moved that Bill , be read the second time and referred to committee.
She said: Madam Speaker, I dedicate my Bill to François L'Heureux, who was more than just a mentor; he was like a second father to me.
I was incredibly lucky that he was part of my life. The moments we shared are among the most memorable of my life. He was a brilliant lawyer. He always argued his cases with passion and conviction.
His passing is a huge loss on every level. He was respected and admired by all. He was attentive to everyone's needs. His friendship was the greatest gift that life could offer to those who knew and understood him.
I thought it was for a lifetime, but a few weeks ago, he left us all behind. I wake up every day thinking that I live in a world without Maître L'Heureux, a world that needs more people like him. He was a bold, courageous man who always stood to defend human rights and fight oppression. He did not fear anything and to me he was larger than life. He was a giant who walked this earth.
He was sensitive and had a soft heart, he wanted everyone around him to be okay and would do whatever he could to make it so. He was selfless and a man of honour. He was incredibly intelligent, deep and thoughtful, a real class act. He gave me invaluable advice on all aspects of my life. He meant something different to each person, but the one message that came back to me over and over was that every time somebody asked him for help, he would never refuse.
I never would have imagined that he would not be able to be here for the debate on my bill. He was always there for me, to encourage me or to give me advice during difficult periods. He was my guardian angel. I will cherish the memory of our times together and his words of wisdom and love.
He always ended his conversations by saying, “Okay friends, I have to go.” I would reply, “Hugs, Mr. L'Heureux. We love you.” We will always love him.
It is with a great deal of emotion that I introduce in the House today Bill , an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Judges Act regarding violence against an intimate partner.
This enactment would amend the Criminal Code to require a justice, before making a release order in respect of an accused who is charged with an offence against their intimate partner, to consider whether it is desirable, in the interests of the safety and security of any person, to include as a condition of the order that the accused wear an electronic monitoring device.
The enactment would also amend the Judges Act to provide for continuing education seminars for judges on matters related to intimate partner violence and coercive control.
I am grateful for the work that the member for and the member for have done with Dr. Kagan and Maître Viater to give Keira a voice. With all of these efforts combined, we will help prevent such horrendous acts from taking place in the future. I truly appreciate their support and strong advocacy to make sure that domestic violence in all its forms will be taken seriously throughout the judicial process.
The two initiatives within my proposed bill complement each other and are supported by the statistics and studies that demonstrate more needs to be accomplished in order to halt femicides and filicides, as well as domestic violence, offences that seem to increase by the year, especially the last two years during the pandemic. In its December 6, 2021 edition, the Canadian Medical Association Journal, in its article, “The physician's role in the prevention of femicide in Canada”, recalled some staggering findings. It stated:
In Canada, a woman is murdered every 2.5 days—ranging from 144 to 178 murders each year between 2015 and 2019—and in 2021, the rate of femicide is trending even higher.... Of the women murdered, 50% were killed by intimate partners and 26% by family members. Ending the relationship does not end a woman’s risk of death: 20%–22% of intimate partner femicides were perpetrated by estranged spouses within the first 18 months of separation.
Women account for 80% of reported incidents of intimate partner violence (IPV), which affects all ages, races, ethnicities and socioeconomic strata. Women at highest risk are those who are young (15-24 yr), immigrants, refugees, Indigenous or living with disabilities. Furthermore, data on femicide in Canada show alarming trends among nonurban and Indigenous women. From 2016 to 2019, women living in nonurban areas accounted for 42% of femicides in Canada, even though only 16% of Canadians lived outside of cities, and one-quarter of all murdered women in Canada are Indigenous.
Furthermore, violent and aggressive behaviour toward female partners is not always weighed heavily enough to change outcomes during decision-making in Canadian family court, such as a child custody case.
That last part makes me think of the tragic story of little Keira Kagan, who was killed by her father in what was likely a murder-suicide. The signs were there.
Dr. Kagan-Viater and her spouse, Philip Viater, are working very hard to ensure other families do not suffer the pain of losing a child under such unspeakable circumstances.
They believe that providing continuing education on intimate partner violence and coercive control to judges who rule on custody and parental-access cases is a positive step towards better protecting children from violent and abusive parents and to protect their parents from intimate partner violence.
