Muslim Community Info Session on Domestic Violence, Elder Abuse, and Hate Crimes
By Sana Siddiqui,
Source: Muslim Youth Canada
Domestic Violence is a complex, tragic and underreported crime across all cultures
and societies and unfortunately, the Muslim community is no exception. Recent studies
have shown that Muslim women suffer from emotional, physical and financial abuse
from their husbands and that physical violence occurs in at least 10% of Muslim
families in America (Alkhateeb, 1999; Alkhateeb, 2010; Rianon and Sheldon, 2003).
On June 26th 2010 the Vancouver Police, Family Services of Greater Vancouver and
the Muslim community came together to discuss the programs and services available
for victims of domestic violence and their families, elder abuse and hate crime.
Around 35 Muslim community members attended this information session at Collingwood
Neighbourhood House in Vancouver. Also present were support workers from MOSIAC
and Vancouver and Lower Mainland Multicultural Family Services.
Imam Shujaath began the program by emphasizing the Islamic values of compassion,
mercy, kindness, patience, restraint of anger and love towards humanity and particularly
towards one’s family. The Imam stressed that contemporary social problems
are as a result of failure to adhere to a proper Islamic way of life and that their
solution lies in returning to the Quran and sunnah, increasing Islamic knowledge
and controlling one’s emotions. He clearly stated that abusing family members
is not only unIslamic and shameful, but it is the responsibility of those who know
about it to confront the abusive behaviour and if necessary, to seek help from family,
community and social services.
Next was a presentation about domestic violence from a Vancouver Police Detective
and Family Services of Greater Vancouver Counsellor from the Domestic Violence Unit.
They explained that they operate under a special partnership in which a police detective
investigates, interviews and forms a case for charges to be laid or the case to
be dropped. The decision to arrest the aggressor is made only if the police officer
has reasonable and probable grounds to believe that an offense occurred and charges
are laid upon recommendation by the Crown; these decisions are not in the hands
of the victim.
The counsellor, on the other hand, supports the victim through her choices, provides
her short term counselling and referrals to community resources that can help keep
the victim and the victim’s family safe. She stressed that they work to find
resources that are respectful and appropriate to cultural, religious, age and other
factors to best support and serve the victim and do not press the victim to make
certain choices that are against her preference. Since these victim services counsellors
with the Vancouver police are employed by Family Services of Greater Vancouver and
not the Vancouver Police, they can offer greater confidentiality to victims. Thus
the police detective and counsellor work towards holding the offender accountable
and keeping the victim safe in their own roles.
Most domestic cases are handled by general police officers, not the Domestic Violence
Unit, which specializes in severe, reoccurring and high-risk cases only. Yet, despite
the fact the Domestic Violence Unit only takes the most serious cases, they still
handle about 3000-5000 cases a year. You can imagine how many cases are happening
in Vancouver alone, let alone across Metro Vancouver, British Columbia and Canada.
A second presentation followed focusing on elder abuse—a newer unit within
the Vancouver police comprising of one team of police detective and community counsellor
modelled after the Domestic Violence Unit. This unit looks at physical, financial
and sexual abuse of elders and neglect. It was truly sad to hear that the majority
of their cases are of children or grandchildren abusing their elders. Cases are
mainly referred by the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee and Vancouver Coastal
Health. In addition to investigating abuse and neglect, holding the offender accountable
and protecting the elder, a long term goal of the unit is to bring the offender
and victim back together over time and reunite them in a healthy and respectful
The final presentation was given by Inspector Mario Giardini, the new head of the
Diversity and Aboriginal Policing Section of the Vancouver Police. Inspector Giardini
explained that under the Criminal Code—hate crimes are not a separate charge
but are a factor considered at the time of sentencing. These include criminal offenses
committed against a person or property motivated by hate against an identifiable
group (such as race, religion, place of origin) and fall into three categories—mischief/vandalism,
assaults, uttering threats and hate propaganda. Thus the key factor is that not
only did a criminal offense occur, but was it motivated by bias or hate against
a specific group. In addition, there are other relevant offenses that could also
be considered hate crimes such as advocating genocide and mischief at a place of
worship. The Inspector urged the community to report all acts that may fall under
these categories so that they can be brought to the attention of the police and
The event concluded with an opportunity to informally speak with the police members,
community victim services workers and community members attending. Materials were
available to further explain the services of MOSAIC, Vancouver & Lower Mainland
Multicultural Family Services and other community organizations. I personally obtained
the contact information of the Victim Services Manager from Family Services of Greater
Vancouver and she expressed particular interest in attending a meeting of the local
Muslim women’s groups to create programs and services specific to the needs
of Muslim clients.
For more information:
VICTIMLINK: 1 800 563 0808
Provides immediate crisis support 24 hours a day 7 days a week. It is confidential,
anonymous, multilingual and TTY.
Vancouver Police Department Domestic Violence Unit: 604 717 2653 and Victim
Services 604 717 2737
Family Services of Greater Vancouver: 604 874 2938
Provides various victim and family support services
Vancouver & Lower Mainland Multicultural Family Support Services: 604 436
Provides support in various languages
MOSAIC: 604 254 9626
Provides support in various languages http://www.mosaicbc.com/
Editor's note: This story is republished with the permission of
Muslim Youth of Canada.