In of conspiracy to commit murder. On January 29,

In the early morning hours of June 30, 2009, the bodies of four women were discovered in a submerged car in the Rideau Canal in Kingston, Ontario. Shortly after, the Kingston Police released the names and ages of the victims to Canadian media and press. The four victims were identified as Zainab Shafia (age 19), Sahar Shafia (age 17), Geeti Shafia (age 13), and Rona Amir Mohammad (age 50). The three victims were biological sisters while the fourth victim, initially identified as the girls’ aunt, was later determined to be the first wife of Mohammad Shafia. The women, reports explained, had drowned while driving to their home in a Montreal suburb from a trip in southern Ontario. Following a swift investigation, the Kingston Chief of Police, Stephen Tanner, ordered the arraignment and charging of Mohammed Shafia, Tooba Mohammad Yahya and Hamed Shafia with four counts of conspiracy to commit murder. On January 29, 2012, the Shafia trial — also known as the Canadian honour killing trial — ended with the jury finding all three guilty of four counts of first degree murder. In Canada, a first degree murder charge carries with it a life sentence, without possibility of parole for 25 years. It is the maximum sentence possible under Canadian law for a murder crime. (OLWAN, Canadian Journal of Sociology, p. 534)Defined by various feminist scholars and international human rights organizations as the killing of a woman for the purposes of sexual control and social management, honour crimes are also “marked as a culturally specific form of violence, distinct from other widespread domestic or intimate partner violence, including the more familiar passion crime” (Abu Lughoud 2011:17).  (OLWAN, Canadian Journal of Sociology, p. 535)To understand how the Shafia murders were first naturalized in Canadian media as a foreign, exceptional, and racialized occurrence, I will turn to the press conference held in Kingston by Chief Stephen Tanner shortly after the arraignment of Mohammed and Hamid Shafia and Tooba Mohammad Yahya. This conference was crucial in popularizing a culturalized understanding of the murders. After calling a moment of silence for the victims of the murders, Tanner announced to various Canadian media representatives: In our Canadian society, we value the cultural values of everyone that makes up this great country, and some us have different core beliefs, different family values, different set of rules.… Certainly, these individuals — in particular, the three teenagers — were Canadian teenagers who have all the freedom and rights of expression of all Canadians. (quoted in Proudfoot 2009) … They all shared rights within our great country to live without fear, to enjoy safety and security, and to exercise freedom of choice and expression and yet had their lives cut short by members of their own family. (quoted in Chung and Dale 2009) Tanner’s assumption that the murders were motivated by a cultural and civilizational difference in “core values” and beliefs between Muslim Canadians and Canadian society is evident. He thus notes the collective deprivation of the women’s right to life, a right enjoyed by Canadian citizens of all genders. (OLWAN, Canadian Journal of Sociology, p. 539-540)The various articles published in the Canadian press decrying the Shafia murders exemplify these breaks within Canadian multiculturalism. Published in the Toronto Star, Daniel Dale (2009) opens an article written shortly after the murders as follows: We are shocked, naturally, when it is alleged that honour killings have occurred in Canada. They seem alien, inaccessible, at odds with everything we know about our country. How could a primitive thing like that happen in a progressive place like this? As a representative of a monolithic and homogenous Canadian “we” that is “shocked” at the occurrence of “honour killings,” Dale’s question casts racialized acts of violence against women as existing outside of progressive and tolerant Canada. The crimes, at once declared “alien,” “inaccessible,” and “primitive,” besmirch the myth of Canada’s past and ongoing history of nonviolence and innocence. Dale explains that honour related killings are becoming more frequent in North America because “Liberal societies provide opportunities for social experimentation that may not exist in some immigrants’ native lands.” (OLWAN, Canadian Journal of Sociology, p. 541). In an article from the National Post, Barbara Kay reminds readers that Canadians are not racist, but they are increasingly skeptical about the ideal of multiculturalism. Mass immigration, many feel, will only be desirable when immigrants choose to Canadianize, as they did in the years before multiculturalism was ensconced as an official state doctrine in the 