I completely agree with them. In my work as a lawyer practising family law and criminal law, I witnessed just how deeply intimate partner violence can insidiously invade all aspects of the victim's life and how it can even leave deep scars on children who witness or experience that violence.
Abuse is sometimes silent and takes the form of coercive control, while other times it leaves physical marks. In many cases, victims become increasingly helpless and unrecognizable to those who know them.
This is an extremely complex phenomenon, and as time goes on, it becomes clearer that violence against intimate partners and children can take many forms and manifest in many different ways.
That is why all those involved in such cases, such as judges, lawyers, doctors, social workers and law enforcement, must be aware of the latest developments and scientific findings regarding domestic violence and its repercussions.
In Spain, where electronic monitoring was used in domestic violence, it showed 45 women were killed by their intimate partners, and 72 in 2004.
A pilot conducted in Australia suggests that electronic monitoring contributed to an 82% reduction of high-risk incidents. Often, intimate victims do not denounce their abuser for various reasons such as the conviction they will not be believed by the system, shame, fear of repercussions on the victim and/or their children, financial anxiety and so forth.
However, the telltale signs are habitually present in such circumstances. That is why those who interact with victims of this type of abuse should have or should develop the ability to detect even when it is silent or not denounced. Judges play a pivotal role in our society. They are the guardians of democracy as well as constitutional and human rights.
They sometimes have the daunting task of adjudicating complex factual cases, and that could have a very long-lasting effect on people's lives. That is why it is imperative for our judiciary to have access to complete training on complex and evolving matters, such as domestic violence and coercive control, so that the best outcomes can be reached with their decisions.
Our way of life evolves. If we take a second to think, our interactions have changed since COVID-19, and that is only in the past two years. The rule of law must keep up with these changes and challenging times. As seen in 2021, a pandemic year, the femicide rate was trending even higher than in previous years. We cannot ignore these sobering and sometimes terrifying statistics.
The Lawyer's Daily, in an article from its December 21, 2021 edition, reported on a voluminous study conducted by Jean-Pierre Guay and Francis Fortin, professors of criminology at the Université de Montréal who were mandated by the Quebec government to study the use of electronic tracking devices. The study had found that these increased a complainant's sense of safety and developed a feeling of empowerment and autonomy in complainants, while “allowing for a more focused and optimized police response”.
In other words, where implemented, electronic monitoring can and will save lives. I think everyone will agree that there is nothing more important in this world than the preservation of human life. The bill I propose is meant to do just that.
I was shaken by the story of Ms. Khaoula Grissa, who narrowly escaped death in December 2019. Her ex-partner broke into her house and lay in wait to rape and kill her. Ms. Grissa bravely did everything she could to avoid that by moving to a different apartment and changing her car. She knew full well what her ex-partner was capable of. In the past he had violated restraining orders, and the police had told him they were keeping an eye on him. That did not prevent him from brazenly entering her home. She was able to escape by locking herself in the bathroom with her two-year-old daughter, but not before the man raped her. Many other victims have lost their lives to their intimate partner.
Ms. Grissa openly stated that the system failed her and that the memory of that terrifying day is forever burned into her brain.
My bill will not solve the problem of domestic violence and its devastating repercussions; however, it is my firm belief and that of the people who helped me with this project that it will be one of the solutions to better protect victims of domestic violence.
I invite my esteemed colleagues to join me in recognizing the usefulness and importance of this bill by voting in favour of it.
Madam Speaker, I want to thank the member for for introducing this bill. I want to thank her for her efforts to right a wrong in our court system with her bill that will ensure that we educate judges on domestic violence and coercive control and, most importantly, I want to tell her that she has the support of the member of Parliament for and members on this side of the House.
I want to share the story of Keira. I want to share the story of her mother Jennifer, her stepfather Philip and her baby brother. I want to share the story of her family, of her friends and of her community. I want to share the story of Jenn and Phil’s pleas for Keira’s safety in the face of well-documented, known and proven coercive control and abuse in our court system.
