FACT: Since 2002, 12 murders of women in Canada were deemed to be honour killings.
You may have heard about numerous cases of honour killings being perpetrated in various foreign countries. After all, for those of us living in the West (and political North), these types of stories are quite sensational. They highlight how superior our collective and to some degree, composite Western culture is in comparison to the primitive tribal cultures of foreign lands. However, wherever there is a bubble of ignorance, I am there to burst it. Canada, a lovely country known for its open-hearted acceptance of immigrants from a vast array of foreign lands, is quickly becoming a cesspool in which cultures are clashing. These clashes are usually swept under the rug by the host country (Canada) and those who are integrating (at varying degrees) in to the host country.
Luckily, we still have brave and intellectually honest journalists and social activists who make it their mission to shed light on matters such as honour killings. My tasks in this short article are to inform the readers that honour killings do indeed occur in Canada and that we must do more to prevent such atrocious behaviour from occurring here.
For the sake of brevity, I will list a few high profile cases of honour killings in Canada from the last decade or so:
- Jaswinder Kaur Sidhu, 24, was a B.C. native who was murdered in Punjab, India in 2000. It is alleged that her mother, Malkit Kaur Sidhu, and uncle, Surjit Singh Badesha of Maple Ridge, B.C. conspired to have Jaswinder killed as she married Sukhwinder Singh Sidhu, a rickshaw driver in India. This marriage was not approved of. India seeks the extradition of Malkit Kaur Sidhu and Surjit Singh Badesha.
- Amandeep Singh Atwal, 17, was stabbed to death by her father in 2003 for dating a non-Sikh boy.
- Amandeep Kaur Dhillon was killed in 2009 by her father-in-law in a Toronto-area grocery store where she worked. She had threatened to leave her husband.
These three cases are just the tip of the iceberg. We know about these cases because they were high profile. Heaven only knows how many other cases of honour killings are left undocumented. I do not wish to delve too deeply into an analysis of the problem of honour killings as I would not be able to do it justice. However, I recommend readers to gain valuable insights on the matter by downloading and reading Aruna Papp’s pioneering study for the Frontier Centre for Public Policy:
Papp, A., “Culturally Driven Violence Against Women: A Growing Problem in Canada’s Immigrant Communities.”, FCPP Policy Series No. 92, July 2010.
While on the subject of Papp’s work, I would like to highlight a key finding from her study on the topic of honour killings. Her study explains that women were killed due to reasons of honour and family shame. More explicitly, the victims were threatened over issues such as refusing to cover their heads, wearing makeup, wearing Western clothes, dating, going to parties, choosing friends the family disapproved of, refusing to marry a man chosen by the family, seeking a divorce from a violent husband and marrying against the families’ wishes. What is the root cause of this problem? Does this not seem symptomatic of families who simply do not understand the concept of social/cultural integration in to new host countries?
I want to conclude by applauding Aruna Papp’s work on the matter of honour killings and culturally driven violence against women. Papp’s study has outlined 14 realistic recommendations to curb the problem of culturally driven violence against women. I most certainly hope that our government and law enforcement agencies muster up the courage to come out of their “political correctness” shells in order to do what is right. I think an even bigger onus is on the communities in which these horrible acts are being perpetrated. They must come together by first accepting the fact that honour killings do happen. The next step would be to have community based programs to assist at-risk individuals and families (many of these programs already exist but they need to be able to expand their operating capacities).
The archaic and barbaric mindset of some individuals must not rule the majority. Old views and old ways have already died out in the Motherland and so immigrant communities should not fight an uphill battle to uphold backward views of the past! Immigrant communities need to do a better job in terms of integrating in to the new societies that they inhabit by taking the good and leaving out the bad (and from an introspective perspective – the same goes for their own cultures).
Abhaya Shanker Dube