1970s. (Kay 2011) In this work, Kay casts Canada as composed of immigrants who refuse its ideals and “Canadians” who are, by their very nature, “not racist” and who pride themselves on “multiculturalism … as an official state doctrine.” Unable to attract immigrants who freely choose to embrace Canadian ideals (or, in Kay’s language, immigrants who “Canadianize”), multiculturalism has become a heavy burden, borne by Canadians who are “sickened and enraged” by crimes against women. To appeal to Canadian society, and reconstitute its shaken belief in multiculturalism, “influential elites” and “our intelligentsia” must speak up against honour killings because “all such practices are anathema to Western culture, and in particular to our values of individualism and gender equality.” In Kay’s homogenous Canada, both the state and the people it represents are conceived of as a “singular entity, a moral, cultural and political essence, neutral of power, both in terms of antecedents and consequences” (Bannerji 2008:104). Through its appeal to a unified and powerful state, Kay’s article makes the honour crime an aberrant act of violence, one that cannot be reconciled with the nation’s values of individualism and its commitment to gender equality. Through such discursive delimitations, the honour crime is also fixed as a racial and national boundary, one that signifies the differences between real Canadians and conditional ones. (OLWAN, Canadian Journal of Sociology, p. 542)Canadian dailies thus perpetuated the idea that the Shafias were culturally other and their familial relationships were inherently premodern. In describing their family arrangements, for example, Blatchford routinely referred to the Shafias as a “sprawling clan,” reinforcing the assumption that the Shafias were unusual, foreign, and even primitive (2012). (OLWAN, Canadian Journal of Sociology, p. 543)Over the past two decades, Western immigrant-receiving countries have been confronted with honour killing and other forms of honour-related violence. High-profile murders that have publicly been labelled honour killings include those of Heshu Yones and Banaz Mahmod in Britain, Fadime Sahindal in Sweden, Mrs. Gül, Zarife, and Schijman Kuashi in the Netherlands, Hatun Sürücü in Germany, and Amandeep Atwal, Aqsa Parvez and the Shafia sisters and their aunt in Canada. Incidences of honour-related violence that fall short of murder are rarely reported on, though anecdotal evidence suggests that they are a concern as well. How to understand this form of violence is the focus of this article. (Korteweg, Canadian Criminal Law Review, 2012, p. 2)Historically, honour-related violence has been practiced in North Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, Latin America and Southern Europe, with patterns of violence differing across the regions. The prevalence of honour killing and of honour-related violence is very difficult to gauge. The UN cites a figure of 5,000 murders of women and girls a year world-wide and though it is widely circulated, it is also unclear how this number was arrived at. 3 Newspapers as well as government and NGO documents will at times list a number of murders, however, there is a tendency to either over- or under-report the figures. Over-reporting happens when all spousal murders within immigrant communities are included, while under-reporting happens when people hesitate to use the label honour killing or honour-related crimes. Taking this into account, estimates suggest that there have been 10 to 15 cases in Canada over the past decade, while a Dutch source cites nine murders between 1999 and 2007. 4, 5 Such figures suggest honour killings are only a small part of all domestic violence that ends in women’s deaths. 6 For example, for Canada, Isabel Grant cites a statistic that approximately 60 women per year are killed by partners or ex-partners. 7 (Korteweg, Canadian Criminal Law Review, 2012, p. 3)However, in the contemporary immigration context, these seemingly objectively existing social patterns of violence become highly politicized. Rather than being understood as one of the myriad forms that familial and domestic violence can take, honour killing becomes a sign of immigrant backwardness.8 (8 See Anna Korteweg & Gökçe Yurdakul, “Islam, Gender, and Immigrant Integration: Boundary Drawing in Discourses on Honour Killing in the Netherlands and Germany” (2009) 32: 2 Ethnic and Racial Studies 218; Anna C Korteweg & Gökçe Yurdakul, “Religion, Culture and the Politicization of Honour-Related Violence: A Critical Analysis of Media and Policy Debates in Western Europe and North America” (2010) Gender and Development Programme Paper Number 12, United Nations Research Institute for Social Development at 34, online: ‹›; Sherene Razack Casting Out: The Eviction