An Ontario court has just affirmed that cultural norms that excuse violence have no place here: Editorial

Posted
July 27, 2017
Article Source
Toronto Star

The woman, a recent immigrant from Iran, suffered brutal spousal abuse but didn't even realize it was against the law.

After moving to Canada in 2009 her husband forced the woman, whose identity is protected by the court, to have sex with him by hitting her, pulling her hair, pinching her and forcefully removing her clothes. "She cried out quietly so the children would not hear," court was told.

He also slapped, kicked and punched their two sons and hit them with a belt. Once he locked them outside the house on a snowy winter day wearing nothing but shorts and T-shirts until their mother came home and rescued them.

When the husband was convicted of sexual assault and assault, Justice William Gorewich of Ontario court sentenced him to 18 months, citing mitigating factors that included the lack of a criminal record. The judge also noted a "significant cultural gap" between behaviour that is accepted in Canada and in Iran, and the "cultural impact" of changing countries.

That didn't cut much muster with the Ontario Court of Appeal, nor should it have.

On appeal by the Crown, Justices Mary Lou Benotto, Alexandra Hoy and David Doherty found the 18-month sentence to be "manifestly unfitand they imposed a far tougher, and entirely appropriate, four-year sentence.

They also went out of their way to send a powerful, timely message to the lower courts and the public in general that "cultural norms that condone or tolerate conduct contrary to Canadian criminal law" must not be a mitigating factor in sentencing. "Cultural differences do not excuse or mitigate criminal conduct," the appeals court held.

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