The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill , as reported (with amendment) from the committee.
moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.
She said: Mr. Speaker, Bill C-233 is now in the final stage of consideration here in the House. I am so pleased with the overwhelming support this legislative initiative has received thus far. I would like to thank all my hon. colleagues from the bottom of my heart for supporting this bill.
My colleagues and I, who worked on this bill, regularly receive emails and calls from women and organizations that are advocating to protect female victims of domestic violence. They want to express their appreciation for this bill. My colleagues from all political parties have also received countless messages from these victims' rights groups about helping pass this legislation.
There is nationwide support for Bill C-233. I want to thank all the people across Canada who wrote to me and shared their tragic and heartbreaking stories. I am very touched by the trust they have placed in me. There is no doubt that more needs to be done to help those who experience domestic abuse, physical or psychological.
It has been an uphill battle to recognize not only women's rights, but the real danger women often face when it comes to situations of domestic violence. Domestic violence, until very recently, was not talked about as openly as it is today. There was, and I believe still is, a stigma attached to it in many places. Whether it is victim-blaming or the feeling of shame, these horrific events should have always been given priority. The shame belongs with the person who does the tormenting, not the one who is subjected to it. Whatever the reason for this past humongous injustice, now is the time to address it full on and to never back down.
Domestic violence has affected many, many women, and I say this because it is oftentimes women who are victims of domestic abuse and who face the most distressing situations possible. Whether it is psychological, emotional or mental abuse, physical violence or threats thereof, coercion, being controlled through duress, or financial bondage, far too many women to count have suffered through this and continue to do so. Today, the statistics are very clear about this and the past history of domestic abuses that have been endured. Many times, these women were not heard because their voices were silenced or because no one was listening. They were not taken seriously, so they lived quietly with their shattered dreams and painful memories.
Other parts of the world come to mind, places where people have unshakable partisan beliefs, where deep divides within society impede progress and get in the way of important dialogue about social issues that affect a lot of people.
Our strength as Canadians, regardless of our political affiliations, our values and our beliefs, is that we are always guided by a common thread: the society we all want to live in and bequeath to future generations.
One of the pillars of our country is keeping everyone safe. Given the constant headlines about murdered women and children, we can all agree that we need to do more to protect these vulnerable people.
I realize that my Bill is just part of the solution. However, without this legislation, our efforts as a society to do a better job of protecting victims of intimate partner violence will not be as robust. It is time to put our collective shoulder to the wheel by supporting Bill C‑233.
I would like to share an overview of the elements that favour this bill.
There is a critical window during which most victims of femicide lose their lives. It is in the first 18 months post-separation. After this critical period, things start to settle down and people are able to rebuild their lives slowly but surely.
However, there are some very troubled individuals who simply cannot stay away from their target, no matter the number of restraining orders issued by the court, such as the individual I spoke about during my previous debate. That person violated quite a few restraining orders and even went to prison for it. He continued to harass his ex-partner from prison. When he got out, he followed her and somehow managed to find the secret location she had been hiding at with her daughter. Once he found them, he stalked them. He sat outside their home for hours watching them, waiting for his chance. He tormented his ex-wife and tried to kill her and their daughter before he committed suicide.
In a situation like this, only an electronic monitor can dissuade the harasser from approaching the victim, as their location would be disclosed electronically. In turn, this would give the complainant victim some serenity and an opportunity to be better be prepared in case the accused is close by. This law is for the victims.
For the longest time in the Canadian justice system, there was the belief that violence against an intimate partner did not necessarily mean that the violent parent was incapable of being a good parent to the couple's children. Some adjustments were made to the Divorce Act to better address this issue. However, this legislative initiative cannot be completely executed as long as those who decide on the fate of these children do not fully comprehend the ravages domestic violence leaves on all victims, including the children, who at times, vicariously or directly, also experience that violence. Those who give themselves the right to physically assault another human being or who psychologically terrorize them, often in front of the children, have a lot of work to do on themselves to change, and sometimes they just cannot or will not. That is something all judges need to fully acknowledge and understand before deciding what is in the best interests of the child.
In conclusion, this non-partisan bill will help prevent homicides and save lives. This critical step is needed to better support and protect the most vulnerable victims of domestic violence and their children. We must help break the cycle of violence and trauma, including for any children who are exposed to it.
Bill will help judges better understand the phenomenon of domestic violence and its impact, as well as coercive control in family relationships, in order to make the best decisions affecting the children of those relationships.
