Do not mistake my opening line. I do not mean to be sanguine about these tragedies. I mean that there has been a spate of them and I fear that we have not heard the last of such killings.
Honour killings are dirty words in Canada. Indeed, you will see those words mentioned as little as possible (if at all) in the case of four women drowned to death in Kingston and a woman and her daughters killed in Ganonoque. The tendency is to see these deaths as accidental or as results of stupidity or bad behaviour (read the comments of the CBC story). If it is concluded that these were honour killings, then people would have to accept that the Canadian legal system is a tremendous failure, that Western feminists are as good as silent partners in these atrocious acts given their silence and that multiculturalism- the puffy, feel-good sentiment enshrined as a virtue of the left- is a grand failure.
Therein lies the dilemma. How can anything Canadian be bad? After all, Michael Moore loves us. No. Michael Moore loves the idea of us. He hasn't been to some of the choicest bits of the country and probably never will.
But I digress.
How effective is the Canadian legal system? Not very.
The Department of Justice website has some well-explained definitions but reality contradicts these definitions at every turn.
Civil law and common law are very old legal traditions but the addition of aboriginal law means that there are, off the bat, TWO different sets of law for Canadian citizens. This is contradiction one.
A person accused of a crime may not always be arrested. The accused may
simply receive a “summons” after a charge has been laid before the court. A
summons is an order to appear in court at a certain time to answer to the
Why would someone who has the presence of mind to commit a crime appear when he is supposed to? Chances are there is no honour among thieves. Cases in point.
A criminal trial is a particularly serious matter because liberty, as
well as the stigma of a criminal conviction, is at stake for the accused.
Donald Marshall. David Milgaard.
However, the judge does not always have to convict, even if the accused
person has pled guilty or been found guilty. The judge may give an offender an
absolute or conditional discharge. Under a conditional discharge, the offender
must obey conditions imposed by the judge or face a more severe sentence. An
offender who is given a discharge will not get a criminal record for the
I find this particularly troubling. How does one expect a sex offender to abide by the honour system? This is an impractical and, I dare say, a cruel infliction on society at large.
In restorative justice programs, the victim of the crime, the offender and,
ideally, members of the community voluntarily participate in discussions. The
goal is to restore the relationship, fix the damage that has been done, and
prevent further crimes from occurring.
Special considerations come into play when young people commit acts that are
considered criminal. This is why Parliament passed the Youth Criminal Justice
Act in 2003. It applies to young people aged 12 to 17 years, inclusive. The Act
recognizes that young persons must be held accountable for criminal acts,
although they need not always be held accountable in the same manner or to the
same extent as adults. It is in society’s interest to ensure that as many young
offenders as possible are rehabilitated and become productive members of
What of judicial accountability? Supreme Court justices are hand picked by the prime minister and are often "activist". This eliminates the role of the citizen to nominate a suitable candidate for the court and it also puts the power of reform in the hands of a very few. There is also a shocking lack of shame felt when the system fails others. The case of Shirley Turner, the doctor who shot Andrew Bagby, fled to Canada where she was free on bail, and ultimately killed herself and her son, is a sickening example.
Given these glaring examples of judicial flim-flammery, is it not reasonable to expect that the accused in these cases will be treated as lightly as possible, maybe even released?
So far, the only person to be convicted of an honour killing in Canada is Hasibullah Sadiqi who killed his sister and her boyfriend. The killings of Aqsa Pervez, the four women in Kingston and the three people in Ganonque will prove further litmus tests to our legal and social tolerance of a cultural norm in some countries.
Why is it a norm and why is it tolerated? Honour killings stem from the feeling of shame a male family member feels over a female relative's behaviour. This is largely overlooked in Western societies where shame and guilt are dealt with differently. The wounding, humiliation and ultimate cessation of life are enough to stop these women from repeating allegedly offensive actions. Why honour killings and maimings seem like a rational response to the embarrassing stimuli is still a mystery to me.