of Muslims from Western Law and Politics (Toronto: Toronto University Press, 2008).)Within immigrant-receiving countries, media and policy debates also turn to the honour killing as a sign of immigrant backwardness. For example, the recently adopted study guide for those applying for Canadian citizenship reads under the header “The equality of Women and Men”: In Canada, men and women are equal under the law. Canada’s openness and generosity do not extend to barbaric cultural practices that tolerate spousal abuse, “honour killings,” female genital mutilation, forced marriage or other gender-based violence. Those guilty of these crimes are severely punished under Canada’s criminal laws.15 The juxtaposition of immigrant-related “barbaric cultural practices” with the severe punishment “under Canada’s criminal laws” points to an “us” versus “them” distinction in which immigrants are determined by their culture, while “we” have laws and values that are anchored in our judicial institutions. The “us” side of the dichotomy is then either “culture-free” or marked by a culture that is easily manipulated, owned rather than embodied. ((Korteweg, Canadian Criminal Law Review, 2012, p. 6-7))Nevertheless, participants found it striking that the Department of Justice has not issued any policy statements or guidance on the phenomenon of honour crimes. In fact, one of the only mentions of honour crimes by the Canadian government is a new immigration guidebook’s warning to immigrants and new Canadians that “Canada’s openness and generosity do not extend to barbaric cultural practices that tolerate spousal abuse, ‘honour killings,’ female genital mutilation, forced marriage or other gender-based violence.”9 ( Introduction: Honour Crimes and the Law — Public Policy in an Age of Globalization Pascale Fournier, Guest Editor, Canadian Criminal Law Review, p. 106)The perpetrator in many cases is a brother or father whose cultural role initially was supposed to be protecting the victim from any harm. The perpetrator in these crimes has no economic motivation and is purely fueled by the abstract desire to bring back the honour to the family by eliminating the family member who brought dishonor. This perceived dishonour is normally a result of the loss of control felt by the male members of the family on the sexual behavior of a female member of the family. In many rural societies, where the value of education is lower than that of family status, the ideal of masculinity is underpinned by a notion of ?honour’ – of an individual man, or a family or a community- and is fundamentally connected to policing female behavior and sexuality. (“Honour Killing, Fateh, Master’s thesis, UofT, 2012, p.1)While both the crimes of Sati and honour killing are based on different ideologies, much can be learnt from the efforts invested in prevention of sati. There is a crucial element that overlaps in both crimes which must be emphasized on, the element of coercive external social pressure. Without such pressure it would be impossible in many cases for the perpetrator to commit such a crime. Therefore, when Canada is thinking of policy implementation to develop strategies in combatting the honour crimes, it must keep in mind the abettors and the promoters who are equally guilty of the commission of the crime. (“Honour Killing, Fateh, Master’s thesis, UofT, 2012, p.19)The state needs to maintain its policy of integration of the immigrants into Canada, but at the same side educate itself about the thin border between cultural freedom and unlawful activities. This balance is very similar to the balance of interest that every citizen must exercise between his rights and duties towards the state. No right can be ultimate and neither can cultural freedom.  (“Honour Killing, Fateh, Master’s thesis, UofT, 2012, p.31)Canada’s cultural policy towards immigrants is based on what is known as the ?Multiculturalism assumption?. (Berry, J.W., R.Kalin, and D.M. Taylor (1977), Multiculturalism and Ethnic Attitudes in Canada(Ottawa: Supply and Services Canada.(Berry, J.W., R.Kalin, and D.M. Taylor (1977), Multiculturalism and Ethnic Attitudes in Canada(Ottawa: Supply and Services Canada.)) This refers to the proposition, in the statement on multiculturalism policy made in 1971 by then Prime Minister Trudeau.  (“Honour Killing, Fateh, Master’s thesis, UofT, 2012, p.32)Professor Mojab, who testified as an expert witness in the Shafia trial, said about honour killing that, “It doesn’t have any direct connection with religion at all,” Mojab testified. “It is not unique to any particular religion. We see it among Hindus. We see it among Jews and Christians in the (Middle East) region. It is also not limited to the Middle East or the Arab world.”


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