April 20, 2004
Report of meeting of Representatives of “The International Campaign Against Sharia Court In Canada”
With Hon Sandra Pupatello,
On April 14, Homa Arjomand , Coordinator of “The International Campaign Against Shari'a Court in Canada” arranged a meeting with Ms. Sandra Pupatello, Minister of Community and Social Services and Minister Responsible for Women’s Issues. The following representatives were present at the meeting: Seena Sharp, member of the Board of Directors, “Humanist Association of Canada”; Khayal Ibrahim, counselor and co-chair of “Women’s Freedom in Iraq OWFI”; Farida Scheralam, Co-chair, of “South Asia Left Democratic Association”; Bev Lefrancois, from “Sexual Assault and Violence Intervention” , “Canadian Support of Afghan Women” & “Women of action Movement” & “Oakville Community Center for Peace Ecology and Human Rights”; Homa Rauhi Sarlati from “Iranian’s Women’s Organization of Ontario”; Dr. Robert Buckman, President of “Humanist Association of Canada”; Mahmood Ahmadi spokesperson of “The International Federation of Iranian Refugees”; Filomena Williams, Executive Director of Yellow Brick House” and Homa Arjomand the coordinator of “ The International Campaign Against Shari’a Court In Canada”.
The representatives, in stating their opposition to the “Islamic Institute of Civil Justice” in Canada, expressed their concerns and emphasized the fact that the mere suggestion of the Sharia tribunals causes an atmosphere of fear among women who cameto Canada from so called “Islamic countries”. We urged that no validity be given to Sharia tribunals, since to do so would increase intimidation and threats against innumerable women. We talked about religious oppression and its effects on women under Shari'a law in many different parts of the world as well as in Canada.
We hold that the government should ensure the safety and protection of all individuals and should ensure the civil rights and liberties of all citizens living in Canada.
Once more we emphasized that the acceptance of the Shari’a Tribunals as part of the Ontario legal system, would be a move against secularism, against modernism, against egalitarianism and especially against women’s rights. It would only send a massage to women that they are undeserving of human rights protection.
It was noted by participants that this issue had been a concern in 1991, and women lobbied against the Arbitration Act for this reason. Even then, women and shelter activists lobbied for family disputes to take place only in the courts, regardless of the cost and length of procedures. However costs and the backlog in the courts took precedence over the needs and rights of women and children.
We urged Sandra Pupatello, Minister of Community and Social Services and Minister Responsible for Women’s Issues, to apply legislative acts and regulations to prevent the “Ontario Arbitration Act 1991” from being used to threaten the individual and civil rights and liberties of all citizens living in Canada regardless of their sex, race, ethnicity and religion. We requested a complete separation of Shari'a law from the secular justice system.
The Minister acknowledged our concerns and promised that she would do what she could regarding education on this issue. She also stated that this was essentially a legal matter and this Campaign must continue its work with the Attorney General’s office. She noted that she will take our concerns to a meeting of all ministers.