An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Judges Act (violence against an intimate partner)

Sponsor

Anju Dhillon  Liberal

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Second reading (Senate), as of June 2, 2022

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-233.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

June 1, 2022 Passed 3rd reading and adoption of Bill C-233, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Judges Act (violence against an intimate partner)

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 22nd, 2022 / 9 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Madam Speaker, I am sure everybody in the lobby is surprised that I actually did that at the right time.

Tonight is one of our last evenings sitting in the House of Commons before we adjourn for the summer and return to our ridings. The speech that I am going to give tonight is truly based in what I am seeing all around us. It has become a culture of violence.

Tonight, we are speaking on Bill C-28. Although I support it in principle, we do have a lot further to go. Tonight, we have the opportunity to begin this discussion, which I hope becomes a much larger national discussion. We need to continue this conversation, especially with women's organizations, which have come out and cannot support this legislation.

A good ally of mine and friend, Megan Walker, discussed this legislation with me yesterday. She cannot support it and shared her concerns about the ability of the Crown to prove it. She feels that this legislation is tokenism

Women's organizations are stepping forward and asking us to halt this legislation, while other organizations are in full support of the legislation. To me, this is a clear yellow light that we have to be cautious and that we need to re-address this: that what we are doing today is just not enough. This needs to continue.

My last six months in my role as the shadow minister for women and gender equality and youth have given me the honour to work with people, especially in the committee on the status of women.

I can share with members that it seems like we are in a real mess, and I can tell us that we need change.

Let us start with this piece of legislation. I want to address it by sharing the letter that was received by the National Association of Women and the Law. It reads, and I quote:

Feminist organizations in Canada have long been concerned about the connection between men’s use of intoxicants, and violence against women. Study after study has shown that there is a direct link between so-called ‘drunkenness’ and sexual violence. There are studies that report an average of 50% of sexual assault perpetrators consumed alcohol at the time of the assault, with other studies showing a variance of between 30 and 75%.

Looking back to the 1994 Daviault decision, in which the Supreme Court ordered a new trial based on the accused’s extreme intoxication at the time of the incident, the ‘gap’ in the law quickly becomes apparent. Mr. Daviault had voluntarily consumed an excessive quantity of alcohol before forcing intercourse on the complainant, an elderly woman with a disability. In response, feminist groups like National Association of Women and the Law (NAWL) pressed the government to restrict the defence of extreme intoxication. The federal government enacted section 33.1 of the Criminal Code, closing the gap by preventing those who voluntarily consume intoxicants and then commit acts of violence from using the defence of extreme intoxication for general intent offences.

In May 2022, the Supreme Court of Canada’s unanimous decision in Brown struck down the law set out in s. 33.1, declaring it unconstitutional and stating that voluntarily taking intoxicating substances cannot replace the criminal intent required for a conviction. This decision re-opens the ‘gap’ left by the 1994 Daviault decision, once again leaving women vulnerable to crimes of violence when the accused can demonstrate that his intoxication put him into a state of automatism. Despite the assurances of some defence lawyers and their allies that reliance on extreme intoxication will be rare, research analyzing the extreme intoxication defence indicates that it will be raised with some regularity. Indeed, research shows that it will be used overwhelmingly by men, and that the majority of victims will be women.

I know that I shared a very lengthy part of that letter, but to me, this is what we are talking about. Yes, this legislation came out very quickly. That means we need to get it passed to stop the gap today, but that does not mean that the gap has fully been filled. That is why I am urging the government to say, yes, we have got Bill C-28 done but we need to do more. I am urging the government to get on the road and let us start doing those consultations. Let us start talking more.

I want to go back to stuff that we have also been hearing about Hockey Canada. We just heard that Hockey Canada receives one to two formal complaints annually and that there are investigations.

I want to talk about all of this, because one thing that I can indicate is that sexual violence and violence against children should never happen. We are seeing it more and more. In the past number of weeks, as I have been dealing with my role as the shadow minister for women and gender equality, and in chairing the committee on the status of women, we are talking about violence and more violence. Our one study on intimate partner violence was talking about domestic violence. Following that, we talked about Kyra's Law, named for a young girl, a young child, who was murdered by her father, basically to get back at the mother.

