2nd Session, 43rd Parliament
Volume 152, Issue 25

Tuesday, February 9, 2021
The Honourable Pierrette Ringuette, Speaker pro tempore

Female Genital Mutilation

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, my question is for the government leader in the Senate.

Leader, last Saturday, February 6, was the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation. Last night, 125 women from the University Women’s Club of Vancouver came together in Vancouver to discuss how Canada has let us down.

The March 2020 report on the global response to FGM highlighted that Canada is one of only two Western countries where the risk of FGM is high, but no statistical data or analysis exist. In Canada, there has not been one single recorded prosecution for this crime. Over the years, several civil-society organizations published studies indicating that FGM is indeed practised in Canada. Victims with lived experiences have spoken out, and there are thousands of young Canadian girls at risk.

Canada is committed to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to end female genital mutilation by 2030. If that is the case, leader, how is it that since 1997, when FGM was criminalized, to today, there have been no prosecutions in Canada against the people who maim our young girls?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Senator, thank you for your question. The practice of female genital mutilation is an abhorrent assault on the dignity and personhood of women and girls. It is something that must be condemned, as it is criminalized in our Criminal Code.

I do not have information as to the circumstances under which, as you report, there have been no prosecutions. Prosecutions under the Criminal Code fall largely on the attorneys general of the provinces. I certainly will make inquiries whether data has been gathered at a national level from the provinces and territories, and I would be pleased to report back to the chamber. But this government, and indeed all Canadian governments, condemn that practice. We should be doing everything we can to stamp it out.

Senator Jaffer: France has laid 60 charges, the United Kingdom has laid charges, Ireland has laid charges and Australia has also prosecuted a number of people. On Saturday, our Prime Minister made a long statement about female genital mutilation. I will read you one paragraph:

Here at home, we can help address the issue by improving data collection. We can also offer information and training to health service providers to identify those at risk and to assist survivors through culturally sensitive social support, and health and psychological services.

Nowhere in this statement did he say that he will make sure that the people who are responsible for maiming these girls will be brought to justice. Leader, in that entire two-page statement, not in one place did he talk about protecting these girls. May I ask that you find out why we are not taking a leadership role in protecting our young girls?

Senator Gold: Thank you, senator. I share your abhorrence at the practice, and I understand very well the pain with which you ask the question. It is not the role of the Government of Canada — the Attorney General of Canada or the Minister of Justice, far less the Prime Minister of Canada — to direct provincial attorneys general to prosecute crimes.

Having said that, as I said earlier, I will certainly inquire as to what information and data may have been collected at the national level so as to better understand the situation you have described.