Keeping the faith: An exploratory analysis of faith-based arbitration in Ontario

Title: Keeping the faith: An exploratory analysis of faith-based arbitration in Ontario
Authors: Huth, Cathy
Date: 2008
Abstract: In 2003, the Islamic Institute of Civil Justice announced their intention of providing arbitration services to resolve family law disputes according to Islamic law. Concerned that such arbitration might be inconsistent with principles of equality and Ontario family law, many women's organizations and members of the public called on the government of Ontario to prohibit the use of arbitration based on religious law, in particular Islamic law. On September 11, 2005 the Government of Ontario announced that all family arbitration must be conducted in accordance with Ontario and Canadian law, thereby making faith-based arbitration awards non-enforceable. The purpose of this study is to explore the media's representation of faith-based arbitration in family law. A latent content analysis of Ontario newspaper articles was conducted to explore how the media portrayed the issue of faith-based arbitration. A sample of editorial, column, and opinion pieces from mainstream English Ontario newspapers published between December 13, 2003 and February 16, 2006 were selected. An analysis of the articles found common representations of women, immigrants and the Islamic faith, multiculturalism and religious freedom, and the justice system. More specifically, the findings from this study indicate that the media was misguided in defining the issue of faith-based arbitration. This occurred in one of three ways; either as faith-based arbitration exceeding the boundaries of multiculturalism, as eroding the secular state, or as contradicting the principle of one law for all. A second finding from this study was that much of the media coverage was alarmist and misinformed with strong signs of Islamophobia and the stereotyping of religious groups. As well, in accordance with Ayelet Shachar's (2001, 2005) view that multiculturalism is often portrayed as in conflict with women's equality rights, one of the major findings of this study is that the media depicted faith-based arbitration as a competition between women's equality rights and religious freedom (or multiculturalism). In conclusion, it is argued that the media's representation of faith-based arbitration was frequently misleading, alarmist, and uninformed. Although faith-based arbitration is conducted in other faith communities, the media coverage focussed primarily on the Muslim community, with stereotypes and alarmist rhetoric pervasive throughout the coverage. Indeed, there was a lack of knowledge about Islam, faith-based arbitration, and multiculturalism in the media's representation of faith-based arbitration.
CollectionTh├Ęses, 1910 - 2010 // Theses, 1910 - 2010
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