I am looking at what is happening with Hockey Canada. We talked about a young girl who was allegedly raped by eight hockey players, and there is no responsibility. Then we can talk about what we are talking about here today, Bill C-28. To me, it is really clear. We are talking about things that are a social issue. It is a sexual assault issue.

When I look back at that link between what I am talking about with Hockey Canada and the eight players, and what we are seeing here, the bottom line is that it should never be happening in the first place. In Hockey Canada, we are hearing about a civil law suit that went through. Hockey Canada actually paid out, rather than having this go through the criminal court system. Unfortunately, I understand why someone would choose a civil suit over our justice system right now. We know it is not perfect. With the help of Bill C-233 and other bills that have been put forward in the past, we need to ensure that there is proper training for judges, but it is not just judges. It is everybody involved.

When I look at this, I look at who is responsible. Ultimately, the perpetrator has to be responsible. Although this legislation closes that gap in which we are talking about the state of automatism, we also have to look at what is next.

Just weeks ago, we passed that important piece of legislation, Bill C-233 with unanimous support. It was an all-party effort. I believe it started a conversation, and I believe what we are doing here tonight is also starting that conversation. Just as the minister stated, I had the same conversation with my 18-year-old son. He called me the very next morning and asked me about it when I was in Ottawa. I said, “Son, I'm working on this.” We recognize that it does not mean that someone has to be drunk and this could happen, but there needs to be extreme intoxication. For a young woman, anything is a barrier, including the fact that somebody may use this defence. Everything like that is a barrier.

People are coming out and saying that this law is just window dressing and is not really tackling the real issues. I think what we have to tackle is the culture of sexual violence, because we seem to be ignoring it. I was thinking about it a lot over the past few days. Working on the Hockey Canada case has really brought things to light. These are our kids we are talking about. These are the kids that our kids go to public school with. These are the children, whether they are the perpetrators or the victims. These are just kids. Sometimes we get lost on our way and we confuse what is right and wrong. Is extreme intoxication good enough, or is because someone is an athlete or a politician good enough?

We know, from the recent Supreme Court ruling on May 13, that women's organizations have spoken up. Because of that, we know this needs to be addressed. The government has addressed it through this legislation as Bill C-28. I thank the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada. We pushed on this and we asked for this to be done, so I thank him for doing so.

We need more transparency for victims, and we need to remember that victims have rights, too. This is the problem. We talk so much about the rights of our perpetrators, but our victims need to have rights too. This is what we are losing a lot of the time in these conversations, whether I am talking about Hockey Canada or extreme intoxication. No is no, and there must be consent.

Finally, I want to end this with a quote. I go back to the National Association of Women and the Law:

While they may not be successful in making out the defence – pleading the defence, in itself, will result in increased timelines and lengthy court processes for victims. Ultimately, C-28 is a missed opportunity to close the door on the use of the extreme intoxication defence where alcohol alone is used.

I am coming back and I am saying that this summer I will be working on this. I will be working on providing any information that I can to both the Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth and the Minister of Justice, because we can do better, and we need to make sure that we listen to everybody. We need to be listening to the victims, and we need to be working to end sexual violence.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

June 16th, 2022 / 1:15 p.m.
See context

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to be able to address the House virtually today.

There are a number of thoughts that I would like to share with respect to this piece of legislation. It is legislation that has been in the works for a considerable amount of time. As much as I have been enjoying some of the questions and answers, especially when the Conservatives are being pushed as to when they are going to look at it or whether they would consider the passage of the legislation. Just given the context of what the official opposition members are saying, I do not anticipate that the bill will be passing before summer. I think the Conservatives have some spin notes that they want to try to leave on this particular legislation.

The biggest one that comes to my mind is the issue of “soft on crime”. It is especially members of the Conservative hard-right element who like to say that they are much harder on crime, that government needs to be tough on crime and that if it is not a Conservative government, it is soft on crime. Whether it makes sense or not, that is the line that the Conservatives like to give because of public perception.

That said, the bill will pass when it will pass, ultimately. I am hopeful that, as we can sense, the majority of the House see the value in Bill C-9, because it is something that is needed.

I want to start by making a couple of observations from some of the stakeholders. I want to do that this time around because I really do respect our judicial system as one of the fundamental pillars of our democracy. Our rule of law, our judicial system and the idea of independence are held dear by, I would like to think, all members of the House.

