Rona Ambrose, minister for the status of women, recently announced that the government is considering creating a special section in the Criminal Code for honour killings.
While it’s encouraging that, for the most part, so-called honour crimes are being taken more seriously, there is no reason to give them a stand-alone provision in our already vast compilation of criminal offences.
What is required is to refrain from ever giving the perpetrators of such offences a break and to redouble our efforts to denounce such monstrous behaviour.
Consider the Calgary woman who strangled her rebellious 14-year-old daughter in 2007.
The incident was never characterized as an honour killing by the prosecution but, in my mind, it sure smells like one.
Unbelievably, Aset Magomadova was convicted of manslaughter instead of second-degree murder, even though she held a scarf around her daughter’s neck for at least 2 1/2 minutes. That’s a long time to think about whether you really want to snuff out someone’s life.
It’s also a visceral, hands-on way of dispatching someone. And it’s a particularly brutal killing, as killings go Ñ slowly watching your victim go brain-dead as seconds tick by.
Yet Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Sal LoVecchio described the killing as merely "an unwise choice" and said Magomadova didn’t mean to kill her daughter, Aminat.
Unwise choice? Ya think?
But there was another shock for Albertans two weeks ago when the judge spared Magomadova jail and sentenced her to probation for three years. (The Crown, which wanted a 12-year term, is appealing the acquittal on second-degree murder and the sentence, while the defence is appealing the manslaughter conviction.)
Meanwhile, on Friday, a judge denied bail to a Montreal-area woman accused of trying to kill her 19-year-old daughter. Bahar Ebrahimi was stabbed repeatedly in June after she stayed out all night.
You can be sure, with rising immigration, that there will be more of these tragedies, which is why the Frontier Centre for Public Policy’s recent report on honour killings is so timely.
Since 2002, 12 women have been murdered in Canada in cases identified as honour killings, the report notes. Another three domestic violence-related murders also have the hallmarks of an honour killing, it adds.
"Many immigrants chose Canada because the foundation of this country is built on values of security, freedom and respect for all," says the study.
"Yet there are thousands of women in Canada whose rights are not respected, who are neither free nor secure, because they dare not challenge their oppressors."
In Canada, the report explains, honour killings have been carried out for such reasons as staying out late, wearing makeup or western clothes, wanting to leave an abusive husband and dating someone outside the community.
And south Asian family structures sanction the domination of women by socializing women from an early age, instilling in them cultural norms that are then transported to Canada, according to the study. Within that community, women are not only expected to be submissive but face a community-wide "conspiracy of silence" regarding the abuse of women, the study warns.
"Community leaders point to cultural traditions, religious values and norms in defending their way of life," the report explains.
"Thus, they consciously exploit multiculturalism-inspired fears amongst mainstream Canadians of appearing racist or of perpetuating cultural stereotypes."
The report urges leaders of the South Asian community to take responsibility for "breaking the silence" around the oppression and abuse of women.
Among its recommendations are proposals for mandatory sessions for sponsored women and male sponsors about Canadian values and gender equality. Instead of cleansing the family name – the horrifying justification for killing women – we need to cleanse Canada of these misogynist vipers.