The Canadian federal minister for the status of women, Rona Ambrose, went to an immigrant health centre to issue a warning that honor killings and other violence against women will not be tolerated in Canada. “There is a small minority in some communities who use violence against women as a method of avenging their so-called honor,” Ambrose said at the Punjabi Community Health Services in Mississauga, west of Toronto, which is home to many immigrants from South Asia.
The Conservatives have spent much time and capital courting the South Asian communities and Prime Minister Stephen Harper last week appointed a Pakistani immigrant who was a Tory candidate in the 2008 election to the Senate. With the death of Aqsa Parvez in 2007, Mississauga was the location of one of the most shocking cases of so-called honor killing in recent Canadian history.
The term “honour” killing is under debate in many Western countries, including in Mississauga, Ontario, where the father and brother of teenager Aqsa Parvez will soon appear in court charged with her killing last December. The term itself, claims Craig Offman in this National Post article, is already on trial and remains a sensitive topic within multicultural societies. Critics argue the term is inherently racist and distracts from the issue of domestic violence. Others claim it remains critical to gaining understanding of motive and making it off limits undermines a community’s ability to acknowledge this particular abuse.
Toronto Life magazine created controversy last week in suggesting on its cover that Ms. Parvez’s strangulation was “Toronto’s first honour killing” and featured a story describing how her father Muhammad insisted his daughter remain modest before allegedly participating in her death.
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The brother of a teenage girl from Mississauga, Ontario who was strangled to death, apparently for failing to wear a hijab, was charged with first-degree murder. Waqas Parvez, 27, was initially charged with obstruction of justice in the death of Aqsa Parvez, 16, in December 2007. Aqsa is the youngest of eight children. Her father, Muhammed Parvez, 57, was initially charged with second-degree murder; earlier this month, the charge was upgraded to first-degree. Police have refused to comment whether the death was over the headscarf and a fight over traditional culture. Muhammed Parvez’s lawyer, Joseph Ciraco, has said there is more to the story than just cultural issues.