Canadians' duty to remember Shafia girls, PM says

Prime Minister Stephen Harper says its the responsibility of all Canadians to ensure that "barbaric acts" like those that led to the deaths of four Montreal women never happen again.

'Barbaric practice' of so-called honour crimes denounced by Harper

The three Shafia daughters and their father's first wife were murdered in 2009 by their parents and eldest brother. (CBC)

Prime Minister Stephen Harper says it is the duty of all Canadians to remember the murdered Shafia daughters and ensure that no one else falls victim to so-called honour crimes. 

Harper made the comments during a stop Friday in Montreal, the same city where Geeti, Zainab and Sahar Shafia tried to assimilate into life as Canadian teenagers and where one of the country’s most horrifying murder plots was hatched.

"There is nothing honourable about so-called honour crimes," he said. "Indeed this is a barbaric practice which our laws rightly deem to be heinous and indefensible acts and nothing less."

Awareness campaign

Harper announced $348,000 in funding for Montreal’s Shield of Athena Family Services, the non-profit organization for victims of family violence that will be launching an awareness campaign on honour crimes.

Melpa Kamateros, executive director of the Shield of Athena, said her organization has noted a rise in so-called honour crimes.

"For many communities in Quebec, family violence is still a taboo subject," she said.

"To break the taboo, we have to break the silence," she said. "We have to provide services that are linguistically and culturally attuned to the ethnic communities and to victims coming from these communities."

The Shafia family, originally from Afghanistan, moved to Montreal in 2007. Three daughters and patriarch Mohammad Shafia's first wife were found murdered and submerged in a car in the Rideau canal near Kingston, Ont., just two years later.

In January, three members of the Shafia family were convicted of first-degree murder in the deaths.

The prosecution’s case revolved around the notion of family dishonour in the minds of the Shafia parents and eldest brother.

That perceived blight was brought about by the victims' boyfriends and disobedience, according to the Crown.

During the extensive trial, court heard from numerous witnesses who said the women were isolated in a physically and emotionally abusive household and tightly controlled by their parents and brother.

Despite several interactions with child protection and a stay at a women's shelter by eldest daughter Zainab, the girls were never removed from the home after they retracted or diminished their claims of abuse in the presence of their parents and brother.