Law in a Multicultural Society
Philosopher's book ponders balance between democracy's laws and cultural differences
BY REBECCA KENDALL
Negotiating a balance between the laws of democratic nations like Canada and the cultural differences of the people who make up the fabric of these countries can be difficult, says Prof Omid Payrow Shabani of the Department of Philosophy.
The last two decades have seen demands for equality and minority rights in Canada and policies to accommodate the justice claims made by different groups, he says.
To spark discussion and share different perspectives on the debate, he called on learned contributors from North America and Europe to submit chapters for Multiculturalism and Law: A Critical Debate, a book he edited and released earlier this year.
Issues that have recently made headlines and added to the growing discussion include the young female athlete in Quebec who was asked to remove her hijab, a traditional Muslim headdress, while on the soccer pitch, and the debate surrounding the use of sharia law that ended last year with the Ontario government rejecting the idea.
“Average Canadians regularly find themselves in contact with people who are different than themselves,” says Payrow Shabani. “Whether they're Indian in Vancouver, Ukrainian in Alberta, Jewish or Italian in Toronto or African in Montreal, people find themselves in a diverse context where they must find a way to maintain a political community that's democratic, functional and united.”
It's important to figure out how to use our differences to come together and create the laws and policies that govern us to live in peace, he says. “What's more important than that?”