Canada: Muslims seek to introduce sharia into the Civil Code

Source: FSSPX News


The Muslim Council of Montreal would like proceedings of arbitration and mediation to be empowered to pronounce decisions according to sharia, Islamic law. It has taken steps in this direction with the Quebec Minister of Justice in order to have installed a religious court, known as the “Council of Sharia”.

 In response, the Minister of Justice of Quebec, Jacques Dupuis, has said that it is out of the question to modify the Civil Code of Quebec, or any other act, in order to permit the religious arbitration in the area of family law. He considers that the legislation of Quebec forbids the institution of arbitration proceedings and of family mediation on the basis of Islamic law. Article 2639 of the Civil Code of Quebec excludes arbitration for everything concerning the state and capacity of persons in matters which concern the family and public order. The Civil Code applies to all the inhabitants of Quebec, whatever their religion. For that reason, no arbitrator – whether he be religious or secular – may issue a divorce decree, determine an alimony, decide the right of custody of children, or the division of property between spouses. As for mediation in family matters, the Code of Civil Procedure makes provision, that it must be carried out by an officially authorized mediator.

 On the other hand, in Ontario, the most densely populated province of Canada, and following a request from the Islamic Institute for Civil Justice, the Jurist Marion Boyd, on December 21 issued a report in which she considered that Muslims resident in Ontario have the right to appeal to religious arbitration for family disputes “for the same reasons as Catholics and Jews”.

 Many human rights groups, as well as Muslim associations, opposed the contents of this report, stressing in particular that such an arbitration may not give equal rights to women, who are subject to strong pressure in the Muslim way of life. Religious arbitration in family matters is already authorized in certain cases in Ontario, where Imams and Rabbis sometimes resolve, at the request of families, disputes concerning divorces or inheritance. A Court of Islamic Civil Justice was created in Ontario in Fall 2003, whose arbiters-mediators are based on Sharia and on Canadian Civil legislation. The Independent, reported by Courrier International, wonders if “the multicultural approach adopted by Canada with regard to ethnic minorities hasn’t gone a bit too far”.

 “Such is the fundamental question which is being asked in this new country,” declared the London daily paper, “one of whose provinces, Ontario, is going to institute legal proceeding which will apply Sharia, or Islamic law for Muslim citizens. This new model, which will be examined attentively by other countries confronted with the growth of Muslim communities within their population, will be enforced by a college of Imams and Muslim theologians, which was created in Ontario at the end of 2003.”

 In Canada, where there are 600,000 Muslims, the initiative has aroused many questions and fears. Alia Hogben, a member of the Canadian Council of Muslim women, is opposed to religious tribunals, as she fears that Muslims who refuse this justice will be subjected to pressure from their community who will condemn them for “blasphemy or renunciation of Islam.” Homa Hoodfar, professor of anthropology in Montreal, is worried for “the new female immigrants, who could be forced to go before an Islamic tribunal, because they do not speak English or do not know their rights”. This is not the opinion of Ayesha Adam, arbitrator in Toronto who stresses that women will be among the future arbitrators of Islamic courts.