For that reason, I thought it was important to start off with a quote. It is from the Right Hon. Richard Wagner, Chief Justice of Canada and chairperson of the Canadian Judicial Council. He stated:

Over the past few years, the Council has consistently called for new legislation to be tabled in order to improve the process by which concerns about judicial conduct are reviewed. The efforts of members of Council to develop proposals in this regard have been fruitful, and we appreciate the openness with which the Minister of Justice has engaged the Council in his consultations.

I will go to another quote from the Canadian Judicial Council. It states:

While the Council will take some time to carefully review the proposed amendments, we are confident that these reforms will bring about much needed efficiency and transparency to the judicial conduct review process.

I wanted to start with those opening quotes because of the respect that I have for judicial independence. I also recognize that there has been a great deal of work, whether by the minister or by administration or by civil servants. They have worked very closely with the many different stakeholders while at the same time respecting the importance of judicial independence. That is why, when I look at the legislation—and I concur with some of the comments being made by my New Democratic Party colleagues and Green Party members, who seem to support the legislation and its speedy passage—I would like to think that the bill itself should not be controversial. It is actually fairly straightforward. There will be other opportunities for the opposition members to try to score their political points, if I could put it that way.

I do think there would have been a great deal of value in seeing Bill C-9 at least pass through second reading so that it could go to committee stage, possibly during the summer, when feedback could be heard from the public and experts, with the idea of coming back in the fall for report stage and third reading.

The Conservative members who spoke before me were interesting. I picked up on two comments; one was the issue of “soft on crime”, which I have already referenced and maybe will go into a little more later, but they also brought up the issue of appointments of judges. I was somewhat taken aback by some of the comments that were put on the record.

We were being criticized because we did not make appointments shortly after being elected into government, as we were reviewing and establishing a more independent, apolitical, transparent appointment process to ensure that our judicial system would be that much more transparent. Yes, there might have been some delays in those appointments, but they were taking the extreme position that murderers went free because of some delays in appointments. I would welcome and challenge the Conservative members to cite specific examples of someone who not only allegedly murdered but did murder an individual and ultimately, because they could not get a day in court, were let go without any charges being laid in that situation. I would be very much interested in a name. If they could provide me with one, they can always send it to my P9 email or raise it inside the House.

The member went on to talk about Jody Wilson-Raybould, being very critical of her for not making appointments and implying in the comments that she would only make an appointment if the person donated to the party. Again, those were very extreme statements being made by the Conservative Party. It is not fair. It is interesting how they seem to have forgiven the past—at least, most of the Conservative caucus has—in regard to Jody Wilson-Raybould, but I remember the allegations a number of years ago on that front.

It is important to look at the appointments that have actually been made. The government has made somewhere in the neighbourhood of 400 appointments since 2016. If we do the comparison, I would love to hear the numbers from the previous administration. When it comes to this administration, out of the hundreds of appointments to our judicial system, 55% have been women. I would love to hear a comparison with the previous 10 years under Stephen Harper.

About 3% of our appointments, or marginally just above that, were indigenous. That is important to recognize. Over 10% are visible minorities. The LGBTQ2 appointments are over 5%. Not only are we identifying ideal, competent, incredible individuals, but as a result of a more transparent, depoliticized appointment process, I believe that overall the appointments are more effective in better reflecting what our society looks like today.

On both of those points, whether it is judges and the appointment of judges or the issue of the Conservatives being soft on crime and saying the government is not tough enough on crime, I would challenge the Conservatives to prove their points, not necessarily on this legislation, but on other pieces of legislation so we can ultimately see Bill C-9 pass.

It is important to recognize that we do need to see a balance. We have the fundamental pillar of our judicial independence and it is important there be a high level of confidence held by the public in the administration of justice. I believe the legislation we are looking at deals with that in a very fair fashion.

The amendments will ultimately allow for the Canadian Judicial Council to continue to preside over the process proposed in the legislation. This would start with a three-person review panel ultimately deciding to investigate a complaint of misconduct. In some situations, if the complaint is serious enough, it might even warrant dismissal or removal from the bench. In situations like that, it could be referred to a separate five-person panel.

