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Archived - Key Federal Initiatives Protecting and Supporting Vulnerable Women and Girls

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The Bill would complement existing Canadian initiatives, both at home and abroad, to put an end to barbaric cultural practices that go against Canadian values because they cause harm to women and girls and prevent their full participation in society. These practices, which include early and forced marriage, “honour”-based violence and female genital mutilation/cutting, have no place in Canada’s free and democratic society. Some of Canada’s initiatives to end these practices are set out below.

Canada on the international stage

Canada has made ending child, early and forced marriage (CEFM) a foreign policy and development priority and is intensifying programming and advocacy efforts to address CEFM. For example:

  • Canada spearheaded the initiative to establish the International Day of the Girl Child, which focused on CEFM in 2012, its first year.
  • In October 2013, Canada announced $5 million in new funding to address the causes and consequences of CEFM around the world. These funds were used for programs in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Ghana, Somalia and Zimbabwe.
  • On July 4, 2014, Minister Baird announced that Canada is contributing $20 million over two years to UNICEF toward ending CEFM. The UNICEF project aims to accelerate the movement to end child marriage in Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Yemen and Zambia by supporting efforts in these countries to strengthen programming and political support to end the practice.
  • Also in July 2014, Canada committed institutional support to the efforts of the Royal Commonwealth Society to raise awareness in Commonwealth countries about the need to end CEFM.
  • Canada has played an important role in bringing world attention and action to this issue of CEFM. For example, for the second year, Canada and Zambia will lead a United General Assembly resolution on CEFM in the Fall of 2014.
  • Canada contributes to efforts to combat female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM) by working with UN agencies, and bilaterally with other countries supporting projects to address violence against women and eliminate harmful cultural practices like FGM.

Canada at home

Canada has taken action to protect vulnerable Canadians, particularly women and girls, from early and forced marriage and other harmful or violent cultural practices. For example:

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC)

  • Many CIC-funded organizations provide targeted programming designed for specific groups, including women. Newcomer women may benefit from blended workshops, offering an inclusive and open environment to learn and discuss job search strategies and basic information needed to obtain meaningful employment.
  • In addition, special language programs are available for immigrant and refugee women. CIC-funded language classes cover issues such as family violence, spousal abuse, women’s rights, legal rights and responsibilities, health care, and include bridging or referral to other available services in the community.
  • Both Canada’s citizenship study guide “Discover Canada” and the “Welcome to Canada” orientation guide were recently updated to reflect the fact that Canada’s openness and generosity do not extend to harmful cultural practices such as forced marriage or other forms of gender-based family violence.
  • CIC also disseminates the brochure “Information for Sponsored Spouses or Partners” to sponsored spouses and partners who are subject to the conditional permanent residence measure. The brochure provides information for those who are subject to the condition and who are victims of abuse or neglect, advising them that they do not have to remain in an abusive situation and informing them how to contact CIC as well as others and where they can find help.

Department of Justice Canada

  • Justice Canada and Status of Women Canada co-chair an interdepartmental working group on early and forced marriage, “honour”-based violence and female genital mutilation/cutting. The working group has participation from 13 federal departments as well as agencies and acts as a focal point for collaborative actions.
  • Since 2009, Justice Canada has held six sector-specific workshops on forced marriage and honour-based violence with police, Crown prosecutors, victim services, child protection officials and shelter workers, to assist in front-line capacity-building.
  • Justice Canada also funded research papers on forced marriage and “honour” killings, included specific information on these forms of family violence in two public legal education pamphlets (one of which – Abuse is Wrong in Any Language – is available in 12 languages) and funded a variety of projects to prevent and respond to forced marriage and “honour”-based violence.
  • Justice Canada operates an emergency fund for Canadians who are victimized abroad either through homicide, sexual assault, aggravated assault or assault with serious personal violence, including against a child.

Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD)

  • Consular Services are available 24 hours a day to Canadian victims of forced marriage abroad. DFATD provides information about consular assistance available to travellers at risk of forced marriage on its travel.gc.ca website.
  • Increased awareness building and concrete programming efforts to combat CEFM from a human rights and international development perspective will also support its reduction domestically.

Status of Women Canada (SWC)

  • Status of Women Canada launched a call for proposals in 2012, which focused on preventing and eliminating violence against women and girls, including the specific area of violence committed in the name of “honour.” It has also provided funding to NGOs to carry out projects addressing forced marriage. Since 2007, a total of over $2.8 million has been approved through SWC for community-based projects that address harmful cultural practices such as “honour”-based violence and forced marriage.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP)

  • The RCMP has developed online training on forced marriage and “honour”-based violence for RCMP officers and plans to make it available to municipal police and other agencies through the Canadian Police Knowledge Network in 2014.

Health Canada/Public Health Agency of Canada

  • The Public Health Agency of Canada has funded and facilitated the development of Family Centred-Maternity and Newborn Care: National Guidelines for health professionals, policy makers, program planners and families. The guidelines address Female Genital Mutilation and stress the need for culturally safe and sensitive care.

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