Religious Law taking precedence over the Charter of Rights and Freedom: A Troublesome Trend in Canadian Justice?

January 20, 2005 :: Dr. Jo-Anne Fiske, B.Ed, MA, PhD
Moderated by Cathy Coates

In recent years, our provincial and federal governments have paved the way for religious groups and cultural minorities to seek exemption from our Canadian Criminal Justice System and to deal with family and criminal law through alternative justice programs.

This has serious implications for minority persons as religious and traditional laws do not have to adhere to our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms or National and International Human Rights Codes. While this may come as news to some, this is not a new phenomenon in Canada.

Legislation – such as Ontario’s Arbitration Act - is intended to allow religious and cultural minorities to work closely with members of their community to deal with the punishment, healing, and transformation of wayward members in culturally sensitive ways. While it sounds good in theory, is it in practice?

Come learn about alternative justice systems in Canada. The juxtaposition between theory and practice and the particular impact on women - whose lives become subject to religious and cultural ideologies that can deny them their Rights and Freedoms enshrined in our Canadian Constitution.

Speaker: Dr. Jo-Anne Fiske, B.Ed, MA, PhD, is the new chair of the Women’s Studies department at the University of Lethbridge. She has taught in England as well as the University of Saskatchewan, Mount Saint Vincent and Saint Mary’s Universities, and the University of Northern British Columbia. Jo-Anne has finished a study of alternative justice and arbitration with respect to First Nations self-governing goals in Northern BC. She is currently working on a study of Bill C 31, (which amended the Indian Act) and how it affects First Nations Women.

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