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Sunday, September 11, 2005

A Small Victory on this Solemn Anniversary

Dalton McGuinty could not have picked a better day of the year to announce that Sharia Law will not come to Ontario. September 11th is the date we hold up as an example of Islamic Extremism. We will not allow further extremism to infiltrate our court system and become protected by law.

"There will be no Shariah law in Ontario. There will be no religious arbitration in Ontario. There will be one law for all Ontarians."

McGuinty said religious arbitrations "threaten our common ground," and promised his Liberal government would introduce legislation "as soon as possible" to outlaw them in Ontario.

I am in agreement with that. People can seek advice from their religious leaders, but there is no need for a religion-based court system. If I want to walk a path that is in line with the values of my faith, I will go to church on Sundays. If I want to get away from my abusive family, I will go to the courts. Different outlets fill different needs.

Posted by RightGirl on September 11, 2005 in Religion | Permalink


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» State extremism? from The Shotgun
I have doubts about the advisability of sharia-based courts. But what about those who go to synagogue on Friday after dark and on Saturdays before dark? Torah courts have been functioning for some time in Ontario. So have canon law [Read More]

Tracked on 2005-09-11 9:45:08 PM


There's another angle to this, however. At one level, this incident will surely be played out as a victory for feminist activists in Canada. And some of those feminists, I suspect, think they are striking a blow against *religion in general*, not Islam in particular.

Posted by: Clement Ng | 2005-09-11 5:45:46 PM

Clement, you are right about that. But staunch feminists tend to belong to the same leftist fringe that, under the guise of multiCULTuralism, thought that Sharia was a good idea in the first place. Remember, for the most part, the feminists and lefties only hate us Christians and Jews.


Posted by: RightGirl | 2005-09-11 5:52:30 PM

Not to be gratuitously glib, but seriously, this should be interesting. This could end up being a surprise flap that dwarfs the debate over the definition of the word "marriage".

Western civilization has been well servered for the last while by the notion of the separation of church and state, in the sense that the state shall endorse no particular religion, while at the same time promoting freedom of belief.

Yet, one can logically argue that a necessary consequent of such policy is that eventually the state will have to disallow any religious participation in matters which the state appropriates for itself. Of course, I've been wrong before. We shall see.

Posted by: Tony | 2005-09-11 6:10:06 PM

Thank goodness Dalton finally saw the folly of the very concept of having different laws for different groups in Canada.

What is unnerving is that he hadn't the good common sense to have immediately rejected it out of hand.

Posted by: The Canadian Sentinel | 2005-09-11 6:52:30 PM

Canadian Sentinel, Premier McGuinty has also decided to dismantle existing religious arbitration processes for consenting Catholics, Mennonites, Jews, aboriginals, etc. How come more conservatives didn't take exception to the use of different laws for different groups, before the Shariah law debate boiled over?

The obvious answer is that many conservatives see the potential for abuse under a Shariah law regime. Yet the McGuinty solution involves disestablishing other domestic arbitration processes as well, even though abuse under these regimes has not been widespread (as far as I know). Consenting Christians who would have turned to the alternative tribunals to settle a domestic dispute (e.g. following canon law rules on how property is to be allocated in divorce) can no longer do so. I hope this is what conservative critics expected (it's certainly what the feminists wanted), because one doesn't want to appear guilty of advocating special treatment, no?

Posted by: Clement Ng | 2005-09-11 7:37:23 PM

I never thought I would agree with a Liberal, but on this one Dalton got it right. One law for all Ontarians, pretty simple, pretty obvious.
And I can't believe Jewish and Christion organizations will be upset either - faithbased volountary arbitration will of course always be there. But for legally binding agreements/contracts, the secular Ontario law will apply (and only this law). I.e. the way it should be!

Posted by: Johan i Kanada | 2005-09-11 7:48:31 PM

I hope you people know that this means Al Qaeda will punish Canada for oppressing Muslims.

Of course, he said that he would do it anyway...he's not exactly rational.

Posted by: Scott | 2005-09-11 9:47:17 PM

Lost Budgie Blog to Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty...

"Nice touch on the 9/11 date for the announcement, Mr. Premier!"

For full post and referenced URLs, see


Ontario Pulls Sharia Law Initiative - Announced 9/11

Dateline - 9/11/2005

Ontario will NOT become the first western government to introduce Muslim Sharia law. Premier McGuinty announced in a phone chat with the Canadian Press late Sunday that he finally came to his senses - Sort of.

The Ontario Liberal Government will soon introduce legislation banning ALL religious arbitration - including the Christian and Jewish boards that have worked so well for over a decade.

This is a big slap in the face for fundamentalist Muslims and a tremendous victory for our Muslim friends - men and women - who came to Canada to escape the brutality of Sharia in their old countries. Ontario's citizens consider Sharia to be so abhorrent that they will gladly dismantle an existing and functional arbitration system just to ensure that all Canadians continue to receive the protection of the rule of law and Charter of Rights.

Lost Budgie's Comments to Premier McGuinty: "Nice touch on the 9/11 date for the announcement, Mr. Premier!"

