Upon marriage, many cultures have the custom to provide the wife with a dowry. If you were married outside Canada and had an agreement to receive a dowry, that dowry may still be enforced in British Columbia and has been on multiple occasions, even when the agreement to pay a dowry had a religious aspect to it. Many times the husband may argue that you are not entitled to the dowry because it was agreed upon outside of Canada. That is simply not true.
The Supreme Court of Canada in 2007 in Bruker, which dealt with an agreement by a Jewish man to give his former wife a get, held that the fact that a dispute had a religious aspect did not make it non-justiciable. Individuals can convert their moral obligations into legally binding obligations (as long as the object of the contract is not prohibited by law or public policy). The Supreme Court overturned the Quebec Court of Appeal, which had held that the court should not get into the “religious thicket”, and that these were not civil obligations but “le devoir morale, le devoir de conscience”. In Bruker, the Court held that it would order the fulfillment of undertakings provided for in religious marriage contracts if the requirements for a civil contract under the provincial legislation were met. The husband paid the wife damages for failing to comply with a freely negotiated agreement.
In Islam, a mahr (in Arabic: مهر; Persian: مهريه; Turkish: Mehir also transliterated mehr, meher, mehrieh or mahriyeh) is a mandatory payment, in the form of money or possessions paid or promised to pay by the groom, or by groom’s father, to the bride at the time of marriage, that legally becomes her property.
The British Columbia Court in 1996, in the case of Nathoo v. Nathoo,  enforced a $20,000 mahr, and Justice Dorgan stated at paragraph 25:
“Our law continues to evolve in a manner which acknowledges cultural diversity… Attempts are made to be respectful of traditions which define various groups who live in a multicultural community. Nothing in the evidence before me satisfies me that it would be unfair to uphold provisions of an agreement entered into by these parties in contemplation of their marriage, which agreement specifically provides that it does not oust the provisions of the applicable law.”
In 2000 and 2004, two more cases in British Columbia enforced the mahr agreement, of $51,000 and $51,250 respectively, in addition to the division of family assets and spousal support [Amlani v. Hirani, 2000 BCSC 1653, 13 R.F.L. (5th) 1 [“Amlani“], and M. (N.M.) v. M. (N.S.)., 2004 BCSC 346, 26 B.C.L.R. (4th) 80.].
Please do not hesitate to contact Hart Legal for our expertise on the above issue.