Faith-Based Arbitration

In 2003, the Ontario Islamic Institute of Civil Justice announced that it would be offering a “Sharia Court” to Ontario Muslims. The “Sharia Court” would conduct binding arbitrations according to Islamic law.

Why People Are Talking About Faith-Based Arbitration

In 2003, the Ontario Islamic Institute of Civil Justice announced that it would be offering a “Sharia Court” to Ontario Muslims. The “Sharia Court” would conduct binding arbitrations according to Islamic law.

NAWL and other groups like the Canadian Council of Muslim Women expressed concern with the impact of faith-based arbitration on women’s equality rights. The Ontario government then appointed Marion Boyd to examine the issue. In December 2004, Marion Boyd’s Report recommended allowing faith–based arbitration in family law in Ontario.


NAWL’s Position Paper on Faith-Based Arbitration in Family Law

A NAWL Working Group was formed to analyse the impact of faith-based arbitration on women’s equality rights. In March 2005, NAWL published a detailed paper on the legal and political issues raised by faith-based arbitration in family law.

NAWL takes the position that arbitration of any kind has no place in family law. This is the case in Québec, where the Civil Code prohibits arbitration in family law.

The No Religious Arbitration Coalition

In May 2005, NAWL invited women from the Women Living under Muslim Law network to a conference called International Perspectives on Faith-based Arbitration. The Conference led to the founding of the No Religious Arbitration Coalition of which NAWL is an active member.

The No Religious Arbitration Coalition issued a Declaration on Religious Arbitration in Family Law that more than a hundred groups signed on to. A group of prominent persons including Flora McDonald, Maude Barlow, and others rallied to support the Coalition’s position.

After much public and legislative discussion, the Ontario government passed Bill 27, The Family Statute Law Amendment Act, on February 14, 2006, which requires that all family law arbitration in Ontario be conducted only in accordance with Canadian (including Ontario) law. The new legislation contains a number of very important and positive provisions.

The success in Ontario of the No Religious Arbitration Coalition in bringing an end to the use of religious laws in the arbitration of family law disputes provides those working for women’s equality with the opportunity to look at a successful campaign.