B.C. judge rejects petition for divorce settlement based on sharia contract

The Globe and Mail – July 26, 2011

 

The British Columbia Supreme Court has turned down a petition for payment of a dowry under a marriage contract authorized in a sharia court of Amman, Jordan. Huwayda Al-Masri had asked the court to compel her ex-husband Ossama Aziz to pay her a dowry of 500 grams of 21-carat gold, which is currently worth around $22,000. The dowry was set out in a Muslim mahr agreement, written in Arabic and signed by Mr. Aziz and Ms. Al-Masri at the time of their marriage in 1997. Ms. Al-Masri, who was 19 at the time of the wedding, was born in Tennessee. Mr. Aziz, then a 29-year-old student who had previously been married, was originally from Baghdad. He had Canadian citizenship at the time of the wedding.

The couple settled in British Columbia but later divorced. Believing that she could rely on the maher, Ms. Al-Masri did not contest the divorce application and did not receive spousal support. However, Mr. Justice Arne Silverman decided he did not have sufficient evidence to enforce the provisions of the marriage contract under Jordanian or Canadian law.

Judge Silverman reviewed four cases from Ontario and B.C., where the courts had upheld similar contracts and decided Ms. Al-Masri was not entitled to the dowry. “I recognize that there may well be national or cultural traditions in Jordan which would resolve the question of to whom a dowry should be payable,” he said. However, he did not have any evidence before him to resolve the issue, he wrote; he did not have any expert evidence with respect to Jordanian law. Ms. Al-Masri will be appealing the decision.