Posted by: Lost Budgie | 2005-09-11 10:40:23 PM

If Judeo-Christian faith-based arbitration were a problem at all, one can rest assured that the left would have long ago raised hell about it.

Sharia, on the other hand, is in comparison, incredibly brutal, particularly towards women. For example, if a Muslim man merely suspects his wife of adultery, if I recall correctly from what I've seen in the MSM, he can, say, pour boiling water all over her as punishment. Could easily kill her that way and Sharia would let him off the hook. Of course the "feminists" therefore are opposed to Sharia. Everyone should be as, objectively, it's a law system straight out of the barbaric Dark Ages. It has no place in Canada.

Posted by: The Canadian Sentinel | 2005-09-12 2:27:38 AM

"For example, if a Muslim man merely suspects his wife of adultery, if I recall correctly from what I've seen in the MSM, he can, say, pour boiling water all over her as punishment. Could easily kill her that way and Sharia would let him off the hook."

??? First of all, this isn't an answer to the question I posed in my previous post. Second of all, do you have any proof that the proposed domestic arbitration process would have replaced criminal law as it applies to Muslims in Ontario? Since criminal law is a federal jurisdiction, do you not think this result would have obtained all across Canada, in which case the controversy would have been more widespread? (did the pro-Shariah law stakeholders propose some Criminal Code of Canada ammendment, one that would have given Muslim men immunity from prosection in cases of manslaughter or murder?). I suggest you retract your claim and read the relevant documents, like the Boyd report and responses to it.

The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada offers a sane analysis here:


Posted by: Clement Ng | 2005-09-12 6:02:06 AM

Clement, actually, I didn't realize your question wasn't rherorical, the simple "no?". I was merely proffering my own view, though I do confess to not being a lawyer, so pls. take that into account. I shall have to investigate the link you provided.

Meantime, I suspend any retraction pending any reasonable doubt that Sharia law in Canada could possibly have let the Muslim man in question off the hook for torture and murder of his wife all due to suspicion. This didn't happen in Canada, mind you, but I did see an MSM report, including actual footage of
the poor woman suffering from massive scalding all over her body, awaiting death in agony. This is why I'm wary of Sharia, as this is how it's practiced in the Islamic world, at least in large parts thereof.

Just my POV, Clement. To which I'm entitled, as I'm sure are the "feminists".

Posted by: The Canadian Sentinel | 2005-09-12 8:27:54 AM

I'm actually in support of Islamic arbitration. In fact, most mainstream Muslims are. I've written extensively on the idea of faith-based alternative dispute resolution on my blog. You might be interested in taking a look.

Posted by: Safiyyah | 2005-09-12 9:53:20 AM

Actually RG, you might want to consider this as another example government denying services to its citizens under the rubric of social progress. The original purpose of the Arbitration Act was to unplug the backlog of cases in the Family Court system by replacing the adversarial trial system with something less antagonistic. It was also felt that allowing church leaders to seve as arbitrators would reduce costs, as it would eliminate the need for lawyers, and religious arbitrators cost less than judges. Of course, if one party felt that they were going to get a raw deal from arbitraion, they were under no obligation to go that route. For the most part, the arbitration system worked well, but there are always exceptions.

Trust McGuinty, however, to cock it up. Rather than simply saying that the government would not extend the Arbitration Act to include Sharia, relying instead on the principles of equity already entrenched in Canadian law, he tried to have his cake and eat it too. David Peterson did the same thing with Sunday shopping. He had a good law (inherited from the Davis Conservatives) which already passed been declared Charter-proof by the SCC. Instead of leaving well enough alone, he and his AG Ian Scott, brother of Chretienn's lawyer, brought in a new law which was later struck down by the SCC. The end result, wide open Sunday shopping. If anyone is looking for winners and losers in this whole sordid affair, here are my picks.

1. Family lawyers billing by the hour (including those paid through legal aid).

1. Religiously-based arbitrators, who seemed to performing their role with a minimum of controversy.
2. Modest income Ontarians who need marital disputes and custody issues resolved fairly and quickly. Now they have nothing to lose but what remains of their wealth.

Posted by: herringchoker | 2005-09-12 10:07:14 AM

I'm completely in favour of rejecting religious arbitration decisions as legally binding. So, I commend McGuinty's decision.

It doesn't mean that people can't go to their religious advisors for advice. Of course they can. There's nothing to stop them. And they can choose to accept or not accept this advice. Therefore, the argument that McGuinty's decision is an action in favor of 'enriching lawyers' and 'impoverishing the poor' is fallacious. The point is - decisions that affect citizens of this province cannot operate within subsets of laws. All of the population are citizens; different legal decisions can't be allowed.

Safiyyah- if 'most mainstream Muslims' are in favour of Sharia arbitration, then why were so many Muslim women leaders (and Muslim men too) so public in their denunciation of it?

The point is - arbitration still exists but the arbitrator cannot make a decision that is legally binding. Before, he could, and this decision was private. The civil system would not be allowed to know about it or review it. That effectively set up multiple mini-legal systems in Ontario. Each one operating within its own set of rules. Since we are living within one society, then I don't understand how the population can function within subsets of different rules.

