TORONTO, September 14, 2005 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The plan to include Muslim Sharia Law into matters of legal arbitration in Ontario has been nixed according to Premier Dalton McGuinty. In what was being called an exercise in multiculturalist political correctness run amok, the Ontario government had been deliberating on the possible recognition of Islamic law in matters pertaining to family and property disputes. Many observers have said that the idea to include one of the world’s most intolerant legal systems would stretch beyond its limits Canada’s obsession with tolerance.
Speculation among some leaders contacted by LifeSiteNews.com was that the Liberal party’s strange original agreement to include Sharia was nothing more than another crass Liberal Party immigrant vote-getting strategy. It appears what the Libs hadn’t counted on was that many Muslims in fact strongly oppose the imposition of Sharia and fear the loss of freedoms they had gained in coming to Canada. The Muslim leaders that the province was dealing with have been proven to be unrepresentative of many others.
Amidst growing provincial, national and international opposition, McGuinty announced Sunday that the Province of Ontario would ban any religious-based arbitration in the areas of family law. In what some are seeing as a knee-jerk panic move, McGuinty said in a telephone interview, “There will be no Sharia law in Ontario, there will be no religious arbitration in Ontario, there will be one law for all Ontarians.”
There has been no further news as to the government’s specific plans or whether the Ontario Arbitration Act could be overhauled to ban all religious-based courts. As it is currently worded, the law allows religious groups to settle disputes regarding custody and support, divorce and inheritance through private means.
Up to Sunday’s announcement, the opposition to Sharia in Ontario had been growing locally and had been joined by protests in London, Amsterdam, Paris and Dusseldorf. Muslim women’s groups have protested loudly that the idea of including Sharia into Ontario law would place immigrant women, many of whom have no realistic expectation of unbiased outside legal assistance, into serious danger.ÂÂ
Gwen Landolt of Real Women of Canada, said that the dispute has brought to light a law that is wide open to serious abuses. Landolt told LifeSiteNews.com, “As it is currently worded, the Arbitration Act could allow religious tribunals to ignore legal procedures. The decisions of religious tribunals are enforceable by our courts, which means that they are binding under the law unless overturned by the civil court.”
Section 18 of the Act allows tribunals to order the seizure of property and documents and under section 20, says they do not have to follow established legal procedures. Under section 31, and 32, the tribunal can apply any rule of law from any country or jurisdiction chosen by the parties. All of these provisions are enforceable by the Ontario courts and can only be overturned in court.
The blanket decision to throw out all religious courts, however, will cause problems in the Jewish community in which orthodox Jews are required by their faith to have religious tribunals arbitrate disputes. Joel Richler, chairman of the Canadian Jewish Congress’s Ontario region said, “We’re very disappointed that the government appears to be backtracking on 15 years of legislation perhaps only to avoid the controversy, rather than to deal with the issue on its merits.”
The way the Arbitration Act is worded, however, creates a danger to legal precedent and fairness, says Landolt. “I’m not suggesting,” she said, “that the rabbinical courts have done anything wrong in their decisions, but that the law allowing the tribunals is arranged to allow any sort of abuse.”
“We’re very lucky that Sharia issue came up because it exposed this wide open opportunity to abuse the legal system,” Landolt said.
Prominent columnist and Canadian, David Frum, said that the idea of including Sharia was an example of the Liberal mania for un-examined multiculturalism, without reference to the real traditions of Canadian society. The liberal premise that all cultural expressions are equally valuable, has been dealt a shock bringing the Province of Ontario to its senses, says Frum. The decision to shelve Sharia, says Frum in the National Review Online, “is a crucial reminder that …most Western Muslims crave the same rights that inspire their fellow-citizens.”
B’nai Brith Canada said Tuesday that they are considering a constitutional challenge to the Ontario ban on rabbinical courts imposed by arguing that the ban may limit freedom of religion.
Read coverage from the Christian Science Monitor:
Read David Frum’s Journal at National Review Online: