Ontario won't become the first Western jurisdiction to allow the use of Islamic law to settle family disputes after the premier of the Canadian province said on Sunday that he won't allow it.
Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty also said he will move to ban all religious arbitration.
"There will be no Shariah law in Ontario. There will be no religious arbitration in Ontario. There will be one law for all Ontarians," McGuinty told the Canadian Press.
A proposal to let Ontario residents to use Islamic law for settling family disputes drew protests last Thursday in Canada and at some of its diplomatic sites in Europe.
Ontario's provincial government has been reviewing a report recommending that sharia be allowed to settle Muslim family disputes such as divorce, and had said it would soon make a decision.
Ontario, the most populous province in Canada, has allowed Catholic and Jewish faith-based tribunals to settle family law matters on a voluntary basis since 1991. The practice got little attention until Muslim leaders demanded the same rights.
Officials had to decide whether to exclude one religion, or whether to scrap the religious family courts altogether.
McGuinty said they "threaten our common ground," and promised his Liberal government would introduce legislation as soon as possible to outlaw them in Ontario.
"Ontarians will always have the right to seek advice from anyone in matters of family law, including religious advice," he said. "But no longer will religious arbitration be deciding matters of family law."
Homa Arjomand, a women's rights activist who organized last Thursday's series of protests, was elated.
"I think our voice got heard loud and clear, and I thank the government for coming out with no faith-based arbitration's," Arjomand said. "Oh, I am so happy. That was the best news I have ever heard for the past five years."
Just hours before McGuinty's announcement, a group including prominent Canadian author Margaret Atwood and actress Shirley Douglas issued an open letter to the premier on behalf of the No Religious Arbitration Coalition.
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