In the first case, it would be strictly a three-person review panel made up of CJC members. A judge and a layperson could impose sanctions such as public apologies and continuing education.

The current process has turned out, in many ways, to be exceptionally costly at times, and equally as important, it is not very timely. We have seen situations where it could take years before anything is actually concluded.

That is the reason our judicial system is saying that we need to make changes. Today, judges facing possible removal from office because of serious allegations of misconduct have several opportunities throughout the process to launch these judicial reviews. However, as I indicated, the process in some cases can be too long and can be at a fairly significant cost.

Replacing the process through which the Canadian Judicial Council reviews the conduct of a federally appointed judge is the essence of what the legislation is proposing to do. It establishes a new process for reviewing allegations of misconduct that are not serious enough to warrant a judge's removal from office and makes changes to the process by which recommendations regarding removal from office can be made by the Minister of Justice.

The new process would allow for the imposition of sanctions for misconduct which, while not serious enough to warrant removal, may warrant sanctions that are quite different. The current process does not allow for such sanctions. The member for Mount Royal highlighted some examples. Where a judge's actions have been deemed to have offended something and there needs to be a consequence for the actions, there are more opportunities for different types of consequences.

We could see anything ranging from verbal warnings to written warnings, to suspensions or public apologies. We could even see additional training being required, and ultimately, of course, judges being released. This legislation enables a suite of actions that could be imposed on a judge, given a certain behaviour or comment that is made publicly.

Not only have we heard today, but we have also heard it in the past. We have had private members' bills. I think of Rona Ambrose. She talked about educating judges, particularly in the area of rape victims. Her piece of legislation ultimately received support from all areas of the House. Parliamentarians from all political stripes recognized the need to have some form of educational programming for newly appointed judges to take things into consideration. In fact, my daughter, who is a local representative in the province of Manitoba, had also taken that particular initiative after hearing about what Rona Ambrose had done.

Ultimately, the government pushed that legislation through in the years that followed after Ms. Ambrose left the House of Commons, but we attribute it to Rona and we attribute it to the fact that there is a universal desire for that training.

It was not that long ago when we had another private member's bill, one from one of my colleagues from Montreal. There was a great deal of effort by members on all sides of the House to see that legislation, Bill C-233, which is still before the House today, pass second reading and go to committee. It came out of third reading because of that desire.

For those who are not familiar, Ms. Ambrose's piece of legislation is recognized as Keira's law for good reason. I will quote from an article, “When I brought forward the evidence about abuse of Mr. Brown, we had a judge, for example, who said that domestic violence is not relevant to parenting and, 'I'm going to ignore it.'”

Periodically statements come out of our judicial system that call into question the public confidence. That is one of the reasons it is so important that we pass this legislation. It recognizes that our independent judicial system and our judges, who we do need to respect, can make mistakes. Obviously, a vast majority of judgments are done in a way in which they meet the expectations of Canadians, but on occasion, when that does not happen, there needs to be a more effective mechanism to ensure there is an appropriate consequence. This legislation would enable some variation of consequences for judges, at times, who cross the line.

I have appreciated the opportunity to share a few thoughts and will be more than happy to answer any questions.

Concurrence in Vote 1—Department of JusticeMain Estimates, 2022-23Government Orders

June 7th, 2022 / 7:20 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is truly an honour to stand here as we discuss the business of supply and the main estimates for 2023. I would like to begin by thanking a lot of people who have been talking to me over the last three weeks about the Supreme Court ruling that was made on May 13. I would like to thank the member who just spoke earlier, the hon. member representing New Brunswick. I would like to thank people from the London Abused Women's Centre, especially Jennifer Dunn and Megan Walker, and all those who have connected with me to ask if this is really the truth, if this is really happening.

I want to go to what happened on May 13 and the discussions that started following a Supreme Court ruling. On May 13, the Supreme Court of Canada issued a major decision indicating that criminal defence in cases involving assault, including sexual assault, would be able to use a defence known as self-induced extreme intoxication.

It is really hard for me to look at this. I am not a lawyer. I am just a normal human being who has children, who has family and who loves her community. I want to ensure that things like this do not exist in a court of law. I have reached out to some of these lawyers, to some Crown attorneys, and we have amazing support here from the member for Brantford—Brant and the member for Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, just the work they have done to share with me what is going on here. These are the things we need to talk about. I am not going to blither anymore. I am going to talk about what has actually happened.

