The federal government on Monday affirmed its zero-tolerance stance against "honour killing," declaring such "barbaric cultural practices" as "heinous abuses" that have no place in Canadian society.
At a news conference at the Punjabi Community Health Service centre near Toronto, Rona Ambrose, the minister responsible for the status of women, said the government is taking gender-based violence "very seriously" and called on women’s groups and members of the immigrant community to do their part in tackling these "heinous abuses."
The minister’s announcement was apparently prompted by this weekend’s release of a high-profile report focusing on the growing problem of the abuse of girls and women in Canada’s immigrant communities.
The report, released by the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, outlines 14 recommendations for Ottawa — including mandatory orientation sessions for male sponsors and sponsored women regarding gender-equality in this country.
Ambrose said the government is already working on some of the recommendations and is "looking at" others, including the launch of government-funded programs on local and national television that could be used to reiterate the consequences of abuse.
She said the government is "looking at" adding "honour killing" as a separate charge to the Criminal Code.
"If we have a different family dynamic at play, then we have to address that family dynamic," Ambrose said.
The notion of honour killings — which are carried out to ‘cleanse’ the family name and to restore the family honour, and are most likely to take place among the South Asian community — have recently made headlines in Canada, with a number of high-profile cases catapulting the issue into the spotlight.
In her report entitled Culturally-Driven Violence Against Women: A Growing Problem in Canada’s Immigrant Communities, Aruna Papp, a social worker who deals with domestic violence, argues that honour killings represent a new type violence against women in Canada. She said it is a phenomenon that demands the attention of researchers, community leaders, and politicians.