Activist Aruna Papp says more needs to be done to prevent honour killings and honour-based violence in Canada. Papp was the keynote speaker at a workshop held over November 12 and 13 in Calgary to train police officers, social workers and others likely to be involved with the issue to recognize its victims and be effective when helping them.
The workshop, Honour-Based Violence — Training to Eradicate this Global Issue, was organized by the Alberta Community Crime Prevention Association (ACCPA), an organization focused on crime prevention strategies and bringing multiple stakeholder groups together to discuss criminal issues. Papp says research suggests the rate of honour-based violence is increasing globally. She also believes that though it is mainly practised and culturally supported in Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Africa, it is “absolutely” occurring enough in Canada to merit more attention.
ACCPA president John Winterdyk agrees. Winterdyk has worked extensively in sub-Saharan Africa studying how beliefs about honour and punishment are applied there. “Just by the demographics of Canada we have so many people from other parts of the world that the probability [honour-based violence is occurring] is much higher than we care to acknowledge,” he says.
Neither Winterdyk nor Papp could provide statistics to back up claims of an increasing problem.
Papp was born in India and, after an arranged marriage, immigrated to Ontario in 1972. She has since founded three organizations to assist victims of honour crimes. She says the issue received increased media attention in Canada after the “honour-killing” murders of Aqsa Parvez, Amandeep Kaur Dhillon, Amandeep Atwal and four women in the Shafia family, yet few people here have a deep understanding of it. She believes this lack of understanding means authorities are not trained to help. “Social workers are very well equipped to do counselling, but the cultural aspect becomes a barrier when they don’t understand the ideology behind honour-based violence: What is it? What does it look like? Why is it perpetrated? How is it manifested? They need to understand all that before they can help,” Papp explains. “The way the counselling and intake is taught in universities, the model is set for white Anglo-Saxon middle class clients, so it does not apply to a whole lot of clients.
“It is an ideology about men controlling women. It manifests in different ways and different cultures and that’s what we talk about,” Papp says, adding that it is not the same as spousal abuse as it is typically understood in the West. Honour-based violence is often complicated by the inclusion of extended family or male family members in using force and violence to punish a woman for what they consider dishonourable behaviour in order to restore the family honour they believe her behaviour tarnished. That means police and social workers are faced with protecting her from a number of aggressors instead of just one.