Women and Justice: Keywords

International Case Law

Her Majesty the Queen v. Shafia Ontario Superior Court of Justice (2012)

Honor crimes (or honour crimes)

Mohammad Shafia, his second wife, and his son were convicted of the June 2009 murders of his three teenaged daughters and his first wife. Their bodies were found submerged inside a car in a canal near Kingston, Ontario. The Shafia family was originally from Kabul, Afghanistan, fled to Dubai before moving to Australia, and then finally moving to Montreal, Canada in 2007. The three defendants were found guilty of four counts of first degree murder and each sentenced to life in prison with parole eligibility in 25 years. The prosecutor argued that the murders were honor killings – because the three Shafia daughters had shamed the family by adopting Western lifestyles and the two older daughters had boyfriends, and because his first wife wanted a divorce and supported the three girls in their pursuit of western lifestyles. The Crown sought to admit expert trial testimony relating to the relationship between culture, religion, patriarchy and violence against women in the Middle East, Eastern Asia and around the world, specifically as to honor killing. The Ontario Superior Court of Justice held the topic of honor killing was properly the subject of expert opinion evidence, finding the presentation of expert evidence respecting culture to be routinely admitted in Canadian trial courts and the concepts of honor, family and gender dynamics within Middle Eastern and East Asian communities to be knowledge outside the scope of a typical Canadian jury. Specific questions to the expert mirroring the facts of the case were not allowed; only generic questions relating to circumstances where honor killings might take place were allowed.