First of all, I'd like to thank you, Madam Chair and the FEWO committee, for moving so quickly on this extremely important issue. It means a lot. From the bottom of my heart, you have my gratitude, all of you. Thank you so much.
I'm very excited today to present Bill C‑233, which I sponsored. I must admit that I'm extremely moved by the widespread support it has received. Even in my wildest dreams, I'd never have dared to imagine my legislative initiative would receive such extraordinary support, be it from victims of domestic violence, my colleagues, human rights groups or the media.
This bill was drafted with one idea in mind, to better protect and save the lives of vulnerable women and children who are victims of domestic violence
Bill C-233 aims at enacting two amendments, one in the Criminal Code and the other in the Judges Act. It seeks to introduce electronic monitoring to the Criminal Code in some circumstances at the judicial temporary release of an accused, as well as training of federal judges on the phenomenon of domestic violence and coercive control.
Since I began practising criminal and family law, I have seen how difficult it is for victims of domestic violence to break out of the cycle of violence and abuse. Many victims were reluctant to speak out about the hell they were experiencing for fear of not being believed in the system, or retaliation from an abusive partner, or financial insecurity.
Some of my colleagues who are lawyers lost clients at the hands of a violent and harassing ex-partner. Others represented violent clients who would not keep away from their intimate partners despite orders from the court, a behaviour leading to the loss of human lives.
The same findings came up in the status of women committee, where I was parliamentary secretary and a member subsequently. The testimony of victims, experts and allies painted over and over the same gruesome reality of so many victims being affected by domestic abuse, including their children. One emerging conclusion when it comes to violence between intimate partners is that the risk of violence and death for abused victims and their children does not end with the separation of the couple. On the contrary; in a lot of cases, within 18 months of the said separation, there is a higher risk for the partner, most of the time the woman, as well as the children to be attacked in a violent way.
In the very few jurisdictions in the world, such as Australia and Spain, where electronic monitoring was implemented as a means to better protect such victims of domestic abuse, there was a notable decrease in violent crimes, as well as femicides and filicides.
In other words, in some problem cases where the abuser refuses to stay away from the victim or does not agree with a separation imposed by the partner, an anti-approach bracelet can inform authorities and the former partner of non-compliance with the judge's conditions and therefore save lives or prevent violent crimes.
Given that a woman is murdered every two and a half days, which translates into 144 to 178 murders a year often committed by an intimate partner, clearly our country needs technology like this to prevent such tragedies.
It is therefore obvious that our nation needs this type of legislation.
It's imperative that this law make it possible for a judge to order that an anti-approach bracelet be worn when an individual poses a risk to the safety of their intimate partner and children, and only when deemed necessary.
Doing so will allow provincial judges as well as municipal judges to order such conditions when deemed necessary.
While I was preparing to present my private member's bill, my good friends and colleagues from Oakville North—Burlington and York Centre, respectively Pam Damoff and Ya'ara Saks, asked me to meet with Dr. Jennifer Kagan-Viater and her spouse, Philip Viater, who are strong advocates when it comes to requiring completing seminars on domestic violence and coercive control.
I did have the chance to have an exchange with them, and their personal story shook me to the core. In February 2020, Ms. Kagan-Viater lost her four-year-old daughter Keira at the hands of her father in an apparent murder-suicide. The telltale signs were present prior to this tragedy; however, the court that gave the father unsupervised access rights to Keira tossed this from evidence, considering that abusive and violent behaviour towards Keira's mother should not be considered a risk to the child.
The findings show quite the opposite.
Children's safety can be and is at risk when a parent is abusive towards the other parent and has joint custody or unsupervised rights to the couple's children.
With that in mind, with support from two valued allies and the colleagues I mentioned earlier, I drafted a provision in Bill C‑233 which, if the bill passes, will require that judges complete domestic violence training.
Thank you very much.