The Barbaric Cultural Practices Act

Updated: Nov 1, 2019

Most Americans don't know the difference between Canada and the USA. Some think it's just another obscure member of the 50 states, albeit a very big one where some folks even speak French. But it's a separate country. And as the POTUS 45 likes to say: "A lot of people didn't know that..."

Here's the Prime Minister of Canada versus the President of the United States:

And here's the First Lady of the United States (please see greeting the Prime Minister of Canada. Well, you get the picture...

One of the few photos that show the Trumps actually holding hands.

After living and working in Canada for many years, I came to appreciate what was right with the country and also recognize what was becoming terribly wrong. I saw Canada seamlessly merging its national and international interests and policies with its Big Brother neighbour, the USA, while swallowing American popular culture whole, without even chewing.

I can excuse just about everything else – after all, Canadians have long been known as hewers of wood and haulers of water – but the international resentment and hatred that has flowed back to the country ever since its association with the Bush family (The Coalition of the Willing) through to its current love affair with the Trump administration (nepotism, corrupt business practices, racism, war, you-name-it) leaves me in tears.

Canadians used to be known as peacemakers in the world. Now they’re better know as peace breakers.

Canada is led by a certain Mister Justin Trudeau, son of the illustrious Pierre Elliot Trudeau, a former Prime Minister and the best loved Canadian politician since William Lyon McKenzie King. Like his flamboyant father, Justin is a bit of a poser. He loves photo ops and has a penchant for inappropriate costuming. His qualification and justification - besides having gleaned the youth vote for proposing to legalize marijuana - for leading the country is the fact that before becoming Prime Minister he was a drama teacher and actor. Wholly sprung from the loins of a famous politician, four months after his birth Richard Nixon (before going down in flames) proclaimed: “I’d like to toast the future Prime Minister of Canada, to Justin Trudeau.” Prophetic.

To be fair, the largely progressive Trudeau government has performed better than any previous administration in Canadian history, even his father's. It's probably the most progressive government in the entire world. It legalized marijuana, thereby freeing up enormous capital previously squandered on a fruitless and unpopular war on recreational drugs, a change that promises to fill government coffers with a new tax stream. It instituted a carbon tax while the USA furiously dismantles any and all environmental regulations instituted during the Obama years. It settled more refugees than any other country. It reduced child poverty to its lowest level in history. Economic growth over the past year reached 3 percent.

Canadians enjoy universal free health care in all provinces, as well as government-run auto insurance, schemes that have proven to be great successes, freeing up courts and generating investment revenue in their own rights. Canadians are gun-averse. While jealous wives and husbands from St. John's to Tuktuyuktuk still murder their philandering spouses, nobody has yet waltzed into an elementary school and randomly murdered innocent first graders with an assault rifle. Canadians just won't have it. In other words, it isn't the USA. Credit for much of this relative peace and prosperity can be laid at the feet of the Trudeaus, both father and son.

Like Donald Trump across the border, Justin Trudeau has some 'honorary' degrees: a doctorate from the University of Edinburgh and a Doctor of Laws from New York University. Which leads me to the actual subject of this blog entry: a new and somewhat obscure piece of Canadian law called the Barbaric Cultural Practices Act (S.C. 2015, c. 29) of 2015. Justin and his Liberal Party only took over the Prime Minister’s office in 2015, so I won’t hold his feet to the fire on this one; not just yet, anyway. It was the Conservatives who dropped this egg into his lap.

I discovered the BCPA while researching another blog entry (The Normalization of Intolerance). Judging from its title and not having yet read the text of the legislation, I was momentarily ecstatic to think that the government of Canada had finally come out against such barbaric cultural practices as the baby seal slaughter in Labrador and Newfoundland (the closest thing to clubbing thousands of live, helpless Teddy Bears senseless then skinning them alive), uncontrolled mine development that pollutes the country’s watercourses in perpetuity, circumcision (both male and female), unaffordable housing, the very high cost of living in its major cities, the Goods & Services Tax, and pitifully low Canada Pension payments. And that’s just skimming the surface.

Instead, the Barbaric Cultural Practices Act addresses the issue of arranged marriage, a practice that some might argue is a solution to the superficiality and impermanency of today’s relationships. It’s clearly aimed at immigrant groups who like to transpose age-old traditions from their former home countries to their new home countries. Maybe that’s not so good. After all, everyone who immigrates to Canada – some 300,000 in 2017 – should adapt to its laws and customs, right?

The idea, it seems, is to keep polygamists out of the country. Never mind terrorists, drug gangs, Neo-Nazis, people traffickers, violent sex offenders, mass murderers, etc. Polygamists are the latest threat. Maybe they need a WALL?

Polygamists? You mean guys like the Mormons of Utah? Or the Doukhobors of southeastern British Columbia, the ones who've been burning down their own homes and parading nude through the towns for almost a hundred years? Or the more recently arrived FLDS, the latest incarnation of America's Latter Day Saints? Yup. Them folks. The new law bars entry to Canada to persons seeking to practice polygamy (but curiously, not polyandry), as if anyone would openly declare such intent on a government application form.

Nonetheless, there are reports that religious leaders in Toronto and Ottawa are performing polygamous marriages. One imam from Scarborough, who spoke recently with the Canadian Press, estimates there are some two hundred such marriages in the Greater Toronto Area alone. In a 2007 Maclean’s article, several Muslim immigrant women explained that polygamy solves certain problems, such as a wife’s barrenness or even her time of the month: “Rather than a man getting into a wrong thing in dating loose women and bringing sickness — AIDS and all that,” one says, “better he should marry additional wives.” Yeah, sure. But now it’s against the law.

The root of the problem lies in the legislated definition of marriage as “the lawful union of two persons to the exclusion of all others.” This definition was only passed in 2015, the same year that the Barbaric Cultural Practices Act was ratified by Parliament and the Tories were sent packing. It would be easy enough to fix by simply deleting the second clause "to the exclusion of all others." But then divorce law might become more complicated than it already is, and the paying out of Canada Pension benefits to multiple surviving spouses could place undue strain on the national economy. Ah! So that’s what’s behind the BCPA! Baby fur seals be damned!

Canada, as usual, remains confused. No use in looking south to the business acumen of President Trump (a groper and serial monogamist but not a polygamist) for guidance on this one. And now that marijuana has been legalized throughout the country, perhaps the whole problem will just go up in smoke.

I’d better stop now.

“Oh Canada, our home and native land, true patriot love from all thy sons command…”