The Centre for Indo-Canadian Studies at UFV hosted a panel on the proposed Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act (Bill S-7), which discussed the political, social, and racial implications of the legislation. Kamaljit Lehal was one of the panel speakers.
Original article written by Nadine Moedt can be found here
It was out of tragedy that the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination was born. On March 21, 1966, police officers under South Africa’s Apartheid rule opened fire on an unarmed group of protesters, killing 69 men, women, and children, and injuring 180 more. The Sharpeville massacre serves as a reminder of the effects of polarized and racialized communities — a climate that has many critics of a new piece of proposed legislation in Canada concerned.
In commemoration of the day, the Centre for Indo-Canadian Studies hosted a panel on the proposed Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act (Bill S-7), which discussed the political, social, and racial implications of the legislation.
The act includes amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, Civil Marriage Act, and Criminal Code.
Kamaljit Lehal, a Vancouver-based lawyer with a specialization in immigration law, spoke first on why the proposed act and included amendments in Bill S-7 do more harm than good for the people it is meant to support.
While the purpose of the laws is to protect girls and women, Lehal argued that criminalization will further compromise women’s safety. The proposed changes would allow anyone involved in a forced marriage to be criminally charged. Lehal discussed how this might create barriers for young girls seeking help.
“For example, if a young girl is feeling coerced into marrying someone [and her] parents can be subject to criminal charges, is she likely to risk them being charged criminally?”
Lehal spoke from her experience with the law, noting that the proposed act is entirely unnecessary.
“When we look at the existing laws, we have at least 20 provisions of the Criminal Code that can be and have been used to deal effectively with these issues.”
Laws against polygamy, genital mutilation, forced marriage, and honour killings are already in place and have been for years. Lehal says that judiciaries are well aware of the issues and that cultural beliefs can’t be, and have not been used to justify crime in court. So if the laws aren’t necessary, why are changes being made?
According to Lehal, it comes down to a matter of politics. In her experience with the law, Lehal says she has seen a gradual erosion of rights and liberty.
“The laws have become more and more strict and there is this us-and-them attitude that has been underlying it, a divide between who are the real Canadians versus those who are immigrants.”
Full article by Nadine Moedt found here