One writer has a theory as to why honour killings occur:
Traditionally-oriented immigrants confront many challenges adapting to life
in the secular West. Language difficulties, residential segregation, limited job
opportunities and poverty often make immigrants, especially young people, feel
I'm sorry. Could he repeat that? I had something crazy in my eye. Does he mean to say that no other immigrant has struggled to learn a language, go to school, get a job, raise their kids and adapt to a new life? It's this kind of deflection that will spin such arguments and their defenders on their heads. Yes, it is difficult to adapt to a new life and yes, we should help new immigrants adapt and not be apologetic for it. Why should we feel bad about teaching new immigrants English (for example)? Do they not have the right to engage in political discourse, watch Fringe or get medical treatment? After all, if we cannot explain the glories of Christmas, how can they tell us of the delights of Diwali or the nature of Tanabata? Isn't that what multiculturalism is all about?
Or is it about feeling? If we feel multicultural, we don't necessarily have to learn a language or make aloo gobi because we feel. And no one will ever accuse us being racist, the big bugaboo that squashes topics like this. But multiculturalism- as it exists in Canada- is a form of soft-serve racism. There is no expectation of a new immigrant to learn the language or to take part in society, whether legally, politically, socially or culturally. Why should we make new immigrants do so? Why should we expect they can? Well- why shouldn't we expect they can? Immigrants aren't stupid and we shouldn't treat them that way. We do do that if we don't make them adapt.
And then we have the topic of culture. "There is a recognition that all cultures are equal and should be respected. This is a worthy goal. "
All cultures aren't equal, the same, praiseworthy or damnable. This isn't to say one race or culture is over all. Such things are inflammatory and plain untrue. The recognition, however, of cultures as being "equal" ignores the need for good judgment and a moral compass, and more often than not indicates a shocking lack of understanding of a particular culture. In Japan, women over twenty-five were called "Christmas cakes" because they are past twenty-five years old and are considered useless. Hardly an enlightened point-of-view in some Western circles. Is it acceptable (remember- this is Japan we're talking about)? Koreans operate on a strict custom of honour, age and marital status. I've had my younger students determine family/friend titles (yes- there are over sixty family titles) amongst themselves down to months and days. Do we consider such a custom ridiculous (HINT: Koreans are Asian so be careful with what you say)?
And this cowardice to critique to one's face a cultural or moral failing (railings against kimchi were considered acceptable because food is a less offensive topic but still quite telling of one's inability to be an adult about another culture) can always find a "redemptive" outlet by shredding Western (read: white Christian) cultures as irrelevant, cruel, irredeemable and intolerant. It is true that over the centuries rampages, murders, theft and other acts of cruelty were perpetrated by those who claimed to represent the best and brightest one civilisation had to offer. Nothing can excuse this, but nothing can ignore what Western civilisation has given the world, either. Can ardent multiculturalists name famous Korean or Japanese poets, leaders or doctors off the top of their heads? Maybe not, but then again they don't have to because multiculturalism is about feeling. How about notable black people? Dr. Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, George Washington Carver, Shelby Steele- people whose convictions and hard work could shine because they lived in AMERICA, in a society where individual achievement can be realised and celebrated, unlike their ancestors' home where violence, unfortunately, is commonplace. One could wax on this topic forever but the gist is that individuals thrive in an arena where their talents can be nourished and where basic morality governs the actions of men. How moral is it when the men of one culture stifle their women through threats, acid, rape and murder? Will any Tchiakovskies or Salks emerge from this group? Not unless there is great change.
So- where are the feminists? Why aren't they lifting off of their perches of entitlement and speaking out against the disgusting torments Asian and Islamic women must endure? I have yet to hear from them. I doubt any substantial response will be given. Feminists would have to face the demons of their own elitism, their cowardice and the demands they make for themselves. I suspect they presume women who are victims of "honour abuse" can fend for themselves, if not that judgment would be "racist". Moral compasses are racist, apparently.
I don't believe all Canadians are cruel or cowardly. There are good people who recognise a problem when they see it. All that needs to be done is to fix it.
Get out the hammer of justice.