UPDATE: Canada: Support Canadian women's struggle against Shari'a Courts

The undersigned Canadian associations call for support in their struggle against the introduction of religious arbitration courts for family matters in Canada.
This is now very urgent, for the government of Ontario may take a decision soon.
Declaration on Religious Arbitration in Family Law

The following groups and organizations have come together out of concern for the application of any religious laws in family matters using the Arbitration Act in Ontario, pursuant to Marion Boyd's report entitled Protecting Choice, Promoting Inclusion.

Notwithstanding Ms Boyd's assurances to the contrary, we are shocked by the possibility of the erosion of equality rights as guaranteed in Sections 15 and 28, of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Our statement reflects a common position that the recommendations advanced in this report sanction the erosion of women's equality rights under the laws of Ontario. We believe that the Arbitration Act was never designed to accommodate family matters but was conceived of as a vehicle for commercial disputes. Stretched to this purpose, even with Ms. Boyd's "safeguards", it would effectively put at risk decades of legal reform in keeping with an equality and equal rights framework.

Our diverse organizations share one purpose with respect to:

… Exclusive use offamily law legislation for the resolution of family disputes regardless of faith, ethnicity and culture

… No religious arbitration and/or any principles, which would undermine the equality guarantees of the Charter in the resolution of family matters

We are supported by an international coalition of groups watching closely the Ontario government's decision in relation to Boyd's report. Their concern for the potential erosion of women's rights within constitutional democracies based on religious justifications is in keeping with the provisions of the Canadian Charter, and with international agreements (i.e.. the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women) to which Canada is a signatory. We demand that the Government of Ontario both understand the intent of these agreements and ensure that domestic laws and regulations are not in contravention of them.

Signed by the following Canadian Associations:

The National Association of Women and the Law,
Canadian Council of Muslim Women (CCMW)
National Organization of Immigrant and Visible Minority Women of Canada (NOIVMWC)
Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children (METRAC)
The National Council of Women of Canada (NCWC)
Rights and Democracy,
Y of Toronto

The battle continues for total separation of Religion from State in Canada
Quebec rejects sharia for legal system

Thursday, May 26, 2005 Updated at 1:21 PM EDT
Canadian Press

Quebec - Quebec has rejected the use of Islamic tribunals, which can be used to settle family disputes, in the province.

In a unanimous vote Thursday, the Quebec legislature passed a motion against allowing sharia to be used in the legal system.

"The application of sharia in Canada is part of a strategy to isolate the Muslim community, so it will submit to an archaic vision of Islam," Fatima Houda-Pepin, a Liberal member of the legislature, said as she introduced the motion against use of the Islamic law.

"These demands are being pushed by groups in the minority that are using the Charter of Rights to attack the foundation of our democratic institutions."

The debate over sharia surfaced in Canada two years ago when a Muslim group in Ontario proposed the arbitration of family disputes according to Islamic law.

Homa Arjomand

Nancy Mereska wrote:

Dear Network:

In today's Edmonton Journal, page A14, there is an article from the Montreal Gazette titled "Quebec opposes sharia law" by Kevin Dougherty in which it is reported that the Quebec National Assembly unanimously adopted a private member's resolution to oppose "the establishment of so-called Islamic tribunals in Quebec and in Canada".

Quebec Premier Jean Charest said, "It's important to send a very clear message that there's one rule of law in Quebec. In our case, we are very much an inclusive society, but a society that will govern itself by one set of rules."

You will remember this campaign's disdain when last fall Ontario made it possible for sharia in Canada "by recommending that 'Muslim principles' could be used in family arbitration. Sharia law allows for the practice of polygamy.

In Dougherty's article, all the federal ministers responsible, i.e. Justice Minister Irwin Cotler and Heritage Minister Liza Frulla, also responsible for "multiculturalism and status of women," declined to comment saying "family law" is a provincial jurisdiction.

"Conservative Justice Critic Vic Toews was hesitant to condemn Islamic tribunals outright. The challenge, he said, is to ensure that participation in the process is truly voluntary and that the rulings don't violate Canadian law. Do we see yet another reason why Winston Blackmore, king of the capital of polygamy in Bountiful, British Columbia, so generously supports the Conservatives?

Bravo! And three cheers for Quebec Premier Jean Charest! He is sending copies of the resolution "to all the other legislatures across Canada."

And excellent reporting by Kevin Dougherty!

Nancy Mereska, Coordinator
Stop Polygamy in Canada
Two Hills, AB
T0B 4K0