The other interesting point about this legislation is that it formally adds electronic monitoring to the Criminal Code as another possible condition for judicial interim release. This is another tool in the tool box for judges to use when they believe that the safety of any person, including alleged victims of intimate partner violence, could be compromised if the accused is released pending trial. This provision would ensure better protection where there is doubt about the safety of an individual, including victims of domestic violence and their children. It is worth noting once again that between 20% and 22% of femicides and filicides in the context of domestic violence were committed by former intimate partners within 18 months of separation.
As as society, it is important that we continue to look for solutions to significantly reduce violence against women and children in Canada. My legislative initiative is a practical measure that will contribute to saving lives and help better protect victims of family abuse.
I sincerely hope that members still believe in the urgency of and need for Bill and will vote accordingly.
Madam Speaker, it is wonderful to see you in the chair this morning as I talk about something so personal to you and any individual in this place.
I really want to talk about my time here as a member of Parliament over the last seven years. I have had the honour of sitting on the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, which has held a number of studies related to intimate partner violence. The committee has talked about it when looking at the Canadian Armed Forces and shelters.
However, the study on Bill is the study that has had the most impact on my life in my time in the House of Commons, as I have realized what a bubble we live in and why this study is so important. I have been here for seven years, and I have heard stories from witnesses over those years. After hearing what I have heard in the study of Bill C-233, as well as in the intimate partner and domestic violence study we will be tabling before summer, I can say there is a lot to be done in Canada when it comes to intimate partner violence and domestic abuse.
We need to ensure we are all working together. As the chair of the status of women committee, I could not be any prouder of the members for what we have achieved through working together, which is exactly what we did when we looked at this very important piece of legislation in the name of Keira.
I want to read into the record the testimony put forward by Keira's mother when she came to our committee. For anybody who knows what it is like to be a mother, I ask them to imagine being a mother who has lost their child. This is a woman who is fighting for every other child out there. This is something we are doing in Keira's name, but we recognize this is for all women, children and families.
This is from the testimony Keira's mother gave:
Essentially, I will tell you my story and why my story is not an anomaly but instead is emblematic of a broader problem in the way the family court system handles domestic violence cases and is reflective of a lack of judicial understanding of domestic violence and coercive control.
I was a victim of domestic violence in my previous marriage. It was a short marriage, and I was subject to multiple types of domestic violence, which included isolated episodes of physical violence as well as coercive control.
I had a young daughter and I was able to safely escape the abuser, but when I sought protection for Keira in the family court system, I found that the court system was not equipped to protect a small child. I was before, I believe, between 10 and 12 different judges, none of whom had an understanding of domestic violence and coercive control. During my trial, when I went to the stand to talk about the abuse I had experienced, I was cut off by the judge and told that abuse is not relevant to parenting and he was going to ignore it.
To me, that says it all. A judge decides that it is okay because parenting has nothing to do with the abuse. I am sorry, but perhaps this judge should maybe look at this training. As I said, I have been here for seven years, and I can tell members about the impacts just from listening to the testimony of others. Perhaps they need to get out of the bubble and also look at this. Perhaps they need to see and experience what Keira and her family have gone through, as well as so many other hundreds and hundreds of families across this country.
In the intimate partner violence study, the committee received 137 briefs. The majority of those focused on Bill , as it had been introduced in the House of Commons. This is not just happening to Keira's family. It is happening across this country, and we need to make sure people understand. We need to understand what happens to a young child who has seen domestic abuse, what the impact is to that child and what we are going to do to ensure that child is safe.
The judge failed Keira. The judge failed this family. I am sure judges have failed other families as well.
I am not sticking it to the judges here. I am just asking them to please step back and recognize they are in a bubble. We are all in a bubble. When we are here in Ottawa, we are in the Ottawa bubble. When we are home with our families, we are in our family bubble. However, when we are actually learning about things like this and talking to people whose shoes we have never walked in, we are going to learn something.
I am urging each and every judge out there to understand Bill and to please read the report that will be tabled here in June of 2022 by the status of women committee. The study is looking at coercive control, physical abuse, mental abuse and financial abuse. These are things that are happening across Canada to Canadians families, and we can do more.
I am going to leave members with one final thought. Yesterday would have been Keira's seventh birthday. She was not able to spend it with her family.
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 C-233 yet again.
The bill is now at report stage. It 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.
