The alleged ‘honour killing’ that took the lives of three sisters

Women had reached out for help in the weeks leading up to their murder

A family shame

Sean Kilpatrick/CP

Mohammad Shafia, his wife, Tooba Yahya, and son, Hamed, allegedly committed unspeakable horrors. According to the police, the couple, along with their son, murdered their three daughters and Shafia’s first wife, Rona Mohammad, by forcing their car into the locks at Kingston Mills, drowning the four of them in three metres of water—an apparent bid to restore the family’s honour. The daughters dishonoured the family, it would appear, for having the gall to dress up, wear makeup and flirt with boys. “May the devil s–t on their graves,” Mohammad Shafia later told his wife in a conversation secretly taped by police.

All the more disturbing, perhaps, is the fact that the three daughters had themselves reached out for help from Quebec’s children’s services, yet suffered the terrible fate nonetheless. Prosecutor Laurie Lacelle told the Kingston, Ont., courtroom recently that child protection workers had visited 17-year-old Sahar in the month before she and her sisters, Zainab, 19, and Geeti, 13, drowned along with the woman they called “auntie.”

The social worker determined that Sahar’s case was genuine, yet was forced to close the file after Sahar clammed up, Lacelle said. The reason for the teenager’s sudden silence: child welfare authorities are required by law to report anything the child says to the parents. “We can’t keep that from them,” says Gerald Savoie, a staff consultant at Montreal’s Batshaw Youth and Family Services. “We have to validate, and confront them with the information.”

Coaxing the full story from a child can amount to a Catch-22: social workers try their best to get the unvarnished truth from children, yet in order to talk to the child alone they must first get the consent of the parents—who may have a vested interest in keeping the child quiet.

Savoie, who did not consult the Shafia family directly, is nonetheless unequivocal. “It’s a failure,” he says. “These situations can be very complex, and the people in the field are just that: people. There will be cases where you missed something, or you see something but you can’t go further. You can’t go to court on a gut feeling.”

The Shafias might also have fooled social workers with their acting chops, which could very well have been on full display in the weeks following the drowning. During this time, the despondent couple and their son invited the news media into their Laval home. Teary-eyed, they showed the cameras pictures of their daughters. How, they asked, could such a terrible thing have happened to them? “You can be struck by the stories people tell,” says Savoie. “Sometimes they can sound quite logical, even brilliant.”


The alleged ‘honour killing’ that took the lives of three sisters

  1. so you mean child services may have actually contributed to the murders by reporting to the parents what the girl said…and so please explain to me how on earth that protected them from the complaint, and their ultimate murder? 

    • They did do the wrong thing by telling the parents. Isnt the law stated that you cant release any information without consent of the giver. So basically it is child services fault because they have given the information to the parents. That just added more fuel to the fire….!!!
      So angry right now 

    • How could the canadian legislator imagine that parents might kill their own children in cold blood – I mean not out of depression ?

      The issue here is not stupidity in our law but cultural differences, to put it mildly.
      Can we deny them any longer ?
      Institutions cannot fit several cultures.
      Peoples come first, with their members sharing common values, which define the people; the n institutions, then laws can be devised on that basis.
      Here we see what happens when there is a mismatch between law and culture.
      If we really want to accomodate very different cultures, we need separate institutions and laws for each.

      • So you are saying that it is okay to murder just because of culture.  There are many differences in various cultures that are a pleasure to enjoy but oppression and values that are unjust and unfair can not be tolerated.  Depression and all three of them??  i am Canadian and historical we are all immigrants that have built this country.  Most people who come here appreciate what opportunity there is and leave their birth country for a better life.

  2. This family should be deported back to their country of birth…

    • I know you are soo right.
      That is illegal here so why dont they just go back to their country where that sort of violence belongs.
      I reccomend you to watch “The stoning of Soraya.M” Its so sad.

  3. That is such a stupid law!!! How is that restoring honour to the family. They say they are christians but the mighty lor wouldnt want that.
    If i remember One of gods commandments were to never kill another.

  4. Wish that happened in Texas.

  5. Batshaw Youth and Family Centers had the legal / lawful “AUTHORITY” to SAVE these children!

    Instead of abiding by their lawful mandate and “PROTECTING” these poor innocent and vulnerable children, – this by IMMEDIATELY REMOVING THE CHILDREN FROM THEIR HOME – (where everyone knew they were being severely physically and psychologically ABUSED) …… Batshaw simply DECIDED to close the file and walk away (for a reason SOCIETY needs to KNOW, in order to stop this type of insane decision making at Batshaw from continuing) !

    The most troubling thing here is that – in all the MEDIA accounts of this situation I’ve read to date….. NO-ONE HAS MENTIONED THAT Batshaw Youth and Family Centers could have removed these victims /
    children from their home by following the law and using sections 46 (a) (d) and (g) of the
    Quebec Youth Protection Act.

    Quebec Youth Protection Act.

    46. If
    the director accepts the report, he may take immediate protective
    measures to ensure the security of the child for a maximum period of 48
    hours even before making an assessment to determine if the security or
    development of the child is in danger in accordance with section 49.

    If the circumstances warrant
    it, the director may also take immediate protective measures for a
    maximum period of 48 hours at any point during the intervention, whether
    or not a new report has been made.

    As far as possible, the child
    and the child’s parents must be consulted with respect to the
    application of immediate protective measures.

    The director may apply the following, as immediate protective measures:

    (a) immediate removal of the child from his present environment;

    (b) entrusting
    the child to an institution operating a rehabilitation centre or a
    hospital centre, to one of the child’s parents, to a person who is
    important to the child, in particular a grandparent or another member of
    the extended family, to a foster family, to an appropriate body or to
    any other person without delay;

    (c) (subparagraph repealed);

    (d) restricting contact between the child and his parents;

    (e) prohibiting
    the child from contacting certain persons designated by the director,
    or prohibiting those persons from contacting the child;

    (f) requiring
    a person to ensure that the child and his parents comply with the
    conditions imposed on them and to inform the director if the conditions
    are not complied with;

    (g) applying any other measure he considers necessary in the interest of the child.

    Where it is decided to entrust the child to an institution referred to in subparagraph b
    of the fourth paragraph, the director shall specify whether or not
    foster care is included in the measure. The designated institution is
    bound to receive the child.

    1977, c. 20, s. 46; 1981, c. 2, s. 11; 1984, c. 4, s. 22; 1992, c. 21, s. 222; 1994, c. 35, s. 26; 2006, c. 34, s. 22.

    IMAGINE………………………. If Batshaw would have NOT ignored these poor children / girls / victims…… THEY MIGHT STILL BE ALIVE TODAY.

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