Will Canada be held responsible for Jamila Bibi’s death?

Published: September 18, 2014

This is the story of a woman who was recently deported to Pakistan after seven years, because Canadian immigration and Refugee protection laws felt that Jamila Bibi was not under any obvious threat back home.

This is not the story of a helpless woman who fled from her country, Pakistan, because of accusations of adultery and attempts on her life. It’s not about how 65-year-old Jamila Bibi just could not put her trust in the legal system in Pakistan.

This is the story of how even after she escaped certain, violent, retribution for allegedly committing adultery, her narrative was lost in the complexity of laws which first protected her and then threw her back to the wolves.

Jamila Bibi sought asylum in Canada in 2007 because her life was in danger after her husband accused her of adultery. She was deported to Pakistan on Tuesday because under the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, Jamila was not under any “obvious” threat back home.

Mutilating women, stoning them to death, or any number of methods of honour killings are nothing new in villages or even cities in Pakistan. According to Dr Muazzam Nasrullah, a public health specialist teaching at Emory and West Virginia University, US, “As many as 500 women and girls are killed for ‘honour’ in Pakistan each year, making it one of the most dangerous countries for women.”

Even though there are direct laws against honour killings, the figure keeps increasing every year. From suspecting an affair, seeking revenge for adultery, to handling property disputes by levelling false accusations, motives behind such deaths are plenty while the truth is seldom present.

In Jamila Bibi’s case, it was said to be a land dispute which led to accusations of adultery. Imagine a 65-year-old woman living in a village committing adultery? Isn’t it a bit of a stretch?

But let’s just consider for a second the accusations were true. Does she not have the right to be tried in a court of law? Does she not have the right to a second chance? A chance Canada did give her until this Tuesday, when they sealed her fate by deporting her.

Leaving threats to her life back in Pakistan, Jamila Bibi used to work in the kitchen of a small restaurant in Saskatoon, and was contributing to the Canadian economy, however meagre the amount. She was safe, at peace and there legally. There are numerous illegal immigrants residing in Canada. And many should be dealt with harshly because of their dishonest claims and antics. Surely no one will mourn their deportation.

In hindsight, this decision of the government makes little sense, especially when both the Office of the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights and Amnesty International had appealed for further review and consideration of her case before the final deportation.

There are many critics of the Harper government in Canada, primarily for his stringent laws on immigration. This incident further breathes fire into the opposition. But, Citizenship and Immigration Minister, Chris Alexander, continues to label the system as “fair and generous”.

Justice Marie-Josee Bedard said,

“The applicant has not presented evidence before this court that could support a finding that she will face risks if she is [relocated] to Pakistan that have not already been assessed on two occasions (by immigration officials).”

What evidence are they talking about? Did they expect Jamila Bibi to pull some strings even though they know she does not come from privilege back in her village? Or do they expect her accusers to now shower her with petals at the airport?

What makes this action of the Canadian government different from the numerous acts of brutality in Pakistan? We all nod our heads and shrug our shoulders when people like Jamila Bibi don’t get their rights in Pakistan, but what do we do when it comes to humanitarian establishments like Canada?

Is Canada to be held accountable if Jamila Bibi is killed in Pakistan, a country which has a continuing history of honour killings?

No one condones or justifies passing on the blame to a third-party. But in this case, Canada chose to get involved. Canada willingly gave Jamila Bibi refuge so now they cannot turn a deaf ear to her pleas. You can’t save a person from fire by drowning her in an ocean.

This is not a plea to let guilty people off the hook or to make undue exceptions in the law.  However, her appeals should have been given more time and consideration. Was that too much to handle for the Canadian government?

In a letter to the UN, Jamila wrote:

“I know my life would be in danger if I am sent back and I would rather have a peaceful death here than be killed for something that I did not do.”

Who is to say she does not deserve a peaceful death?


Nida Shahzeb

A Canada-based writer who strives to give meaning to life and its quirks. Also suffering from delusions involving a mutant alphabet bite. She blogs at: www.inkriched.com.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Critical

    Wow,so you dont want to improve the law and order situation in your country,but want another country with secular credentials to accept asylum from a woman complaining of domestic harassment…

    Then,tomorrow,there will be thousands of applications from all third world countries where everyone will talk of death threats and want asylum in Canada….

    Why should Canada open its doors for everyone?? Would you allow your house to be an asylum for the lesser fortunate????Recommend

  • Anshuman Tripathy

    Will pakistan be held responsible for Aisa Bibi’s unwarranted imprisonment on the fabricated charges of blasphemy?Recommend

  • Moiz Omar

    As both a Pakistan and a Canadian, I am disappointed. As a Pakistani I am disappointed how generally dangerous this is for women. As a Canadian, I am disappointed she was not given asylum even though she had a genuine claim too.Recommend

  • Insolent

    Deportation from Canada? Seriously its the first time I have heard something like this.Recommend

  • O’Canada

    Canada gives asylum to TuQ but not this woman!! Where are all those who sing praises of Canada??Recommend

  • Feeeen

    We need to protect her! She’s a Pakistani not a CanadianRecommend

  • fze

    Ah! the injustice of life is perfect.Recommend

  • Zane

    It is sad and a Shame that Canada with such a tiny population of only 30 Million People and top 5 Largest countries on the planet could not find a room for 1 genuine asylum seeker.Recommend

  • siesmann

    The sad part is that the justice condemning her to a sure death is a female.Recommend

  • So Jamila Bibi is alive and nothing has transpired yet to to call Canada’s judgment in deporting her into question? Is this not scare mongering and misrepresentation of the worst sort? Perhaps even blackmail of the Canadian government? Should Pakistan not take charge of its own affairs and look after the life and property of its citizens? Recommend