Keira was a whip-smart, rambunctious and beautiful four-year-old whose family was from Thornhill and whose life was stolen by an angry father who killed himself and Keira just over two years ago. Keira should be playing with her friends. She should be making her parents proud. She should be protecting her little brother. This was entirely preventable. Keira should be seven years old. Instead, today, Keira is a statistic of a broken system that failed her. She is a court file number of those who did not know what they were looking for. She is anything but. She was a daughter, a granddaughter, a big sister, a friend and a neighbour. She was so many things. She was an entire world of light and her death was entirely preventable.
I cannot begin to imagine the heartbreak and the pain of the Kagan family. Keira’s mother Jenn and stepfather Phil, in addition to being busy parents, a busy doctor, and a busy lawyer respectively, both have become full-time advocates for changes to the court system to educate judges on domestic violence and coercive control. That is where this bill came from. While nothing will bring back their daughter, they are on the front lines of ensuring that what happened to Keira will never happen to another child in this country again. That is a tremendous responsibility.
For victims of domestic abuse, their struggle to protect themselves and their children is a petrifying reality. Parents place their trust and their faith in the family courts to provide child protection. They would likely believe that decision-makers in the system are making decisions from a place of knowledge and appropriate training. It should never have never been up to Jenn and Phil to plead with judges to show them what they needed to see.
If someone wants to be an accredited mediator in this province, they have to do 21 hours of mandatory domestic violence training, which has to be updated every year for five years, but judges do not. If judges were properly trained in understanding what violent family situations looked like, if they knew what they were looking for, they would have been properly equipped to ensure Keira’s life would have been saved.
Jenn’s cry for action as a mother resonated in my community and in communities across the country. Jenn and Phil did the work and now it is up to members of this House to show them that their work and their courage to share their story will be the legacy of a painful journey they will always know. This was entirely preventable.
I speak to Keira’s parents often. Even more often I speak with our mutual friends, friends whose children loved Keira. I want to leave colleagues with a sense of the impact of Keira’s death on her friends.
Zach is seven years old. He said, “I really really miss Keira bad and hope she would be still alive now and I am really sad that she did die. She really liked to play with dogs. I liked to go on trips with her and go fun places with her and I liked to have meals with her and I liked to do a lot of things with her and I miss her every single day.”
Ben, who is nine, said, “Keira was like a little cousin to me. She always acted like a little girl and a little boy at the same time, which was very cool. We would go swimming and do a lot of fun stuff. We would make lots of noise in the hallway of her condo. She was funny, crazy and fun. I really miss Keira.”
Taylor is seven. She said she missed play dates with Keira and that she knows they would have been best friends. She asked if she could celebrate Keira’s birthday, and she and her mother had an extra cupcake for Keira.
These are just a few of the quotes and stories from a whole community that has been affected by this. Children aged seven and nine should never have to cope with the death of one of their friends. This was entirely preventable. Keira should be seven years old.
There are so many Canadians who are currently experiencing domestic violence at the hands of a parent or at the hands of their partner. Domestic violence leaves scars. It breaks people. It silences them. Children are not just exposed to domestic violence. They experience it. Children who experience domestic violence have higher rates of mental health issues, anxiety, depression, panic attacks and eating disorders, and the list goes on.
Members of my party, for a long time before I was in this place, have supported recommendations on adding terms such as “coercive control” to the Criminal Code. I am sincerely grateful to see it in this bill today. However, I never thought that was enough. I believe this bill is a start to see that the injustice this little girl faced is never repeated. It is so the many other victims of domestic violence can see an outcome. We have the power in this place to change this.
While I support this bill, I also believe that imposing tough sentences on those who assault their spouse or partner is needed, while making it easier for victims to escape their abusers and rebuild their lives. Further amendments to the Criminal Code are needed so there is an aggravating factor in sentencing for assault. Mandatory minimum penalties of two years should also be imposed. I hope that this conversation is a start to the much-needed, broader reform to protect victims, victims like Keira.
I think members will remember that the Hon. Rona Ambrose introduced legislation in this House in 2017, which required judges to undergo training with respect to sexual assault cases. That legislation eventually became law, and so should this bill.
Yesterday, Keira’s mother told me a story about an interaction she fondly remembered about her daughter. Jenn said jokingly that if Keira did not behave, she was going to take her back to the baby store. Without hesitation, the rambunctious four-year-old snapped back that she was going to bring her mom back to the grown-up store.
We should listen to Keira’s retort carefully, because if we do not heed the warning right in front of us, if we relent on doing the right thing, if we allow domestic violence to go unchecked without using every single tool in the tool box to stop it, and if we let another child die senselessly, we should all be returned to the grown-up store. This was entirely preventable. Keira should be seven years old.
I will end with this because I believe that we can ensure that we have the tools in place so that it does not happen again. I think we can do that, and we should do it now.
There have been discussions among the parties and if you seek it, I think you will find unanimous consent for the following motion:
That, notwithstanding any standing order or usual practices in the House, at the conclusion of the time provided for Private Members' Business today, C-233, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Judges Act (violence against an intimate partner) be deemed to have been read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on the Status of Women.
Madam Speaker, as the Bloc Québécois critic for the status of women and the vice-chair of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, I rise today to speak to Bill , which amends the Criminal Code to require a justice, before making a release order in respect of an accused who is charged with an offence against their intimate partner, to consider whether it is desirable, in the interests of the safety and security of any person, to include as a condition of the order that the accused wear an electronic monitoring device.
The bill also amends the Judges Act to provide for continuing education seminars for judges on matters related to intimate partner violence and coercive control.
Since we just completed a study of this matter in committee and keeping in mind the progress that has been made on this sensitive issue in Quebec, I would like to make my modest contribution to this debate.
I want to begin by saying that the Bloc Québécois will vote in favour of Bill C-233. I am also very pleased to see that my committee will be able to examine this bill quickly.
I will start my speech by talking about what has already been voted on in Quebec, and then I will talk about the importance of educating all those who work with the victims. I will close by talking a bit more about coercive control.
First of all, the proposed amendments to the Criminal Code regarding electronic monitoring devices are in line with the legislation passed in Quebec. The National Assembly's Bill 24, which makes changes to Quebec's correctional system, provides for the power to require that an offender be connected to a device that allows the offender's whereabouts to be known. This legislation came into force on March 18, 2022.
The use of anti-approach bracelets in this bill refers to cases involving serious sex offenders who have received a sentence of more than two years, to be served in a federal institution. That is what we are talking about today. Sentences under two years are served in institutions run by Quebec. The federal government had little choice but to follow suit, especially since electronic monitoring devices are already used in other countries, like Spain and France.
The Legault government announced the use of these devices as part of a package of 14 new measures intended to address intimate partner violence.
According to the findings of a study commissioned by Quebec's public safety department, anti-approach bracelets increase victims' sense of security and improve their quality of life. They reduce peace bond violations and increase offenders' compliance with treatment programs in the community.
On its own, an electronic monitoring device cannot reduce the incidence of intimate partner violence, although it is a promising tool. It must be used as part of a series of measures to help both the victims and the perpetrators of this violence. In no way must these devices be used as a justification to cut funding for other measures aimed at curbing intimate partner violence. These assistance and support measures are managed by the Government of Quebec, which must continue to receive the funding it needs to implement them.
This issue has also been raised by the Regroupement des maisons pour femmes victimes de violence conjugale, an association representing women's shelters. It pointed out that the use of these devices also affects the victim, since she needs to wear one as well so that authorities can keep track of her whereabouts and intervene if her abuser gets too close.
Although this device generally makes victims feels safer, it can also contribute to their feelings of hypervigilance. That is why these women must also be given access to specialized resources to support them throughout the process. This is yet another reason it is so important to maintain, if not increase, funding to combat intimate partner violence.
Regarding the importance of the device, Ms. Lemeltier cautioned that we must not think that intimate partner violence ends once the woman leaves the family home, because that is not true. The violence can morph into what is referred to as postseparation spousal abuse. It can manifest in many ways, including harassment on social media, maintaining financial control, withholding a woman's immigration documents or denying supervised right of access, which impacts children's safety.
This controlling behaviour continues and gets worse over time. The period after a separation is the most dangerous time for women and children. I also want to point out that the electronic monitoring device is only as reliable as the cell network that it uses. Network reliability and the vast territory that police forces have to cover, both in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada, can pose significant challenges for the implementation and use of such devices.
Second, the proposed amendments to the Judges Act are in keeping with the Bloc Québécois's positions in that they help enhance the protection of complainants. The issue of victims' safety is crucial. This amendment would expand judges' education on sexual assault by adding a component on coercive control so they have a more in-depth understanding of intimate partner violence. It is reasonable to believe that a better understanding on the judges' part will improve the protection and safety of victims of intimate partner violence. That is something that I insisted on adding in our committee study.
I would again like to thank Myrabelle Poulin, an activist who taught me about the concept of coercive control, because violence is not always about hitting, but it always hurts.
My party welcomes any measure designed to increase the safety of victims of domestic violence. It also condemns any violence between intimate partners, the victims of which are most often women. We stand in solidarity against intimate partner violence and femicide, both of which have sadly and unacceptably increased during this pandemic. I would like to reiterate my condolences to the families of the many victims.
We also want an inquiry into how to prevent, eliminate and create a legislative framework for the form of family violence known as honour crimes. Furthermore, we demand that the federal government contribute financially to the Quebec government's efforts in the area of violence prevention. During the 2021 election campaign, the Bloc Québécois argued that funds for the fight against intimate partner violence should come from the Canada health transfers, which should immediately increase by $28 billion.
This being National Volunteer Week, I want to acknowledge the work of organizations that use this funding, organizations like CALACS. Long-term investments will also enable the generational change that is crucial to fighting this fight. Sabrina Lemeltier, president of the Alliance des maisons d'hébergement de 2e étape pour femmes et enfants victimes de violence conjugale, also illustrated the importance of maintaining this funding when she spoke to the Standing Committee on the Status of Women.
In Quebec, just before the pandemic, the expert committee on support for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence released its report on rebuilding trust. The report is a heavyweight. It contains 190 bold recommendations that will finally result in the creation of the safety net. It talks about a continuum of services. It is extremely important to emphasize that victims need support every step of the way.
I want to take a moment to thank the MNA for Joliette, Véronique Hivon, who helped put together this all-party committee as well as the committee on the right to die with dignity, and who announced that she will not be running in Quebec's next election.
Court cases involving crimes of a sexual nature are heavily influenced by the training and abilities of judges. It goes without saying that continuing education for judges on matters related to sexual assault law could use some updating. The Bloc Québécois has unequivocally supported this type of initiative since the subject was first raised in the House in 2020.
The amendments to the Criminal Code and the Judges Act that have to do with continuing education for judges and that seek to increase public trust in the criminal justice system have the force of law. They came into force on May 6, 2021.
This bill also complies with a recent recommendation of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. In its April 6, 2022, report entitled “The Shadow Pandemic: Stopping Coercive and Controlling Behaviour in Intimate Relationships”, the committee recommends that “the federal government engage with provincial and territorial governments [as well as the Government of Quebec] and other relevant stakeholders to promote and fund a public awareness campaign on coercive and controlling behaviour, as well as training of judicial system actors, such as police, lawyers, and judges, about the dynamics of such behaviour. Training must be trauma-informed, integrate intersectional perspectives and be accompanied by tools and policies to support action on this issue.”
At the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, Pamela Cross, a representative from Luke's Place Support and Resource Centre for Women and Children, reminded us that, “Until every actor in both the criminal and family legal systems has a fulsome understanding of the reality of violence in families, the prevalence of it, the fact that it doesn't end at separation, the fact that there are many fathers...who use the child, weaponize the child, to get back at their partner, we are going to continue to see shelters that are turning away 500 women and children a year and we are going to continue to see women and children being killed”.
To wrap up, in light of Quebec's progressive step forward with the first pilot project establishing a court specializing in sexual violence and domestic violence, the Bloc Québécois can only be in favour of better and more comprehensive training for judges. We still have the impression that Quebec is one step ahead of Ottawa, but we welcome all new advancements that aim to provide better treatment and protection for victims of intimate partner violence, in order to help put an end to the terrible and all too numerous femicides. As a new mother to my little Naomie, I fully understand the rallying cry “not one more”.
Madam Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to stand today to share my thoughts on this very important piece of legislation. I would like to begin by thanking the member for for bringing it forward. This legislation should have come forward much sooner. The fact that we have it now is a testament to the work the member has done and a testament to her appreciation for, and efforts on behalf of, women in Canada.
I would also like to take this opportunity to express my support for this piece of legislation. The New Democrats have always looked for ways to do more to support women, protect women and children from violence and intimate partner violence and support necessary reforms to the judicial system. The New Democrats will continue to advocate for more action and investment from the Liberal government to continue to eliminate gender-based violence. As the foreign affairs critic for the New Democratic Party, I will of course be pushing for additional funding, additional support and additional action to support women and girls outside of the country as well.
This bill is an important step forward. It is an important step that needed to be taken. It includes judicial reform and allows for better support for victims to protect them. I think all of us in this place need to think about how it must feel to live in coercive situations, to live in abusive situations and to live in that fear and trauma. It is very, very important that as parliamentarians and lawmakers we consider this in the work we do.
There can be no greater job for parliamentarians than to protect the lives of children and women in this country. I know that intimate partner violence is not solely done to women, but it is predominantly done to women. I think we can all agree that violence against women in this country is a crisis. It is a national crisis.
Prior to COVID-19, globally, one in three women experienced some sort of intimate partner violence. We know that intimate partner violence occurs in low-income households and that there is a higher incidence of it in indigenous homes. We know that COVID-19 has resulted in a surge in gender-based violence. During the first six months of 2021, 92 women and girls were killed in Canada. In recognition of this upsurge in violence, the Standing Committee on the Status of Women has recently undertaken a study on IPV.
I want to give members a little sense of the situation in Alberta as well. In Alberta, one in three Albertans will experience domestic violence in their lifetime, and the overwhelming majority of these victims are female. In Calgary, the Calgary-based Sagesse Domestic Violence Prevention Society had to expand its services, with demand increasing by more than 100% between 2019 and 2021. In fact, as Andrea Silverstone, the CEO of Sagesse, said:
After every natural disaster that we’ve seen in Alberta, whether it was the flood or the fires, the rates of domestic violence went up and they never went down again.
The effects of COVID on domestic violence and the rise in the numbers is going to continue for two to five years or even longer because there are issues of employment and economic stress that is also a contributing factor that we know is still ongoing and probably going to get worse before it gets better.
The number of victims of domestic violence was up 13.5% from 2019 to 2020, according to information provided by the Edmonton Police Service, and that is in Canada, but the increase that was caused during COVID is echoed around the world. We know that the impacts of COVID will be felt disproportionately by women and girls around the world.
I brought up earlier today that I am very proud of the fact that our country is one of the first countries to have a feminist international assistance policy. I am very proud that I was able to contribute to the building of that policy before I was a member of this place. I am looking forward to the day when the government tables and brings forward the feminist foreign policy. I think it is important, when we look at supporting women and and girls around the world, that this is not a development issue but a diplomacy issue, a defence issue, and an issue where I cannot think of a single ministry within this government that does not need to have a feminist lens applied to it.
Some of the ways that we can do more to protect women and girls in Canada and around the world is to do things like have predictable and targeted funding made available to ensure that those resources are in place. A key thing we can do to protect women and girls in Canada is to look at those 231 calls for action from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls report.
We have seen the commission bring forward this road map for us. We have seen the commission outline exactly what needs to be done, and we could be doing those things right now. It would be additional support that we could do. However, that is not what the bill talks about. It talks about putting pieces in place that will provide that additional level of security for women who are experiencing violence from their intimate partners.
I think that everyone in the House agrees that this is an excellent step to take. We are all looking forward to bringing this to committee, to having the bill go forward and made into law. We can see by the unanimous consent that we saw earlier today that it is important for all of us.
Some of the things we also need to consider as we look at the bill before us and future bills to improve supports for women and girls are things like low-barrier housing, low-barrier shelters, so that more women can have shelter, find relief and be safe with their children against intimate partner violence.
We can ensure that there are better supports for the training of judges. The bill is an excellent step for training of judges, but we have seen it around this country where judges do not understand intimate partner violence, they do not understand coercion and they do not know how to deal with that when it comes in front of them.
We have a case in southern Alberta right now, in Lethbridge. This is an example of where a mother has not seen her child for over a year. They have been separated. The father, who was awarded custody, has not followed the law that was outlined and has not provided shared custody to the mother. This is despite the fact that he has been charged with seven pending offences, including possession of a weapon, death threats, criminal harassment and stalking. This is a situation where the Queen's Bench justice does not seem to feel that this man is a risk, and I think this education for judges is vitally important.
