Declaration on Religious Arbitration in Family Law

Monday, July 26 2010

The following groups and organizations have come together out of concern for the application of any religious laws in family matters using the Arbitration Act in Ontario, pursuant to Marion Boyd’s report entitled Protecting Choice, Promoting Inclusion.

Notwithstanding Ms Boyd’s assurances to the contrary, we are shocked by the possibility of the erosion of equality rights as guaranteed in Sections 15 and 28, of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Our statement reflects a common position that the recommendations advanced in this report sanction the erosion of women’s equality rights under the laws of Ontario. We believe that the Arbitration Act was never designed to accommodate family matters but was conceived of as a vehicle for commercial disputes. Stretched to this purpose, even with Ms. Boyd’s "safeguards", it would effectively put at risk decades of legal reform in keeping with an equality and equal rights framework.

Our diverse organizations share one purpose with respect to:

We are supported by an international coalition of groups watching closely the Ontario government’s decision in relation to Boyd’s report. Their concern for the potential erosion of women’s rights within constitutional democracies based on religious justifications is in keeping with the provisions of the Canadian Charter, and with international agreements (i.e.. the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women) to which Canada is a signatory. We demand that the Government of Ontario both understand the intent of these agreements and ensure that domestic laws and regulations are not in contravention of them.

Signed,

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