This week the Harper government announced the allocation of $200,000 to British Columbia non-profit “Mosaic”, an immigrant services organization, to implement an educational program designed to combat honour killings.
Mosaic will work with young men and boys in multicultural communities over a period of two years to help them understand the issues behind ethnic gender violence.
Minister of State for the Status of Women, Rona Ambrose, noted there have been 19 high-profile honour killings in Canada, but that threats and violence against women in multicultural communities are an everyday occurrence.
Jassi Sidhu is one of the nineteen who is still waiting for justice.
Last month an extradition hearing began in a British Columbia courtroom, almost 13 years after Ms. Sidhu was beaten, tortured and strangled to death in India, punishment for marrying a man she loved, not the older, wealthy man her family wanted her to marry.
Jassi met rickshaw driver, Mithu Sidhu in 1994 when she visited India with her family. They fell in love and their long-distance relationship culminated in a secret marriage ceremony in India in March of 1999.
She returned home to British Columbia dreaming of the day she and Mithu could be together. One day in 2000 family members discovered a marriage certificate in Jassi’s bedroom. They were furious. They offered her money and a new car if she would annul the marriage. She would not. They then forced her to sign annulment papers.
Jassi worked as an esthetician in a small salon in Port Coquitlam, but after her marriage came to light she was a prisoner in her home. One of her family members would escort her to and from her workplace. She was physically abused and threatened by family members, as was her husband in India.
She feared for her life and fled her home, borrowing money from a friend to fly to India to reunite with Mithu. Now she was free, but it was not to be.
On June 8, 2000 Jassi and Mithu were attacked by a group of men in the state of Punjab. Mithu survived the attack, but Jassi’s body was found in a canal. Mithu was arrested for rape and languished in prison for four years until he was released with no charges. The woman who accused him of sexual assault was connected to Jassi’s family in India.
Seven men were convicted of Jassi’s murder, men who had been in constant communication with Jassi’s mother Malkit Kaur Sidhu, and her wealthy uncle, Surjit Badesha before her death. They testified at trial that the killing was initiated by Jassi’s mother. On appeal, three of the convicted killers were acquitted and released.
Now begins the long wait for the release of the British Columbia Supreme Court decision on extradition. Experts in the field acknowledge that extradition to India is rarely granted because of shady Indian police practices, including the use of truth serum in investigations, and a corrupt judiciary.
Honour killings have become such a pressing issue in Canada that the Canadian citizenship study guide mentions it specifically, saying, “Canada’s openness and generosity do not extend to barbaric cultural practices that tolerate spousal abuse, “honour killings”, female genital mutilation, forced marriage or other gender-based violence.”
Will Jassi get the justice she deserves?
Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang