"The murder of young women to protect family honour, while sadly common in some countries, has emerged as a recognized social phenomenon in Western countries — including Canada.
"It is necessary that we talk honestly about this difficult topic if we are to prevent the practice. Avoiding it in the name of political correctness is a mistake.
"Some Canadians with close connections to honour-based cultures – such as in Syria, India or Pakistan — want to deflect attention from honour killings by insisting they are nothing more than another form of domestic violence – horrible and deeply wrong, as all abuse is, but otherwise not distinctly special.
"It is true that honour killings are but one manifestation of women’s oppression, which comes in many guises including the common domestic violence that threatens many Canadian women daily.
"But some of the differences among the various forms of women’s oppression are significant.
"'Honour killings’ distinctive features
"For example, police and prosecutors in the UK now recognize that there are features peculiar to 'honour killings.' In response, they have started to apply the methods developed to tackle organized crime, including police protection of key witnesses, during their investigations of any alleged 'honour killing.'
"One feature peculiar to 'honour killings,' they found, is family members meeting together to decide which steps to take, and who is going to take them, against the offending girl or woman.
"Far from being crimes of passion – committed in the heat of the moment – 'honour killings' are often premeditated hits, more like the execution of an out-of-favour gang member than a murder committed by a jealous husband.
"As one UK expert says 'honour killings' are often 'elaborate, pre-planned and can involve many suspects.' In fact, in the UK, some families which decided to get rid of a female member have hired professional assassins to do the dirty work.
"In one British case — which inspired changes in the way 'honour killings' are treated by law-enforcement officials there — a grandmother was sent to prison for life, along with her son, the victim’s husband, for orchestrating the murder of her daughter-in-law. The court found that the grandmother, as the dominant force in the extended family, had convened a family meeting to forbid the couple from divorcing, and decided that the daughter-in-law would be disposed of for her shameful (apparently adulterous) behaviour.
"The lead adviser to the UK’s Crown Prosecution Service said: 'We need to have a clearer picture of these offences so we can provide the best support to victims and prosecute those who are committing them as robustly as possible. By [identifying] these cases . . . we and the police can make sure that specialized support and expertise are brought in quickly.'
"To bring the point closer to home, consider the four deaths – alleged to be 'honour killing' – in Kingston, Ontario, earlier this year. Media reports describe evidence of planning over several months by the accused – members of the victims’ Montreal family, originally from Afghanistan."