Polygamy should never be linked with religious freedom: Dueck

Good commentary by Lorna Dueck and how religious freedom is balanced against other rights and harm to vulnerable groups (women, children):

This matters to far more than a hidden-away community in southern British Columbia. Polygamy is actively practised across Canada by religious minorities. It’s not a private crime, but because of its hidden nature, we have little idea of the victimization of women and girls in polygamy. The fact that it takes escape or a hearing before a judge for us to find out the realities of polygamy should have us on alert to letting this crime pass under religious freedom accommodation.

The 2011 B.C. legal challenge that upheld Canada’s polygamy law put on record a scientific study led by University of British Columbia professor Joseph Henrich that detailed how polygamy increases sexual abuse, domestic violence, crime, substance abuse, higher infant and child mortality rates and intra-household conflict. It found polygamy decreased women’s rights because, in polygynous societies, women are seen as a commodity to be attained. The heartbreaking testimony of freedom lost under the lie of religion was summed up for me in an earlier interview I did with polygamy victim Irene Spencer.

“I looked around me and I had been threatened all my life that I would go directly to hell if I didn’t live polygamy and all of a sudden I woke up and realized that I already was in hell; they couldn’t send me any place any darker or further, I was in despair and hopelessness. And around me I saw many women that had nervous breakdowns. I have nine nieces and nephews and one first cousin that have committed suicide and when you see the despair and the heartache, and I myself succumbed to a nervous breakdown and reached the lowest point in my life…” Ms. Spencer said in that interview. Ms. Spencer went on to escape being one of nine wives and wrote her story in Shattered Dreams: My Life as a Polygamist’s Wife. She passed away earlier this year, but not before following Canada’s debate on whether reasonable accommodation in the Canadian Constitution should be interpreted to allow religious people to hold more than one wife.

“It’s abuse when young girls are told who they have to marry and they marry men old enough to be their fathers or their grandfathers. And it’s abuse when mothers and daughters are married to the same man. And it’s abuse when these children have no education. They run the boys out of town so the older men can marry the younger women,” Ms. Spencer said.

If polygamy is an expression allowed because of the religious freedom we cherish, one has to ask, how can the social harm of polygamy be considered reasonably justified? The short answer is: It can’t. As part of religious freedom laws in Canada there are limits based on the notion of reasonable accommodation as it relates to public interest. Doing no harm to the vulnerable should always trump religious freedom. Normally I find myself fighting for religious freedom, but when freedoms start to hurt others, that’s when we reach for the greater good of love moving through law to protect those who need it most.

Source: Polygamy should never be linked with religious freedom – The Globe and Mail

It’s time to confront ‘the cancer of extremism’ – Khan and Dueck

Good conversation between Sheema Khan and Lorna Dueck on extremism. Quote below from Sheema Khan:

In conclusion, we should start to look to ways of breaking the vicious cycle anytime a terrorist incident occurs. There is shock, anger, followed by condemnation of these acts, and then the backlash against Muslim communities, thus further creating divisions, which in turn alienate Muslim youth who become susceptible to the message of extremists (i.e. the West is at war with Islam, they reject you because you are Muslim, etc).

For Muslim communities, we really have to start looking in the mirror, and ask in view of atrocities occurring in the name of Islam at a higher frequency, “what is happening to the moral core”? During the days of terror in France, almost 2,000 women, children and the elderly were massacred by Boko Haram, which has also resorted to child suicide bombers. Almost 40 Muslims were killed in Yemen by a Muslim extremist. And the killing of Muslims, by Muslim extremists continues in Syria and Iraq. All of this on the heels of the horrific murders of schoolchildren and teachers in Peshawar by the Taliban. We need to take a deep look and acknowledge that the cancer of extremism is growing, and come up with strategies on how to deal with it.

It’s time to confront ‘the cancer of extremism’ – The Globe and Mail.

Are we still that compassionate Canada? – Dueck

Further to Erna Paris’ recent op-ed, Canadian mean-mindedness is back, Lorna Dueck picks up on the same theme from a faith perspective:

There are more than 40,000 places of worship in Canada, and care for our global neighbours matters to them. But now is when we will find out whether these communities can put action behind their beliefs. Mark Blumberg of Global Philanthropy reports that faith groups have increased overseas aid philanthropy 300 per cent since the boat people crisis, but my guess is we may be sorely out of touch with what it means to bring a refugee crisis into our suburban and rural homes today.

“It’s extremely provocative and it should act as a question to all of us as Canadians, as people of faith. The generous people who sponsored 70,000 refugees of the South Asian crisis still exist. That is still who we are, but the mean, nasty atmosphere that surrounds us now, that’s also true,” refugee advocate and author Mary Jo Leddy told us recently on Context TV.

“It has blinded us to the simple fact that these are our brothers and sisters,” she added. “… When you see them face to face and they look you in the eye [and they say] please help me, you at that moment are summoned, and it may well be one of the most important choices of your life.”

Are we still that compassionate Canada? – The Globe and Mail.

And more on the government’s inability to bring in Syrian refugees more quickly and the impact of cutbacks:

The Canadian government announced last year it would bring 1,300 Syrian refugees into Canada. The majority of refugees are sponsored by private groups, mostly churches, but to date only a couple hundred refugees have actually arrived.

In comparison, Sweden has taken in 30,000 Syrians with a population that is about one quarter of Canada’s.

The authors of the internal CIC report recommend the government hire more permanent staff, as well as hire some temporary workers to conduct a “blitz” to clear the backlog.

“Improvements to process accountability and processing efficiency cannot be realized without having a sufficient number of dedicated staff in place to handle core functions and to eliminate the backlog that has developed over time,” the report reads.

“It’s a damning report. It doesn’t beat around the bush,” said Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council of Refugees.

“There have been a lot of cuts in Citizenship and Immigration Canada, notably they’ve closed offices across Canada … It’s quite clear that things have not been going well.”

Departmental officials won’t say if more staff have been hired since the report was released late last year. But they said efforts are being made to speed up the process.

“Processing is done according to priority, with Syrian files currently identified as a priority,” according to a statement from a CIC spokesperson.

That concerns people like Showler, though, who wonder about other non-Syrian refugees currently in the cue.

“That means someone who was supposed to come from Thailand, Burma, Africa …that means they’re being delayed even further,” he said.

Showler said in the past, Canada has acted much faster to help refugees escape to safety.

“We did it for Yugoslavia. We brought in 5,000 and we did it within one year … we know how to do this. This is an issue of political will,” he added.

Syrian refugee backlog blamed on federal government cuts

Muslims finding common ground with Christians: The path to peace – The Globe and Mail

A good example of an inter-faith initiative, Common Word, trying to reduce violence between Muslims and Christians. While I am not sure how effective this initiative will be among the more militant fundamentalists, it nevertheless is providing a forum and space for moderates, and respect for the commonalities among different faiths.

Muslims finding common ground with Christians: The path to peace – The Globe and Mail.