On that date, there was a ruling saying that extreme intoxication could be used, because otherwise it goes against the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, sections 7 and 11. I started looking at this, what it actually means and how it happened, and I went back to the history of why section 33.1 exists in the Criminal Code in the first place. This had to do with the fact that someone had been charged and there was a problem because at the end of the day, they were allowed to use this type of defence, the fact that this person was totally intoxicated and yet sexually assaulted someone.

I started looking at some of the different cases and asking why this is such an important thing to Canada and how we can ensure that this would never happen again. How can we ensure that someone would never be able to use extreme intoxication, especially when it is an offence on another individual, especially when it has to do with sexual assault, bodily harm, or any type of violence against a person? This is why I am so concerned with this.

When this Supreme Court ruling came out, I asked my colleagues about three key issues: What needs to be addressed in the Criminal Code? What are the specific loopholes? What can we do to address this issue immediately? The first thing we did as a group, and there were four of us who signed on, was to send a letter to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada explaining that we wanted to talk about this and that we knew there was an issue. We indicated that these decisions imperil the safety of sexual assault victims by permitting the dubious defence of non-insane automatism due to self-induced intoxication. Sexual offences disproportionately affect women and vulnerable people. The Attorney General has had sufficient time to study this ruling. The ruling clearly implores the government to act. The government has not. We have only heard silence from the government.

That is why I am here today. This judgment was made on May 13. Today is June 7. We already know that when it comes to victims of sexual abuse and exploitation, the chances of people coming forward are already very slim, going into the criminal justice system. We just finished Bill C-233 last week, where we talked about judges' training and we talked about the fact that there is such a disconnect there. Understanding domestic violence, understanding criminal law, understanding what it is like to be a victim is so important. That is why l will continue to ask and continue to advocate for judges having training on domestic abuse, on sexual exploitation, on rape, all of these things, and how important it is. Although Bill C-233 is expected to pass through the Senate, we still need to make sure that judges are taking this.

That is why, when we look at this decision, we say, oh my gosh, the victim is lost throughout the entire discussion. That is why I have so many issues with this. We sent this letter over two weeks ago, and we are still waiting for a response. I recognize that the minister has spoken to us in question period, but we are waiting for action, and that is what I am calling for today. We want action.

We have people like Jennifer Dunn, the executive director of the London Abused Women's Centre, who said, “Women are already disproportionately affected when it comes to assault and sexual assault so this will affect them tenfold.... To be able to use that as an excuse and potentially not be convicted for their crimes is absolutely absurd.”

That is why I want to continue to have this discussion. We are talking about a person and the fact that if people are violated, there is a fear of coming forward after everything. Whether it is the judge's training, or whatever it may be, the fact is that someone could even use extreme intoxication as a defence. I am sorry, but if it were my daughter who was raped and someone used extreme intoxication, as a mother watching my child, I would ask, how could anyone let that happen? I ask every person out there to reflect on this: If this was a member of their family or a member of their community, how would they feel if they knew that they did nothing?

It has been three weeks now. Let us get this done. I am just going to ask the minister to get this done. We know that section 33.1 is unconstitutional, based on the nine Supreme Court judges saying it is unconstitutional, and they have come back to the government and indicated, even in their decision, that the government could do something, so I am asking where the government is on this. Why have the Liberals not done anything?

I know that on an issue just a month ago, they had an immediate response. At that moment they were talking about oil and gas. That day, they talked about the fact that they were going to appeal that decision. We are talking three weeks later, and we still have not heard from the government what it is planning on doing.

I want to go back and talk about why section 33.1 was put there in the first place, so that members have an idea of what can happen and why this is so important. I am looking through these notes, and there were two cases that involved men who were high on drugs when they killed and injured family members. The extreme intoxication was used to acquit one man and order a new trial for the other. Right there, we have people high on drugs who killed and injured family members.

With the case that just came up here recently, I know there has been lots of discussion on that one. It is not up to me as a parliamentarian to judge what is right and wrong, but it is to fill in those holes. We sit here and ask if this is fair. This is where the rights of the victims are lost and the rights of the criminals are talked about as being charter rights under sections 7 and 11.

