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Can Canada afford 
two justice systems?

10 iStock_000000771974Mediumby Fatima Houda-Pepin

Today, with one voice, the members of the National Assembly of Quebec are saying “no” to the introduction, in Quebec and Canada, of so-called Islamic courts. That’s the answer the members wish to give certain groups that are trying to remove Muslims from Canadian and Quebec law.

The demand these groups have put forward led the Attorney General of Ontario to commission Marion Boyd, a former minister responsible for women’s issues, to prepare a report examining the question of Islamic courts in light of the Arbitration Act. The conclusions of this report, submitted on December 20, 2004, are troubling to say the least. The issue here is the application of shari‘a law in a non-Islamic context, which is what these minority groups are pushing for. They are using the Charter of Rights to strike at the very foundations of our democratic institutions. Yet the Canadian Charter is clear: “Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law.”

The victims of shari‘a have a human face, the face of Muslim women. Their strong reaction to the Boyd Report is not surprising. Let us hope that Ontario’s Attorney General, who must now respond to the report, is more receptive to their voice. The introduction in Canada of so-called Islamic courts is not a matter of religious freedom or reasonable accommodation. Muslim Canadians are full-fledged citizens, who enjoy the same rights and have the same obligations as all Canadians. They have the freedom to build mosques and run Islamic schools, some of which are publicly funded. North America’s first mosque, Al Rashid Mosque, was built in Canada, in Edmonton to be precise, in 1938. Quebec’s first mosque, Markaz al Islam Mosque, was established by a bill passed by the National Assembly 40 years ago, in August 1965.

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Fatima Houda-Pepin





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