JUST THE FACTS: A brief history of Sharia Law in Canada

What exactly is Sharia? It’s a set of guidelines and religious rules, stemming from the Islamic Qur’an and Hadith, that guide Muslims and command an overall way of life. It’s more than just a legal system; Sharia dictates both the private moral teachings of the Islamic faith as well as strict public rules that all Muslims are commanded to live by.

While there are different ways to interpret Sharia, and different Islamic countries impose the law in different ways, there are several core principles that are always evident in Sharia law.

First, women are second-class citizens according to Sharia.

Second, there is no separation of religion and politics — or mosque and state — in Sharia.

Third, our Western fundamental freedoms — freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of association and so on — are contrary to fundamental Sharia concepts.

While most Muslims in Canada reject Sharia (many fled Islamist countries because of Sharia), there have been repeated attempts by Islamist fundamentalist to impose Sharia, both directly and covertly.

Here is a short history of attempts to push Sharia law in Canada.

Sharia attempts to enter Ontario through the Liberal legislature (1991)

The Arbitration Act of Ontario was passed in 1991 under the Premiership of Bob Rae (NDP) allowing faith-based arbitration in provincial family courts. Under the new legislation, religious officials would be allowed to meditate on decisions involving family disputes including divorce and inheritance disputes.

  • The act enabled groups to use the guiding principles of faith to help settle disputes over divorce, inheritance and custody
  • Technically had to abide by Canadian law, but no third-party oversight, no duty to report
  • In 2003, Islamic Institute of Civil Justice was established for the purpose of starting tribunals based on Sharia law for Muslims in Ontario.
    • 2004 - Islamic Institute of Civil Justice announces it will begin arbitrating family matters on the basis of Sharia law, warned that those who don’t submit cases were not “good Muslims”
  • June 25, 2004 - Ontario government officials asked Maryon Boyd (former NDP Minister of Women’s Issues) to conduct a review of arbitration in family and inheritance cases and the impacts it has on vulnerable people
  • September 2005 - Dalton McGuinty announces an end to all forms of religious arbitration saying: "I've come to the conclusion that the debate has gone on long enough. There will be no sharia law in Ontario. There will be no religious arbitration in Ontario. There will be one law for all Ontarians."
  • 2006 - Ontario legislature passes bill that puts an end to religious arbitration

Quebec National Assembly gives thumb down to push for Sharia law and Islamic courts (2005)

Environics Focus Canada report shows majority of Canadian Muslims want Sharia recognized (2006)

  • Question: Do you believe that Sharia law – that is, traditional Islamic law – should, or should not, be recognized by Canadian governments as a legal basis for Muslims to settle family disputes, such as those involving divorce, custody and inheritance?
  • 53% of Canadian Muslims responded that Sharia law should be recognized in Canada

Muslim elementary school in Toronto segregates boys and girls in classrooms, sports and prayer (2007)

  • First organized Islamic elementary school in Canada
  • Private Islamic school ISNA Elementary segregates boys and girls
  • Learn to recite the Qur’an and learn Arabic

Macdonald-Laurier Institute reports high support for Sharia among Canadian Muslims (2011)

  • 47% of Muslims wanted Ontario to allow Muslims the choice of being ruled by Sharia courts in the case of divorce or family matters

North Vancouver mosque admits to practicing Sharia (2013)

  • North Shore News profile of Ar-Rahman Mosque
  • Imam Abu Abdus-Salaam admits that the Mosque arbitrates marriages and disputes on Islamic law
  • "Learning takes place here, problems are solved here, conflicts are resolved in this place, people are getting married here, people will be divorced here if they have to according to Islamic law, I mean the Shariah”
  • Mosque tells the Vancouver Sun that the Imam had misspoken

Canadian adoption ban on children from Pakistan (2013)

  • Canadian officials bar adoption from Pakistan in accordance with Sharia law (which prohibits adoption)
  • Federal Canadian government extended the restriction to virtually all Muslim countries
  • Government documents from federal officials to the provinces obtained by the Fifth Estate from June 2013 claim that “a change in the child's parentage is strictly prohibited under Shariah law.”

Calgary “non-denominational” private school fined $26,000 by the Alberta Human Rights Commission for not facilitating Muslim prayer (2015)

  • Webber Academy was fined for discriminating against two Muslim students for not accommodating their prayers
  • Webber Academy maintains that it is a non-denominational school and there is no space in the school for praying, regardless of religion.

A disabled man is told he can’t occupy publicly subsidized housing because he’s not Muslim (2015)

  • Austin Lewis (21) was denied access to taxpayer funded housing because he was not a member of the Muslim community
  • According to Toronto City Councillor Joe Cressy the decision was not unfair after Toronto City Council entered a five-year agreement to restrict residency to “members of the Muslim Jama’at [congregation]”
  • Lewis was removed from the tenant waiting list at the Ahmadiyya Abode of Peace on Finch Ave W. in North York because he wasn’t Muslim

Fredericton High School teachers make plans for segregated prayer room (2016)

University of Regina summer camp runs segregated swimming times for refugee kids (2016)

Muslim accountant plans Islamic housing project (2016)

  • Nabil Warda made a proposal to build 80 homes for Muslims so that they can avoid paying interest on loans
  • Claimed non-Muslims who moved there would have to share Muslim values
  • “There must be some modesty in the way you dress. We don’t want women living there going half-naked down the streets. We don’t like that,” he said. “If they want to do that, let them go and live in downtown Montreal.”
  • Quebec legislature unanimously adopts a motion to inform municipalities “no real-estate development can be based on religious or ethnic segregation.”
  • Nabil Warda’s plans were put on hold after he was told by the mosque where he planned an information session tells him “We never supported the project.”

Anti-Islamophobia Bill M-103 introduced by Liberal MP Iqra Khalid and passes in the House of Commons (2017)

  • Fails to define “Islamophobia”
  • Rejected a compromise with opposition MPs who asked the Liberal government to change the language away from “Islamophobia” to condemn “anti-Muslim bigotry” instead
  • Calls for a “whole-of-government approach” to eliminating “Islamophobia”
  • Many critics, including many Muslims, claim it could lead to blasphemy laws
  • Calls for the collection of data on citizens, specifically stating: “the government should...collect data to contextualize hate crime reports and to conduct needs assessments for impacted communities.”

Refugee hotel imposes segregated “all-girls swimming time” (2018)

  • Federal government documents reveal that the immigration department suggested an “all-girls swimming time” to accommodate Muslim refugees

A group butchers cow “halal way” by skinning it alive in Milton (2018)

  • Police investigated a video purporting to show a cow being skinned alive, Ontario Minister of Agriculture replies with disgust

Prominent Canadians gets notified by Twitter that they are violating Pakistani Sharia law (Nov & Dec 2018)

Islamic Party of Ontario reserves a name with Elections Ontario (2018)

  • Provincial party founded on the teachings of the Qur’an
  • Believes the native religion of Canada is Islam
  • Policy states a desire to outlaw alcohol, drugs, gambling, gay marriage, interest on loans and religious blasphemy based on Sharia