I ask members, what if they were the ones violated and every single right was gone because the violator took those rights away from them? What if their rights were taken away and all we were worrying about were the criminal's rights? I sit here and think that the criminal's rights are outweighing the victim's rights. Something is absolutely wrong there.

The case that brought this all up, and the reason we are having this discussion, was the May 13 decision. It was about a case that involved a man who had consumed alcohol and magic mushrooms. He broke into the home of a female victim and violently assaulted her with a broom handle, leaving permanent injuries. He was declared by the courts to have been in a psychotic state and to have had no will to control his actions.

I sit here and wonder how we define extreme intoxication. How many times have people gone to somebody's Facebook and seen that somebody had written “I was extremely intoxicated”? I have spoken to friends and different people who will talk about not remembering what happened that night. What we are doing here is actually saying that if people are not able to make that choice, although they voluntarily consumed the alcohol or the drugs, they are involuntarily doing the thing, because they do not have the state of mind to make the right judgment.

I go back to point one: They had the choice to drink, and they had the choice to take drugs. There are some cases where awful things have happened when people have been given drugs. We understand that this happens as well, so we have to look at that, but when people are voluntarily doing something and then the next time they are actually victimizing somebody else, why are we sitting back and allowing that to be the case? Why are we sitting there and saying extreme intoxication can be used? We know that it is very minute, because we know that there is a threshold, but my problem is that one is too many. That could be somebody's daughter. That could be anything like this. We have to look at the victims first. We have to look at the violators first, and that is what we are not doing.

I think the decision made by the Supreme Court, whether it is right or wrong, gave direction to the government to do something, and I am asking the government where it is at making this decision.

We know that, as I said, people are not going to come forward if they think this can be used, so I am very concerned as we are moving forward. There is a lot of work we need to do here. When it comes to intimate partner violence, when it comes to violence and when it comes to offences on other victims, I believe we can all agree that the victims matter and that they should come first, so I urge the government to do something now, not three weeks from now, but now.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

June 1st, 2022 / 3:50 p.m.
See context

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

Pursuant to order made on Thursday, November 25, 2021, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at third reading stage of Bill C‑233 under Private Members' Business.

The question is on the motion.

The House resumed from May 30 consideration of the motion that Bill C-233, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Judges Act (violence against an intimate partner) be read the third time and passed.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

May 30th, 2022 / 11:40 a.m.
See context

York Centre Ontario

Liberal

Ya'ara Saks LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families

Madam Speaker, it is an honour today to speak to Bill C-233. I would like to start by thanking the member for Dorval—Lachine—LaSalle 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 Oakville North—Burlington 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 C-233 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 Elgin—Middlesex—London, 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 C-233.

Bill C-233 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 C-233 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 C-233 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 C-78 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 Dorval—Lachine—LaSalle 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.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

May 30th, 2022 / 11:30 a.m.
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NDP

Leah Gazan NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, it is an honour to rise today and speak in support of Bill C-233, 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 Prime Minister 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—

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

May 30th, 2022 / 11:20 a.m.
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Bloc

Andréanne Larouche Bloc Shefford, QC

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 public safety 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.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

May 30th, 2022 / 11:15 a.m.
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Conservative

Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

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 C-233 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 C-233, 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 C-233 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.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

May 30th, 2022 / 11:10 a.m.
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Conservative

Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Madam Speaker, I know this is a very important bill to get through today, but there are some things we still want to pass, so perhaps I could ask the member what additional things we would like to see as we continue build on the foundation of Bill C-233.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

May 30th, 2022 / 11 a.m.
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Liberal

Anju Dhillon Liberal Dorval—Lachine—LaSalle, QC

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

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 C‑233 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 C-233 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 C‑233 and will vote accordingly.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-233, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Judges Act (violence against an intimate partner), as reported (with amendment) from the committee.

Status of WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

May 17th, 2022 / 10:05 a.m.
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Conservative

Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the first report of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women in relation to Bill C-233, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Judges Act (violence against an intimate partner).

The committee has studied the bill and has decided to report the bill back to the House with amendments.

