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Yet the report points out that the Department of Foreign Affairs “confirmed they had provided assistance” to just 34 individuals from 2009 to 2012.Forced marriage always involves pressure to wed against a person’s will, under physical or emotional duress, or without free and informed consent, according to definitions from international law and human rights groups.The main reason people submit to a marriage is because they do not want to disobey or disappoint family or church.Very little data exist on forced marriage in Canada, but numerous court cases and anecdotal evidence suggest it’s been happening for more than a century, from coast to coast.“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.I’m flabbergasted, because I thought I was alone.” Jehovah’s Witnesses in Canada would not directly answer questions regarding Marsh’s claims, but a spokesperson said in an email that “forced marriage, and spouses being required to submit to marital acts against their will, is repugnant and contrary to what Jehovah’s Witnesses believe, practise and teach.” They pointed to their website for information on dis-fellowshipping, which states: “If a baptized Witness makes a practice of breaking the Bible’s moral code and does not repent, he or she will be shunned or dis-fellowshipped,” and also explains that dis-fellowshipped people who demonstrate a desire to change their ways are “welcome to become members of the congregation again.” Since 2011, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has sought to make Canada a world leader in combatting forced marriage around the world, which he has said can be eradicated “within a generation.” Last October, he introduced the first-ever UN resolution dedicated to ending it, and has pledged approximately million to projects combatting child and forced marriage in developing countries such as Ghana, Bangladesh, Zambia and Burkina Faso. “There’s almost this mythology that it doesn’t happen in Canada.” On Nov.In September 2013, Toronto’s South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario released a report that counted 219 confirmed or suspected cases of forced marriage in Ontario and Quebec from 2010 to 2012, information obtained through interviews and a survey filled out by service providers from shelters, legal clinics, immigration agencies and youth groups.
So Marsh buried the feelings of anger and betrayal she felt toward the woman who had abandoned her twice already in her short life: After her parents divorced when she was nine, she was left behind in Toronto with a father she says sexually abused her; later, in Montreal, when she had returned to her mom, she says her mother’s Jehovah’s Witness boyfriend also sexually assaulted her, and she was sent into foster care.
Only in the last decade have researchers and advocacy groups started to grasp its prevalence and scope.
Shortly after Marsh sent that letter to her church, the elders “dis-fellowshipped” her and announced it to the congregation; Marsh packed her bags and moved out.
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.
“I couldn’t back out of it.” Marsh would do anything to stay in her mother’s good graces; she couldn’t bear the thought of losing her again. “I wanted to run, but I didn’t dare.” She had told her husband about her history of sexual abuse, but he told her not to worry, that they would get through it together.