  • Parvez

    ….and my comment was not allowed. Will try again very briefly :
    Pakistan legal system not good……and now, Canada legal system not good because the learned judge ruled otherwise. Giving this a heavy moral coating does not eclipse the legal position.Recommend

  • Pak Patriot

    Why does she not seek asylum in a Muslim country, where she will feel “at home” ?
    Do Muslim countries except asylum seekers ?Recommend

  • Sadaf Shahab

    Number 1. Canada is not a muslim country so why is Jamila Bibi going to Canada.
    Number 2. Islam gives women full rights so this women will be treated for justly in Pakistan.
    Number 3. Some people commenting here giving positive for Canada and negative for Pakistan are a disgrace.Recommend

  • MJ

    Although I agree with your logic but in Pakistan’s defense, the country is host to more refugees for the longest period (millions of Afghans) than any other country in the world.Recommend

  • Hozur

    Big joke…Canada responsible for this because Pakistan cannot take care of its citizens Recommend

  • blessed to be a muslim

    Except for negative portrayal of both Pakistan and Canada, there is nothing in your article. You need lots in acquiring knowledge before starting to pass judgements on issues you dont understand in depth. Real life is multi diemensional not 1 or 2 or even 3.Recommend

  • Raj – USA

    Just in the six months preceding Bangladesh war, over 10 million refugees from Bangladesh moved to Calcutta alone. I grew up in Calcutta and have seen this first hand. All pavements were taken up by the refugees who were living and sleeping there. Cholera became epidemic. For the first time we had a disease of the eye, Conjunctivitis, also known as pinkeye. We did not know what it was and even named it “Joy Bangla”. The Bangladeshi refugees have now spread all over India and as more have been flowing in over the years, their numbers in India are estimated at around 30 million.Recommend

  • Abdul

    Nida Shahzeb blaming Canada for this woman’s fate is easier than improving things at home. Recommend

  • vasan

    “Is Canada to be held accountable if Jamila Bibi is killed in Pakistan, a country which has a continuing history of honour killings?”
    Now this must be a real joke. A PAkistani who could not prove that she is in danger is Pakistan is deported from Canada to Pakistan. If she gets killed in Pakistan, then the killers, who are likely to be pakistanis than canadians are not responsible or accountable. But Canada is.

  • IndianDude

    Get your own house in order. It is not Canada or west’s duty to compensate pakistanis for their own willingly created bankrupt society.Recommend

  • Stupid

    She is alive thank God, what kind of topic is this?Recommend

  • Gp65

    She was given all the chances to prove that her case was genuine. In 7 years she failed to do so.

    Why is it shameful for Canada that Pakistani citizens feel unsafe in their own country?Recommend

  • Gp65

    Her case is genuine? How so? She was given 7 years to prove that her life was in danger. She failed to do so. Are you saying that any Pakistani woman who claims that her life is at threat due to. Honor killing should be allowed asylum in Canada?Recommend

  • observer

    Pakistan was paid over $3B to house the Afghan refugees during the war against Soviet Union. All that Pakistan did was to let them rot in tent slums and didn’t spend much of the $3B on the refugeesRecommend

  • observer

    Excuse me! Why is it responsibility of Canada and other western countries to provide asylum to everyone claiming abuse in their countries? Shouldn’t it be the responsibility of Pakistan, in this case, to provide protection to its citizen? My read is that this lady just like million others is making false claim to claim asylum.Recommend

  • anugrah

    Nida Shahzeb How easy for you to blame the country which has given you shelter and a living. And how easily you let off the country you left behind. Yes Canada is unjust. Clearly you do not like it here. Please go back to your beloved Pakistan and then write such treasonous articles.Recommend

  • http://www.pakistantribune.com.pk AzharNadeem

    Unfortunate…Women are special creation of God…must be respected and protected…no other choiceRecommend

  • Nazir Jan

    This woman is working as a servant in the house of this author. So the author represented her case to cause some influence to retain her.Recommend

  • bigsaf

    There have been cases where the threat has turned out to be true. I recall one South American’s death upon her deportation and return. There was another story of an elderly Pakistani father (due to his daughter’s, who became a Canadian citizen, psycho ex-husband) being deported and assaulted, and was judged by the court earlier as ‘lacking proof’.

    This is not Canada’s sole responsibility and the East has much to pay for its sins. But if Canada’s judging the cases of those asylum seekers who made it to Canadian soil, they need to get it right as it can cost lives. Let’s not be self-deprecating to all Western actions. Not all Western immigration experiences are pleasant, and does sometimes remind one of the contemptuous Eastern experiences.

    Unfortunately under the right-wing conservative Harperites, compassion for refugees has gone so downhill that one of their top politicians advocated for refusing healthcare to refugees (which came into practice). You have to be familiar with the lawyers’ and judicial story.Recommend

  • John Sollows

    This Canadian is disgusted at the dismissive attitude too many Canadians have towards this unfortunate and her case.
    Our ethics have gone down the toilet. Shame on us.Recommend

  • MichiGan

    Wow! Blaming another country for you own inability to protect your citizens. Priceless!Recommend

  • Hasan Wasay

    If Pakistan was not held accountable the first time if it wont be held accountable the second time around if something happened to her why the hell sould canada be ?? y should they be held accountable on a mich higher code of morality She is not even their citizen? and apparently got alot of time on their soil in the name of protection??Recommend

  • Kate

    I worked with a 60 year old woman from Pakistan who was having an affair with a married man here in Canada. It does happen and age has nothing to do with it. She knew the law and broke it anyway. That was her choice, not ours. If she disagreed with it, she should have applied for residency here first.Recommend