Religious tribunals in Canada

A while ago, a bunch of muslims wanted to have religious tribunals where they could enact Shariah law in Ontario, Canada. A lot of Canadians didn’t budge at first because they’re nice like that; however it eventually dawned on them that they didn’t want islamic fundamentalism in their communities, so the canadians jumped on it, the muslims cried foul and the muslims got fucked anyway. So now according to the linked article, all religious tribunals are to be banned. To the unaware, this includes Jewish tribunals. I remember when the shariah law thing was first discussed that it was obvious why you don’t want that kind of system in place. But I knew that it would create friction as in if you only disallowed shariah law, then you were specifically discriminating against muslims because of the existence of Jewish tribunals. I also think to some extent there are catholic tribunals so you can get a divorce, for example. I’m not sure if there’s an elaborate structure for catholics.

I’m curious to hear what people have to say about the idea of banning religious tribunals in general, particularly Cid because of the personal implications this can have on his family.

What do the religious tribunals even do in Canada? I remember hearing about this back in September, but I still don’t know the significance of the tribunals. I mean, what is their purpose? Outside arbitration on random issues?

Its a cultural thing. For example, let’s say you’re a woman and you wanted to get divorced. Sure you could go through the legal circuit. However, if you’re deeply religious, that might carry a stigma because it might be against religious “laws” to get a divorce without your husband’s consent. Therefore, according to whatever religion’s law you’re a part of you can’t get divorced and thus can’t get remarried and if you entertain a relationship with someone else, you become a pariah in your community because you should’ve gotten divorced. Does it make sense to me? No. However, this kind of thing is important to a lot of people.

Well, I would assume those kinds of tribunals dealing with religious differences should just be completely separate from the legal setting. From what I understand, these tribunals are given a kind of legal status for the example you listed. It would just seem better to me to have the legal method and then the social method.

That’s my understanding of what Ontario is doing. Nevertheless, this causes contraversy due to the fact that, for example, Jewish tribunals are nothing new.

It’s a big morass as far as the legal implications go… honestly I don’t understand most of it. The backbone of it is Ontario’s Arbitration Act, which was enacted about ten years ago (I think). The basic idea is that religious courts do have some pull in legal courts. For example, it should be possible to deny a husband a legal divorce if he refuses to give his wife a religious divorce. As Sin said, in Jewish law, the husband must give the religious divorce… it’s one of the largest failings of Jewish religious law, and results in “agunot”. The word means “chained”, and refers to women who can’t remarry because their husband refuses to give them a religious divorce. In Israel (and New York!) the legal system actually has the ability to try and make sure this doesn’t happen, but it’s a bit toothless in Ontario.

So basically… religious courts aren’t going to stop operating (the government can’t ban them outright or it would be religious discrimination) but the government can take away its backing of those decisions under the Arbitration Act. And really, that backing was never worth all that much in the first place. Still, the issue sounds important. 8p