn’t trying to equate bad driving habits with barbaric cultural practices. His point surely was that there was no more of this going on inside Canada than before JK rewrote the script. Basically this is typical populous posturing for votes. Which is all JK is all about really. I’m surprised ET doesn’t acknowledge as much. :)