Skip to main content

Ontario families would not be allowed to choose a faith-based tribunal to settle disputes such as divorce and custody under controversial new legislation.

Premier Dalton McGuinty announced in September that Ontario would not become the first Western jurisdiction to allow religious rules called sharia (Islamic law) to settle Muslim family disputes.

Mr. McGuinty upset several religious organizations by announcing he would stop the introduction of sharia and ban all religious arbitration in the province.

Story continues below advertisement

Attorney-General Michael Bryant, introducing the legislation on Tuesday, said it would ensure that "all family law arbitrations are conducted exclusively under Ontario and Canadian law."

People still would be free to seek a resolution of family disputes from religious leaders, but Mr. Bryant said it would amount to "advice only" and would not be enforceable by the courts.

Some Jewish and Muslim groups have vowed to fight to keep the faith-based tribunals. They complained that they had no input before Mr. McGuinty's surprise announcement in September.

The bill introduced by Mr. Bryant also authorizes the province to regulate family-law arbitrators for the first time, and sets out the training and other requirements that they must meet.

The changes also remove the ability of people who agree to family arbitration to waive their right to appeal - so anyone not satisfied after arbitration can ask an Ontario court for a review.

Report an error
As of December 20, 2017, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles as we switch to a new provider. We are behind schedule, but we are still working hard to bring you a new commenting system as soon as possible. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to