If the picture of family dysfunction emerging from St. Leonard, Que., about the Shafia family scares you, find comfort with the many Canadians that have, too.
Mohammed Shafia, his wife and their son are charged with the deaths of Shafia’s children Zainab, 19, Sahar, 17, and Geeti, 13, and Rona Amir Mohammad, 52, after the four were found dead inside a submerged car in a Rideau Canal lock. Rona, initially identified as a relative, turned out to be Shafia’s first wife.
A man claiming to be Rona’s sibling said she wanted a divorce, which the man of the house would not grant. He also banned her from using the phone, took her passport and threatened to beat her, the relative claims. Zainab had taken a romantic interest in a Pakistani boy against her family’s wishes; she reportedly ran away in the spring.
Kingston police Chief Stephen Tanner stopped short of calling the deaths honour killings, but described the situation as “cultural issues” between a family and “Canadian teenagers who have all the freedom and rights of expression of all Canadians.”
In online news articles about the killings, thinly veiled Islamophobic commenters have invited (in so many words) the Shafias and their ilk to leave Canada.
Federal Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan said Monday that honour killings are “simply unacceptable” and added, “We … encourage people when they come to Canada to recognize the importance of Canadian values.”
What are Canadian values? Platitudes about fitting in while remembering your culture are empty when considering the much-publicized employment and housing challenges that newcomers face.
Filing the Shafia women’s deaths under “honour killings” and chalking it up to an immigrant gone bad takes away from the responsibility their own kin may have had in it. Domestic violence crosses all boundaries — fearmongering names or not.
In a broader context, these deaths show that violence against women happens in spite of our milquetoast, utopic values, especially for the women who needed the help most. The warning signs were clear. For an entire generation, the Canadian Dream is turning out to be a farce.
Post-Trudeauism, does the promise of multiculturalism lie in a lock? Is it as bitter a term as our southerly neighbour’s concept of the “E pluribus unum” melting pot? If the public’s visceral, instant judgment of the Shafias is any indication, those that don’t are not welcome here. Out of many, one discordance.