Mcguinty could not allow some faith-based arbitrations, which would be allowed to make decisions that are legally binding - and not allow others. That would be unconstitutional, according to the Charter. Therefore, herringchoker, he didn't 'cock it up'. He made the correct decision.

By the way - what's wrong with Sunday shopping? I'm all in favour - what's wrong with it?

Posted by: ET | 2005-09-12 10:34:04 AM

So now the law is unconstitutional ET? A law that has been on the books for 14 years and has never been successfully challenged is suddenly declared unconstitutional by whom? By you perhaps? By Margaret Atwood, et al? By Michael Bryant? Be careful what you declare constitutional as there are only nine people in this land who actually get to make that decision. Arguments based on what you or I consider inequitable or unfair have no real bearing on their constitutionality whatsoever. Consider:

It was recently considered constitutional to force Canadian to use the public health system by denying them access to other insurance plans. No longer.

For fifteen years it was deemed unconstitutional to prevent individuals from advertising their political opinions via newspapers, flyers, TV & radio. In fact the SCC had twice struck down laws that impaired this seemingly basic freedom. No longer. Now it is perfectly permissible to ban such free speech.

It was, until recently, deemed perfectly constitutional to extradite people from Canada to places where they might face execution. The SCC said that this was OK too (Kindler & Ng). Now it’s only constitutional to extradite Americans facing the death penalty, which would seem to be in conflict with the SCC’s decision in Singh, but hey, when you are making up the law, consistency is for little minds.

McGuinty’s problem is that he doesn’t want to be seen to saying NO to one group, so his way out is to say NO to everyone. His commission to Marion Boyd was to give him an excuse to say no. Unfortunately her report didn’t give him the out he was seeking. I hope that he docked her fee accordingly. (BTW ET, if you are looking for a non-religious arbitrator, Marion is open for business. http://www.marionboyd.net/. Bring your credit card though).

But back to my original point. I originally didn’t approve of the NDP’s Arbitration Act for two reasons. 1) I thought that it would charge delicate decisions to people who were unqualified to properly weigh the pros and cons and produce just outcomes. 2) I thought it would become a wonderful taxpayer-supported bit of patronage for friends of the NDP (ala Citizenship Judges). On point 1, I must confess my apprehensions were unfounded; the system seems to be working well. On point 2, as almost all arbitration is funded by the participants, a free market seems to have developed.

My original point about religiously-based arbitration stands. The reason for letting religious leaders resolve these problems is that the parties in dispute will generally agree to them as unbiased mediators. Add to that the fact that they tend not to bill the disputants into penury and you have a win/win situation. As long as the arbitrators base their decisions on the principles of equity that are long-established in Canadian law, and most religious law, there seems no good reason for anyone but the most obdurate church & state separators to object. The reason for opposing Sharia law in the arbitration process is that Sharia is inconsistent with the rules of equity as they exist in Canadian law, in many ways. McGuinty could have said this. He could have pointed to some pretty apparent examples to support his argument, but as that would take longer than a ten-second sound bite, he has decided to take the ball away from everyone else.

Are you really suggesting that there should be non-binding religious arbitration? An interesting point. One question though? Who would enter into a process that allows the other side to say “I don’t agree, I’m going home?”

So now, instead of doing something principled, Dalton has opted for the path of least resistance. The irony is that the entire kerfuffle was of his own making. The path of least resistance means, of course, that otherwise sound arbitrators are now frozen out of the process and disputants who might otherwise have saved some money now get to shell it out to the private sector in hourly fees. How’s that for good public policy?

Posted by: herringchoker | 2005-09-12 12:33:03 PM

Canadian Sentinel, I'm not questioning your right to offer an opinion. Rather, I'm criticizing the opinion you offered.

At the end of the day, I'm not sure where I stand on this matter. The situation is not helped, howver, by suggesting that Muslim men in Ontario (the devout Muslims anyway) were asking the federal government to exempt them from criminal prosecution, should they pour boiling water over their spouses. Muslims in Canada never asked for the establishment of a seperate criminal law regime (the proposed domestic arbitration process is a *civil law* matter) and it is nothing short of slanderous to suggest that they did. Where in the Boyd report does it say that the physically punitive elements of traditional Shariah law should be allowed for in Muslim communities? In short, Shariah law *as it is enforced in Islamic states* was not what was asked for. Like a lot of other Canadians, you're quite misinformed here.

Note that Leviticus chapter 20, verse 9 required the Israelites to put to death children who cursed their parents, but Orthodox Jews who have recourse to alternative dispute resolution mecnahnisms in Ontario never insisted that they be granted the right to apply this penalty!

Posted by: Clement Ng | 2005-09-12 5:54:50 PM

Decision on sharia sparks Jewish protest
Globe and Mail - 46 minutes ago
By MARINA JIMÉNEZ. A Jewish group is considering mounting a constitutional challenge to Premier Dalton McGuinty's recently announced ban on faith-based arbitration, while conservative Muslim leaders vow to continue using sharia to resolve family disputes. ...

Posted by: maz2 | 2005-09-13 4:23:55 AM

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