Protesters Meet with Government to Re-affirm their Resolve to End Sharia Courts in Ontario .  August 11, 2004

Toronto , August 13, 2004 – Ms. Homa Arjomand led thirty five of her supporters to a private meeting with Ms. Marion Boyd to protest the use of Sharia law for arbitration in Ontario . 

Marion Boyd was appointed by Attorney General Michael Bryant and Sandra Pupatello, Minister Responsible for Women's Issues, to review the arbitration process and its impact on vulnerable people in Ontario .

 The meeting was held August 11th, at 900 Bay Street , MacDonald Block in Ontario Room North, from 9:30 am to 12 pm .

 Ms Boyd opened the discussions by assuring the group that “your concerns have been clearly heard and understood by the government”. She added, “all sides on this issue have strong feeling”.

Some Background on the Arbitration Act

She went on to explain that she was present during the development and passage of the Arbitration Act in 1991, and that it was created to help business settle legal matters relating to property rights and contracts in the global arena. Family law was included but under the condition of “un-coerced agreement by all parties involved’. Arbitration was to be a free will choice, an alternative to the courts, but not a substitute for settlement of family legal matters.

Ms. Boyd also stated “that statements being made by the Canadian Islamic Congress are not based on any action taken by the government”.

Stories of Abuse and Imprisonment

All attendees expressed their concerns and many of them also recounted their personal stories of abuse and imprisonment under Sharia law in their home countries. Some of the attendees were representing their organizations..

Each attendee was given the opportunity to speak, and a recurring theme in many of their statements was that Sharia law based on the Koran violates human rights in general, but most severely the rights of women. Two of the women had each spent three years in an Islamic State prison for being activists for human rights and faced torture by Sharia law and regulation.

Iranian Embassy Refuses to Recognize Canadian Divorce

One lady emotionally recounted how 10 years ago, Sharia law had limited her freedom to travel after her divorce in Canada . She had custody of her daughter, who was five years old at the time, when she learned that her father was very ill. She went to the Iranian Embassy to apply for visas to travel to Iran , so her daughter could see her grandfather.  The embassy told her that her husband needed to sign a permission. She explained that she was divorced. This legal fact made no difference to the Iranian Embassy, her divorce was not recognized. They insisted she get her husband’s signature. Her ex-husband refused to sign the visa application.

She continued to re-apply, and was continually refused a visa. Her father eventually died and her daughter never got a chance to see her grandfather.

No Records on Arbitration Use by Religious Groups

Since 1991, religious groups have had the right to use the Arbitration Act. When Ms. Boyd was asked if there are any statistics that would reveal how often the Arbitration Act was being used by religious groups, she said, “we don’t know, we are trying to get a handle on that now, and in fact we recently met with an evangelical Christian organization to see what they have been doing with arbitration”. She added that she was aware the Jewish and Catholic communities have been making some use of it.

Ms. Boyd also responded to a question about the public filing of settlements, she answered, “all arbitration settlements are private, not a public record and we do not know what has been agreed to by the parties”.

Attendees were surprised and very alarmed to learn about the lack of record keeping relating to arbitration and private settlements, noting that these shortcomings in procedures will make Muslim women extremely vulnerable to abuse.

Transnational Legal Impact

Sharia law is a transnational legal system. A question was asked of the attendees, “if you were to have a legal dispute, say a divorce, settled in a Canadian Sharia Court , how would this settlement affect your freedom to travel to your home country”. The attendees unanimously responded “we would not dare to leave Canada ”.

Canada is not a secular Country

A question was asked by one of the attendants, “If Canada is a secular country, then why did the government allow Ontario Arbitration Act 1991. Didn’t the government know that this act would leave the hands of all religion open to interfere with the justice system?”  Mrs. Boyd stated that Canada is not a secular state. 

Homa Arjomand closed the meeting by saying Mrs Boyd you denied secularism in order to justify the Ontario Arbitration Act 1991.” Just to let you know, to defend secularism and for the separation of religion from the state and from the  justice system, I will not stop, not just me, but me and the supporters of this campaign will continue to fight  not only  in Ontario but also abroad”.

BBC Sends TV News Team to Toronto

After the meeting, the media were waiting outside the doors. Homa was interviewed by BBC, CBC Radio - National French Network and CTS Television from Burlington . The BBC news crew flew in from England after seeing her story in the New York Times on August 4th. This story continues to grow in the international press.

 

 The International Campaign Against Sharia Court In Canada