I can confirm that the clause-by-clause study was conducted in a truly collaborative spirit at the Standing Committee on the Status of Women. Its members were focused on one thing only, because the lives of women and children, as well as men, let us not forget, are at stake.
At the risk of repeating myself, the Bloc Québécois will vote in favour of Bill C-233. I will begin my speech by talking about the important role of this bill, with its inclusion of electronic monitoring devices, in addressing intimate partner violence. I will then talk about coercive control and will close by making a few more proposals on how to complete the continuum of assistance for women and children who are affected by intimate partner violence.
First, let us look at the role this bill can play in cases of intimate partner violence. Recently, Quebec called upon Ottawa to act. A few days ago, the Quebec public security minister explained that electronic monitoring devices could be issued only by authorities under Quebec jurisdiction and for provincial sentences. That means that only provincial sentences of two years less a day will be covered and that offenders who are given longer sentences in federal penitentiaries will be exempt. As a result, last week, Minister Geneviève Guilbault openly invited the federal government to follow Quebec's lead, while reminding the government that Quebec has control over what falls under our jurisdiction. Ms. Guilbault said that she spoke about this with the federal minister.
With Bill C‑233, electronic monitoring devices would be used in cases involving serious sex offenders who have received a sentence of more than two years, to be served in a federal institution, because 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. We should be able to build on their experiences. I have also spoken with the Australian consulate about making coercive control a criminal offence. We will will come back to this.
The other problem has to do with the Internet and the technological gaps, since, realistically, broadcasting and transmitting services are not going to be implemented across Canada in the short term. A number of witnesses expressed concerns in committee about how this would affect the implementation of this measure. They told us that a woman's postal code should not determine whether they can feel safe. Nevertheless, this device must in no way be used as an excuse to reduce funding for other measures to combat domestic violence. These support measures are managed by the Government of Quebec, and Quebec must continue to receive the money required to run them.
For the other part of the bill, it is important to note that it addresses coercive control only with respect to the education of judges. The Criminal Code amendment proposed in this bill does not criminalize coercive control even though numerous experts, some of them internationally recognized, made that recommendation to the status of women and justice committees a number of times. The experts emphasized that the notion of coercive control is inextricably linked to the definition of intimate partner violence and that acknowledging this notion in Canada's Criminal Code would trigger the awareness and training mechanisms needed by the professionals and people on the ground who work directly with victims along with the funding to pay for it.
Let us not forget that family violence needs to be part of the conversation. In addition to the women who were murdered, 14 children were killed last year in intimate partner violence incidents.
Regarding the importance of the device, Ms. Lemeltier from the Regroupement des maisons pour femmes victimes de violence conjugale 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. The amendments proposed in the bill to the Judges Act are therefore 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 so they have a more in-depth understanding of intimate partner violence, by adding a component on coercive control.
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.
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.
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. These are our other hopes for the future.
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, without conditions. Long-term investments will also enable the generational change that is crucial to fighting this fight.
Furthermore, 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 sexual assault law needs some updating. The Bloc Québécois has unequivocally supported this type of initiative since the subject was first raised in the House in 2020.
This bill complies with a recent recommendation of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. In its April 7, 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 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, the legal director at Luke's Place, a 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 does not 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.
Experts who appeared before the Standing Committee on the Status of Women all stressed the importance of training. This was emphasized by Simon Lapierre, a full professor at the University of Ottawa's School of Social Work, who also appeared before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. He said:
Having the judicial system better aligned with psychosocial services seems to me to be very important. Above all, we have to understand that even if a lot of measures are put in place, many of them will unfortunately not achieve their full potential if they are not accompanied by adequate training for all actors in the system, including social workers, police, lawyers and judges.
Training is extremely important and should be expanded across the country. Simon Lapierre also noted that it is important to reinforce the very concept of coercive control. This concept was already in place before the Divorce Act came into force, but he says that we should also include it in the Criminal Code. What is more, it needs to be accompanied by training programs for all stakeholders in the various sectors, including judges, and there needs to be a coherent approach to intimate partner violence, including youth protection services, across the country.
In closing, I want to acknowledge the incredible work of the entire team at an organization in my riding, the Maison Alice-Desmarais, which helps victims of intimate partner violence and their children. Last week, the organization opened a new duplex. The good news is that an entire community rallied behind the cause, but the bad news is that the needs are still immense. One more victim is one too many.
