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Ontario judge decries 'twisted' mindset in so-called honour killing of teen girl

BRAMPTON, Ont. - The twisted mindset that led a headstrong 16-year-old girl's father and brother to kill her in the belief it would spare the family embarrassment is abhorrent, a judge said Wednesday.

BRAMPTON, Ont. - The twisted mindset that led a headstrong 16-year-old girl's father and brother to kill her in the belief it would spare the family embarrassment is abhorrent, a judge said Wednesday.

Muhammad, 60, and Waqas Parvez, 29, were both sentenced to at least 18 years in prison after pleading guilty to the second-degree murder of Aqsa Parvez in a so-called honour killing.

In the weeks leading up to the 2007 killing Aqsa had clashed with her family — originally from Pakistan — over her desire to shed the hijab, wear western clothing and have the same freedoms as her friends.

The two Parvez men believed they could keep the family's pride intact by killing Aqsa, rather than letting her have a part-time job and go to the movies with friends, according to facts agreed to in court after the men pleaded guilty Tuesday.

Superior Court Justice Bruce Durno called it "profoundly disturbing" that young Aqsa, facing the struggles of a modern teen's life amid strict family values, could be murdered by the very people who were supposed to protect her.

The killing was all for the purpose of avoiding "what they perceived as the community embarrassment of not being able to control a young woman they believed was rebellious," Durno said in passing sentence Wednesday.

"That twisted, chilling and repugnant mindset could imply that the family pride could at least be kept intact or perhaps even enhanced by having two grown men overpower and kill a vulnerable teenager."

A second-degree murder conviction carries an automatic life sentence and the judge has discretion to set parole ineligibility at between 10 and 25 years. Both the Crown and defence called for the men to serve 18 years before being eligible for parole and Durno agreed.

"This is clearly a case where there must be a very significant increase above the minimum because of the breach of trust from Muhammad, the abuse of a person under 18 by both, the abhorrent motivation behind the crime... (and) the gender equality issues," he said.

According to the United Nations, as many as 5,000 girls and women are murdered every year around the world as part of so-called honour killings, a crime generally defined as the premeditated murder of a female relative believed to have brought dishonour upon her family.

Crown attorney Mara Basso said outside court that after Aqsa's "shameful, horrible, evil, barbaric murder," the sentences bring her the justice and dignity in death that she never got in life.

"We all have to band together to see that there are no more deaths like Aqsa's," she said.

"We need to honour her memory because she was a very courageous young girl who had the courage to stand up for herself, for her principles every day in that lonely home."

The Parvez family home was not lonely in the literal sense — Muhammad Parvez and his wife were living there, along with six of their eight children, three of their children's spouses and two grandchildren.

Aqsa was allowed only to go straight to and from school, couldn't socialize with friends outside school, was forbidden from getting a part-time job and had no door on her bedroom.

She was eventually allowed to wear western clothing, which the family viewed as a huge concession and was frustrated she still could not be controlled, according to the agreed facts.

The father and brother's defence lawyers said this case is not an honour killing, rather a domestic crime in a dysfunctional family with some very archaic gender notions.

"It stigmatizes a segment of the community for the actions of very few, which does nothing to further what we need to do to prevent this in the future," Joseph Neuberger, Waqas Parvez's lawyer, said outside court.

"We have to do a good job at reaching out to these families (new to Canada) and not only inviting them into a multicultural society, but I think we have to spend more time on what we mean by social inclusion."

After they were sentenced, Muhammad Parvez put his arm around his son's shoulder, and with a slight nod and wave to family in the courtroom, the two killers were led away to begin their life sentences.

 
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