A year after Shafia conviction, fight to end family violence inches along
Grassroots organization reaches out to Montreal communities
One year after a judge convicted Mohammad Shafia, his wife Tooba Yahya and their son Hamed for the murders of Shafia's three teenage daughters and his first wife, a Montreal organization says it is reaching out to help prevent violence in ethnic communities.
At the time of the Shafia conviction, Justice Robert Maranger said motivation for the murders stemmed from a "completely twisted concept of honour … that has absolutely no place in civilized society."
During the trial, the Crown prosecutors maintained the killings were a response to a perceived sense that the four women had tainted the family's honour.
In the hopes of preventing similar cases, the federal government gave Montreal's Shield of Athena Family Services $348,000 last March. The non-profit organization for victims of family violence used the money to launch an awareness campaign about honour-based violence.
"It's incredible to see the strength that it takes to come see us and say, 'I am a victim of conjugal violence'"—Maud Pontel, Shield of Athena
At the time, executive director of the Shield of Athena Melpa Kamateros said her organization had noted a rise in so-called honour crimes.
Today, the organization's goal is to create a permanent support network for victims. It plans to hire community liaison workers who can work directly with individuals in their language of origin.
Shield of Athena co-ordinator Maud Pontel said defining the concept of family violence and honour-based violence can be challenging, especially when dealing with various ethnic communities whose preferred language may not be French or English.
"It's very difficult to define what is honour," Pontel said .
"It's baby steps for a lot of the newer communities," said Polly Tsonis, who is also a co-ordinator with the organization.
The Shield of Athena is also working with police, child protection services and community groups to help people understand, recognize and prevent honour-based violence.
"Knowledge is power and when you give that to people they feel empowered … We give them options, we give them choices," Pontel said.
"It's incredible to see the strength that it takes to come see us and say, 'I am a victim of conjugal violence'"