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5, when Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander announced S-7, the “Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act,” he introduced a three-pronged piece of legislation to address the problem at home and abroad.
Alexander cited the 2012 Shafia honour killings, in which an immigrant from Afghanistan, his second wife and his only son conspired to drown the family’s three teenage daughters, because their “Westernized behaviour” had shamed the family.
In their congregation, the pressure to get married early was intense. “Once the announcement was made in church that we were getting married, I was trapped,” she says.
It would also enshrine forced marriage in the Criminal Code.
“Everyone who celebrates, aids or participates in a marriage rite or ceremony knowing that one of the persons being married is marrying against their will” would be guilty of a crime punishable by up to five years in prison.
Two weeks after her 18th birthday, Lee Marsh was sitting at the kitchen table one Sunday, reading the Bible, when her mother came in and announced that Marsh would marry a 20-year-old member of their Jehovah’s Witness congregation in Montreal.
The girl was stunned; she had met her husband-to-be just once. For a few months before, her mother had been shopping her around while sizing up men in the congregation—some more than 20 years older—looking for a suitable husband.
It may seem strange, even impossible, that someone could be forced to marry against her will.
But, like sexual assault—and, more recently, human trafficking—the curtain is being pulled back on what has been happening in Canada, and around the world, for centuries.
It is moving at a fast clip through Parliament; it received its third reading on Dec. At York University, Sapoznik interviewed victims of forced marriages—including a Mennonite woman from Winnipeg, who says that in 1988, she was forced to get married at age 18 after her family and community found out she was pregnant—and examined legal cases dating back to the 19th century.
More recently, 200 members of Lev Tahor, the ultra-Orthodox Hasidic Jewish group that originated in Jerusalem in the 1980s, moved to Quebec, where they lived for 10 years.
“I used to think I was the only one, but I’m hearing more and more women saying they were forced into marriage. student Karlee Sapoznik, who researched forced marriage in Canada for her doctoral thesis, says the Canadian government has historically ignored—and even denied—that people get married against their will within our borders.