I will conclude by once again thanking the member for bringing this piece of legislation forward. I was touched by her intervention earlier today, and I fully support what she has done to bring this forward. The NDP will be supporting this legislation. I also want to express my sympathy to all those for whom this bill did not come soon enough.
Madam Speaker, today is a very special day as we begin debate on this important bill. Let me begin by thanking the MP for for bringing forward Bill and for her passion and commitment to ending gender-based violence. I would also like to thank the member for and the member for for their support. Finally, I give special thanks to the and his team for their empathetic work and advice on this critical issue.
Bill would enhance continuing education for judges on matters related to intimate partner violence and coercive control, as well as introduce into the Criminal Code electronic monitoring control.
The bill holds a special place in my heart because of a young girl, Keira Kagan. In fact, the bill has been called “Keira’s law” in her memory. Keira's life was taken from her two years ago by her father in an act of revenge. I cannot imagine the pain that Keira’s mom Jennifer feels every single day, yet Jennifer has become an inspiring advocate for changes to the court system to educate judges on domestic violence and coercive control.
Children are not merely exposed to domestic violence; they experience it. In the worst case, children are killed by a violent parent. Keira’s father had a history of intimate partner violence, but the judge was dismissive of the abuse and still granted unsupervised access. Today, Keira is dead. This is a devastating example of the dire need for judicial education on intimate partner violence and its effect on children. In Keira’s case, the judge was a labour lawyer prior to being appointed to the bench. One would assume that judges presiding over cases like this would have specialized training or expertise, but that is not the case. In fact, no formal training is required in cases involving domestic violence and coercive control.
Darian Henderson-Bellman was a young woman from Halton Region who was killed by her violent ex-boyfriend in 2020. Darian’s murderer was under judicial interim release in connection with previous alleged domestic violence incidents. Darian’s death might have been prevented if a judge had decided to issue electronic monitoring control on her abuser when he was placed under judicial interim release.
Bill would introduce into the Criminal Code electronic monitoring control, in some cases at the judicial interim release phase, which is under section 515 of the Criminal Code. This mechanism would ensure to a greater extent the safety and security of intimate partner complainants and their children.
With Bill , we want to grow a movement that goes beyond the federal government, sparking conversations across the country. In my riding of Oakville North—Burlington, Halton Women’s Place has been a staunch advocate for Keira's law and has been educating our region on the effects that coercive control and intimate partner violence have on children. Laurie Hepburn, executive director of Halton Women’s Place, and her team have been working with Women’s Shelters Canada to raise awareness, connecting with women's shelters in all provinces, on the importance of Keira's law.
A constituent of mine, Sonia Robinson, was so moved by Jennifer’s story that she created a petition calling on the House of Commons to pass Bill . The petition has now garnered over 4,000 signatures This is yet another example of the palpable effect that Jennifer and Keira’s story has had on Canadians. I urge everyone watching today to sign the petition, and I thank Sonia for her advocacy.
Recently, Burlington's mayor, Marianne Meed Ward, learned of Keira’s law and brought a motion to Burlington's council in support, which was passed unanimously. The same motion supporting the bill has been passed unanimously by the Halton regional council and the City of Vaughan, and I know other municipalities are actively working on motions of support.
None of this would have been possible without the hard work and dedication of Keira’s mother and stepfather, Dr. Jennifer Kagan and Philip Viater. Jennifer and Phil are devoting their lives to spreading awareness about coercive control and intimate partner violence and have made sure that Keira Kagan will always be remembered. Jennifer and Philip regularly meet with members of Parliament from across the country. Because of their work, I have been able to collaborate with my colleagues from across the floor on this important and non-partisan issue. I would especially like to thank the and the chair of the status of women committee, the member for , for their help and support.
When I woke up this morning the sun was shining brighter than it has for weeks. I think that is Keira shining down on us, an angel whose legacy truly can change the world. We owe it to Keira, Jennifer and Philip to get this bill passed. By passing Bill , Keira will truly be changing the world, something she always wanted to do.