2nd Session, 41st Parliament,
Volume 149, Issue 142
Thursday, May 14, 2015
The Honourable Leo Housakos, Speaker
Female Genital Mutilation
Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Mr. Leader, I know that you won’t be able to give us an answer today, but I am asking you to conduct an inquiry on female genital mutilation and to come back to this chamber with an answer as soon as possible.
As you know, I am working on the problem of female genital mutilation. I would like to know whether the Department of Justice has taken measures to prosecute the alleged offenders or whether it intends to adopt any such measures.
Hon. Claude Carignan (Leader of the Government): Senator, I can take your question as notice. I would like to remind you that the Government of Canada condemns these barbaric practices. When immigrants arrive in our country and are sworn in as new Canadians, the principles set out in the citizenship guide are very clear: to promote the equality of women and men and to respect people’s physical integrity, especially women’s.
Senator Jaffer: Mr. Leader, I have a supplementary question. Since 1997, we have considered all forms of female genital mutilation to be child abuse. However, no charges have been laid.
Senator Carignan: I am not sure whether you are asking me a question or you are answering your first question. In short, I am not exactly sure where this is going, senator. Our society condemns violence against women and girls. It is not tolerated. The Government of Canada is committed to preventing all forms of violence and supporting victims. Canadians can count on our government to crack down on violent crime, particularly crimes against women and children.
Since we took office, we have brought in harsher sentences for crimes, including sexual assault and kidnapping. We have imposed mandatory prison sentences for the most serious crimes. We have enhanced support for victims of crime and we have invested in various community projects. Funding for these projects has more than doubled.
Since 2007, we have funded over 300 projects to eliminate violence against women and girls through Status of Women Canada. Since 2006, we have adopted 30 justice- and public-safety-related measures. We have taken decisive action to keep women and girls safe. We have put an end to house arrest in cases of sexual assault involving serious injury, and we have brought in harsher sentences for the sexual exploitation of children and for the importation, manufacturing and sale of date rape drugs. We will continue our efforts to keep women and girls safe from exploitation and abuse.
Senator Jaffer: Thank you, leader, for your answer. I will repeat my question. Maybe I didn’t explain myself clearly.
I am specifically asking about female genital mutilation. This law came in place in 1997. Since 1997, there has been not one prosecution. I’m specifically asking for you to inquire of the Justice Department why that is not the case.
In England, which has double the population that we have, there have been several prosecutions. They have set up a separate unit to deal with issue, while here we do not seem to be doing anything on the issue of female genital mutilation.
Senator Carignan: Senator, it’s harsh of you to say that we are not doing anything, considering the measures I described. Our government is a champion of maternal and child health, as illustrated by the Muskoka Initiative. Our government is playing a leadership role in addressing the health challenges facing women, newborns and children in the poorest countries in the world.
We recently promised an additional $3.5 billion over five years for the maternal, newborn and child health initiative. In addition, during the most recent Francophonie Summit, the Prime Minister announced a contribution that will make it possible to immunize 300 million more children and to save as many as 6 million lives. That money will enable us to act on our policies and redouble our efforts in a number of critical areas: immunization, nutrition, birth and death registration and, of course, women’s and children’s health.
I find your accusations quite crude considering the leadership of our Prime Minister and our government on women’s health and maternal health.
Senator Jaffer: Mr. Leader, I appreciate your answer. I was not asking you about maternal health. I was asking you about genital mutilation. May I ask you to please find out from the Justice Department what they are doing on this issue?
Senator Carignan: It’s clear that you don’t really like my answers about the government’s record on maternal health. I thought you were going back to your first question because it seemed like you had the answer to your second comment.
I will ask the Department of Justice to provide you with a written response to that specific question.