Everyone agreed that community organizations that help victims of intimate partner violence need more help. It is great to have the best training possible for judges and electronic monitoring devices for greater safety, but we need organizations to help the victims, and we need to support them as a society.
Let us, here in the House, support the work they do on the ground every day and help the victims and their children.
Madam Speaker, it is an honour to rise today and speak in support of Bill , an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Judges Act, which will require new judges to take ongoing training about intimate partner violence and, when necessary, require those who have been convicted of intimate partner violence to wear an electronic bracelet.
Before I begin, I wish to first acknowledge Jennifer Kagan–Viater, who lost her daughter Keira Kagan as a result of intimate partner violence. I know this bill does not go far enough to truly honour her daughter. It is a first step of many, which needs to occur to end violence against women, girls and diverse-gendered individuals.
It is an issue that has worsened during the pandemic, something that falls on the deaf ears of those in power, who continue to make us beg for incremental justice while lives are lost to violence. It is violence that is often hidden as a result of stigmatization against victims and the minimization of violence by those who are able to ensure safety, including judges, often uneducated and unaware of the signs, as in the case of Jennifer Kagan-Viater, who expressed her concerns about the safety of her daughter having visitation with the father, only to fall upon the deaf ears of judges, who not only ignored her, but assumed she was a manipulative parent, a revengeful ex-spouse, which is a common stereotype placed on women who express concerns about violence. This cost Keira’s life, so, no, this bill does not go far enough, in the way that it requires only new judges, not current judges, to take training, the training they clearly needed to save Keira’s life.
Training for judges must be culturally appropriate and reflect the realities of those experiencing violence. It must be holistic and include an understanding of violence from diverse social and cultural contexts. Training also needs to provide a greater understanding about how intimate partner violence intersects with other forms of oppression, including racism, sexism, ableism and homophobia. For instance, judges need to clearly recognize how experiences of gender-based violence against immigrant and refugee women, children and individuals require an understanding of not only how gender-based violence impacts individuals, but how various intersecting identities further marginalize an individual, often resulting in inequalities in accessing culturally proficient resources, services and supports.
It is no secret that the judicial systems are already unfriendly to women, girls and indigenous and 2SLGBTQQIA+ individuals. One only has to read the aboriginal justice inquiry, the truth and reconciliation report, the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and, most recently, the Feminist Alliance for International Action to affirm this assertion. It is time that judges are provided with training to ensure they are trauma-informed. This needs to be led by survivors of violence and those working on the front lines. Training must use anti-racist and anti-oppression approaches.
Intimate partner violence is a crisis in this country, and the lack of government action to combat it is telling. Today, we have an opportunity to pass a new law, a small step, but a major one to address violence.
Every six days, a woman in Canada is killed by her intimate partner. In 2018, 44% of women reported experiencing some form of psychological, physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime. These rates of violence increase depending on where one lives in Canada. For example, women and girls in the north experience violent crime four times higher than Canada’s overall population, and rates of intimate partner violence experienced by rural women are 75% higher than for urban women, yet there is a lack of action. There are epidemic rates of violence, and the government's response continues not to reflect the severity of the crisis in which we find ourselves. Begging for support, begging for a change in laws to better protect women, girls and diverse-gendered individuals, is met with a pile of excuses and rationales about why it cannot be done. This is particularly alarming considering that the current claimed to be a feminist, the leader of a so-called feminist government, yet the need for response and support to end this violence often falls on deaf ears.
There is a lack of funding to address this issue. Meanwhile, the government can find the resources to provide $2.6 billion in this year’s budget for fossil fuel subsidies. How many billions have been given to pad the pockets of big oil since 2015, while women, girls and diverse-gendered individuals continue to experience violence, sometimes resulting in death, or the billions of dollars for military weapons while women, girls and diverse-gendered individuals continue to perish as a result of violence?
There is no excuse for the lack of action and the inadequate support, whether it be in regard to strengthening laws to address issues of violence or providing the resources necessary to ensure that communities can offer the support and services required to save lives.
These issues become even more pronounced in certain populations, including BIPOC communities, transwomen and women with disabilities. According to Stats Canada, at least 25% of Black, indigenous and racialized women experienced intimate partner violence in the past 12 months; three out of five transwomen experienced intimate partner violence before the age of 16; and women with disabilities are three times more likely to experience intimate partner violence than women living without disabilities, a situation that becomes even more dire because of increased barriers to accessing services.
