2005-09-21

Religious Arbitration in Ontario?

I hadn’t seen this reported much, so I thought I’d post some links here.

Apparently, the Ontario Premier has decided that, rather than recognize Islamic courts under the existing Arbitration Act which recognizes Jewish and Catholic courts, he will ban all religious arbitration in Ontario even for groups that have previously enjoyed it.

Not knowing much about the system of religious arbitration in Ontario, I can’t say what the impact of this on the Jewish community will be. I take it, however, that what is at issue are two matters: (1) substitutability of religious courts for secular courts in the arbitration in various areas of civil and family law, i.e. disputant can elect to take a matter to religious courts that would otherwise be taken to secular courts, and (2) enforceability of religious court decisions by secular courts. I appears that, like in the US, both of these matters only arise when all parties to the dispute in question agree on use of the religious court as an arbiter. The concern that immediately comes to mind is that religious Jews will no longer be able to settle disputes as halacha demands through a religious court with the confidence that the court’s ruling will be enforceable by secular authorities. Some of the articles indicate that there are also concerns regarding family law, but I’m not familiar enough with the system in Ontario to know what these are, or how they differ from the difficulties that arise in the US system. Perhaps the prenuptial agreements, which are being supported as a partial solution to the problem of agunot, will not be enforceable by secular authorities because they rely on the finding of a religious court acting as arbiter?

I won’t bother linking to any of the “liberal” commentary I’ve seen on this decision, much of which seems more oriented to bashing religion than dealing with the serious questions these sorts of issues raise about multiculturalism.

If anyone has greater insight into the matter, I’d be interested to know.

Linkage:

2 Comments:

Anonymous Shaya said...

search http://bloghd.blogspot.com/ for a bunch of posts about it, and canonist had a few as well.

21 September, 2005 15:31  
Blogger Sarah said...

I've started some preliminary research on this issue and I've been extremely disappointed with what I've found. The existing laws already provided safeguards to ensure that human rights and freedoms be upheld. If a couple elects to resolve their issues by religious means they should have the right to do so and not be required to then have the Ontario courts officiate in order to make the outcome binding.
I haven't completely formed my rant yet but it is coming.
Extremely disappointed with the "Liberal" government

23 January, 2006 16:30  

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