Just this once, I agree …

… wholeheartedly with the Toronto Star which says in an editorial headlined “An Ontario court has just affirmed that cultural norms that excuse violence have no place here ... [and] … In a welcome ruling the Ontario Court of Appeal has ruled that “cultural differences” cannot be used to justify a lighter sentence in criminal cases.

The editorial explains, by way of background, that: “The woman, a recent immigrant from Iran, suffered brutal spousal abuse but didn’t even realize it was against the law … [and] … After moving to Canada in 2009 her husband forced the woman, whose identity is protected by the court, to have sex with him by hitting her, pulling her hair, pinching her and forcefully removing her clothes. “She cried out quietly so the children would not hear,” court was told … [additionally] … He also slapped, kicked and punched their two sons and hit them with a belt. Once he locked them outside the house on a snowy winter day wearing nothing but shorts and T-shirts until their mother came home and rescued them … [but] … When the husband was convicted of sexual assault and assault, Justice William Gorewich of Ontario court sentenced him to 18 months, citing mitigating factors that included the lack of a criminal record. The judge also noted a “significant cultural gap” between behaviour that is accepted in Canada and in Iran, and the “cultural impact” of changing countries.

Fortunately, “That didn’t cut much mustard with the Ontario Court of Appeal, nor should it have … [and] … On appeal by the Crown, Justices Mary Lou Benotto, Alexandra Hoy and David Doherty found the 18-month sentence to be “manifestly unfit”and they imposed a far tougher, and entirely appropriate, four-year sentence … [further] … They also went out of their way to send a powerful, timely message to the lower courts and the public in general that “cultural norms that condone or tolerate conduct contrary to Canadian criminal law” must not be a mitigating factor in sentencing. “Cultural differences do not excuse or mitigate criminal conduct,” the appeals court held … [and. they aded] … If that were the case “some women in Canadian society would be afforded less protection than others.” In effect “it would … create a second class of person in our society — those who fall victim to offenders who import such practices” … [and] … “All women in Canada are entitled to the same level of protection from abusers,” the court reminded us.

The editorial concludes by saying that “This principled decision is in line with the United Nations, which has held that cultural practices do not excuse human rights abuses … [and] … Justice for every woman. That is the norm in Canada, and it is good to hear Ontario justices spell it out so bluntly, and so clearly.

I only wish that the Star gone a wee, tiny bit further and said “Justice for every person,” This issue is not, just, about misogynistic men abusing women, it is, I hope, about everyone who abuses anyone else for phoney “cultural differences.”

The country of origin, Iran in this case, is irrelevant. Abusive behaviour and hiding behind “culture” is not unique to Iranians or Muslims ~ both (bad behaviour and weak excuses) exist amongst Atheists, Buddhists, Christians, Daoists, First Nations peoples, Hindus, Jews, Rastafarians and Sikhs and so on, almost ad infinitum. It is a human failing, not a religious one.

But, the good news is that a Court of Appeal, a “high court” has slapped down the fake defence of “cultural differences” Canada is a better country, in the wake of this decision, than it was before it.

By Ted Campbell

Old, retired Canadian soldier, Conservative ~ socially moderate, but a fiscal hawk. A husband, father and grandfather. Published material is posted under the "Fair Dealing" provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act for the purposes of research, private study and education.


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