These rates become even more alarming for indigenous women. Sixty-one per cent of indigenous women report having experienced some form of intimate partner violence in their lifetime. Indigenous women are killed at nearly seven times the rate of non-indigenous women. Indigenous women and girls are 12 times more likely to be murdered or missing than any other women in Canada, and 16 times more likely to be murdered or missing than white women.
What was the 2022 budget allocation to address the ongoing genocide against indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ individuals? It was zero. Meanwhile, the needs are great, including in my riding of Winnipeg Centre, where our community has been literally begging for over 10 years for a 24-7 low-barrier safe space. We are still waiting. Meanwhile, women continue to be murdered, including two women last week.
I wish to honour Rebecca Contois and Doris Trout. The system failed them. Those in power failed them. I honour them and their friends and family today. I will keep fighting for our community to get that safe place, so that their spirits have a safe place to always be.
As I indicated at the beginning of my speech, this bill is a start, but the government needs to do more to ensure that all women, girls, and diverse-gendered people can live in dignity, in safety and with security. This is a start.
The use of electronic monitoring devices has been shown to increase the likelihood of survivors of violence feeling safer and serve as a deterrence factor for abusers from approaching and harming victims of violence. We need to ensure that this device is available in all parts of Canada, including in rural and remote areas.
The government must also immediately support equitable access to services, because even if the issues with infrastructure for electronic monitoring devices are addressed, if improvements and increased funding to resources, community support services, emergency dispatches, and culturally relevant training for dispatches are left out of the solution, electronic monitoring devices will not address the needs of victims of violence in rural and remote areas.
Funding holistic approaches needs to happen to address intimate partner violence, including supporting the recommendations from the Ending Violence Association of Canada, in a consultation initiative informed by experts in frontline sexual violence services and advocacy organizations across the country, which identified priorities for a national action plan to end gender-based violence, including efforts to provide sustainable core funding; expand a robust and intersectional social infrastructure, including enabling an environmental framework as a key to prevention and providing safe and low-barrier housing and shelters, which is central to this recommendation; implement oversight and transparency in training for the justice system, while addressing systemic barriers that further marginalize victims of violence; support indigenous-led approaches and indigenous-informed solutions; and finally, implement the 231 calls for justice.
Without efforts to expand, fund and implement community-led programs and services that uplift people and uphold the human rights of all individuals, especially those who have experienced violence, we will continue to perpetuate the violent cycles of abuse, but—
Madam Speaker, it is an honour today to speak to Bill . I would like to start by thanking the member for for putting forward and creating space for the bill. Throughout her career, she has been a tremendous advocate for those who have suffered from domestic and partner violence, both for those who have endured physical violence and for those who have silently suffered emotional and psychological abuse: coercive control that is no less harmful and in many cases has a violent or even deadly outcome after protracted years of silent suffering.
The member understands deeply that deterrent tools to preventing such violence, which happens to far too many partners and their children behind closed doors in far too many homes in this country, require education and a trained comprehension to effectively use the tools in our legislative tool box to protect those who are most vulnerable in a court system that is, in many cases, failing them.
When the member for and I came to the member with the story of Keira Kagan, she compassionately understood and made space for the work we are debating today. We have heard the story of Keira Kagan: the little girl who was the brightest of sparks who was tragically lost and whose death was completely preventable. I note, as did other members, that yesterday should have been her seventh birthday. We have shared the tireless advocacy of her mother, Dr. Jennifer Kagan-Viater, and her stepfather, Phil Viater, on the floor of the House. It was a parent's cry for justice in a system where there was every effort to do what every mother wants to do at the very core of her being: protect her child.
We heard their call. It became the siren for many others, including leading advocates for women from my community in York Centre and from across this country who were no longer asking, but demanding that light be shed on this pervasive form of abuse: to name it, to know it and from there to be able to use the tools we have to protect them.
To each one of the large and small organizations in my riding, from Tikvah Toronto to the North York Women's Shelter, from local advocates for immigrant and racialized women to the National Council of Jewish Women of Canada, Toronto chapter, and to the many parents and victim-centred organizations from coast to coast to coast, I can clearly and with gratitude say as we enter the last hours of debate here in the House that they have been heard.
It is a rare but incredible thing when we have consensus across the floor. When we do, we know it is because we have heard the call of Canadians at the deepest levels.
Bill was first tabled in early February. It went through to second reading and to committee in April with a co-operative effort to move schedules and get it to the important work of the committee by May. I would like to thank the member for , in her role as chair for the status of women committee. She, like many of us, understood the importance of the bill and her co-operation and leadership from across the floor must be acknowledged as we contemplate the bill now.
Much of the work that goes into the legislative process involves many conversations and emails, coordination of witnesses and stakeholders, asking the hardest of questions and unpacking key issues here and at committee. Each of the members who I have mentioned played a key role in the learning and advocacy that has taken place for Bill .
Bill seeks to address two key components of education and legislative tools. It amends the Judges Act to expand judicial education, which currently covers topics such as sexual assault and social context, to include coercive control in domestic violence. It amends the Criminal Code to require a justice to consider whether an accused who is charged with intimate partner violence should wear an electronic monitoring device before a release order is made.
Through this process, we have shed light on the definition of coercive control. An important piece of this legislation is providing education to understand that while physical forms of intimate partner violence and domestic violence are well known and easy to detect, there are more covert forms of psychological abuse that are not always recognized as violence.
Coercive control can often be an early indicator that abusive relationships will escalate into physical or even lethal violence. A study of femicides from 2015-19 found coercive, controlling behaviours such as stalking, isolation and threats were frequent components. On average, a woman is killed by an intimate partner every six days in this country.
The patterns of behaviour for coercive control are intended to isolate, humiliate, exploit or dominate a victim. This can include emotional, verbal and financial abuse; isolation, such as preventing someone from going to work or school; and limiting their access to finances.
This invisible chain of behaviour escalates and can be quite visible through warning signs, when we know them, that include monitoring movements, sexual coercion, threats to harm a child and restricting access to money or even food. This outline of coercive control only scratches the surface of what judges will need training on in what has until now been a murky side of the court system. Victims straddle family and criminal court systems, and there is a dire, and at times deadly, impact on children.
We now understand the pathology of this form of intimate partner violence. It is unseen and brutally harmful. Its victims are the partners and children of these relationships where dependency, vulnerability and children themselves become weaponized. We cannot look away any longer.
The second aspect of Bill addresses the contemplation of using e-monitoring as a deterrent tool. In Keira Kagan's case, her father had 53 court orders against him. None ultimately served as a tool to keep her safe from harm. What we know is that education and implementation go hand in hand, and that is what this bill intends to do. It is a start.
There are those who see these amendments as first steps. We heard from many national advocates who expressed their concerns on the implementation of e-monitoring in terms of the settings and who would be subject to it. There is undoubtedly more work to do; there always is, but we must start and we have.
With this bill, coercive control and its understanding would become part of the language used within our legislative system. Our judicial system would have the tools to be educated on this and to identify it when it is in their courts. It would have deterrent tools that could prevent escalating violence in a cycle that does not end with the separation of a relationship.
We must be talking about this, and Bill has opened the conversation nationally, so that judicial training can set a precedent for the discussion of coercive control and the needed deterrent tools in other aspects of our system, be it with lawyers, social workers, health care workers or the many aspects of our system that are meant to protect victims and children.
We are in lockstep with other countries doing this work and exploring education on and, in some cases, criminalization of coercive control. These range from Australia, where studies have been done on the impact and potential criminality of it in the framework of domestic violence since as early as 2020, to the United Kingdom's section 76, which includes coercive controlling behaviour in an intimate family relationship as an offence.
Even here in Ontario, more recently than any of the above mentioned, the former Bill sought to update the definition of “family violence” in the Divorce Act to include “coercive and controlling behaviour”. The discussions and the work have begun, so that we can ensure the victims are not left unprotected.
Each morning I wake up and spend a short bit of time in the practice of the Jewish tradition called Daf Yomi, the daily page of Talmud, whereby around the world, over a cycle of seven and a half years, an entire community studies a page of law. We review the compendium of Jewish law that has evolved over thousands of years, studying each debate, each small change and its lead-in to the next. We are taught to first learn much and then seek to understand it profoundly.
This daily practice humbles me and reminds me that, each day in the House, we are putting our efforts forward to create change, and that the work we do here each day is a small step that makes space, as the member for has done, and sheds light to understand how we can protect and create safety for our community and all of its members, especially its most vulnerable. It is a profound responsibility and a privilege to do this work, and we must. For the many victims of abuse, families, partners and children, we owe it to them to protect them, and yes, we owe it to Keira Kagan.