I also have the honour to present, in both official languages, the second report of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, entitled “Recommendations following the study of Bill C-233, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Judges Act (violence against an intimate partner)”. It states:

Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), the committee has considered Bill C-233, an Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Judges Act (violence against an intimate partner), and wishes to make the following recommendations to the Government:

That the committee considered issues and consequences around the availability of cell service in the use of e-monitoring and recommends the Government of Canada move as soon as possible to ensure access to cell service is available across Canada, and that the committee feels strongly and recommends that when developing training for new judges, the issues of intimate partner violence, coercive control in intimate partner and family relationships, and social context be included.

May 13th, 2022 / 2:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Jenna Sudds Liberal Kanata—Carleton, ON

Thank you, Chair, and I feel compelled, first of all, to acknowledge the success that we've all just witnessed in moving through Bill C-233. With that, thanks to everyone because I think it really demonstrates the spirit of the work we do here at this committee and how well we do it together, and I think it's important to acknowledge that.

I thank Emmanuella for bringing this motion forward. I do think it's obviously an important discussion. Having said that, and as Leah so eloquently put it, hard things are hard. This is a hard topic. This is a hard discussion. I don't think we're going to be able to resolve it or to have as fulsome discussion today on this particular issues as perhaps we need to, but I appreciate the brief discussion we've had and I think that at this point the next step is to move to adjourn. I don't think we're going to get any further than that at this point, and we can revisit this at an appropriate time.

May 13th, 2022 / 2:50 p.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

Thank you very much. There are a few more things.

Once again, I do really appreciate the committee. Anita, I know I strongly offended you and I do apologize for that. This is a very difficult discussion to have and I guess the thing is that we just came out of Bill C-233 that we are so passionate about, and I don't mean to cry but I think that the work we needed to get done got done.

Anytime I see things brought up like this, when we're not working together, when we know—and I think everybody in this room knows—we want what's right for women.... We do. We all do. That is why Bill C-233 went through like that, because we actually were all working together.

My fear is not the status of women committee; my fear is when those people you do talk of weaponize this. Those are my concerns.

Perhaps you've never been a Conservative woman like me who gets yelled at by people who don't understand where I stand. Maybe that's part of the problem. We do need to have a bigger discussion and, you know, my language was very offensive, so I do apologize to you, Anita. It was very offensive, and I think it's because I have fought for the same rights that everyone like you, Anita, have fought for. I will continue to fight for those rights.

I don't trust the people outside this room to be able to have the adult conversation that we need to have, and so my thing is that the political football never be in this room. It is the moment that we hit outside of this room. It's the moment that becomes the headline, yet people are dying. We know this and that's my concern here, that we are starting the ball rolling down a really steep hill where the only people who lose are the women and never anybody else.

When I say things aren't going to change, it's because in reality we know things aren't going to change in the next three years and during that three years we should be doing work. We know we're in a government where all around that entire chamber, you will have support and it doesn't matter what side you're on. I will be standing along with those women just like I would today on a vote. I will be standing, just as I always have, and my concern is that when we go over there, that is where the people who are here and here don't want to talk.

We know that there's a whole bunch of us here, but we can't have that adult conversation because as a person, a Conservative woman, I've had it politicized for probably 25 years and that's the problem.

If I knew we were doing the right thing. I would be 100% about it, but I can tell you that when I get into that House, just like last Wednesday, I will have to leave because I'm disgusted when I have people yelling at me, just like I yell at them, but it's very hard.

Jenna, I see your hand up.

May 13th, 2022 / 2:45 p.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

The conditions are that we finish all the witness testimony on natural resources and the indigenous, which is all scheduled. We should be done that shortly. We will also be finishing Bill C-233, which we'll be tabling on Tuesday. We'll also be starting the draft on Tuesday of intimate partner violence. With that, we also have the estimates that come up. We also have the ministers next Friday.

I just want to make sure that everybody is aware of what the time frame is for this committee and that we are doing the work for the people who need the urgent assistance today, not something that comes in here that has absolutely no teeth to it. This is virtue signalling at its best.

Thank you very much.

Anita, go ahead. Then it will be back to Shelby and then Emmanuella.

May 13th, 2022 / 2:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Shelby Kramp-Neuman Conservative Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

Thank you, Chair.

I'm suggesting that we discuss this motion once Bill C-233 is reported back to the House, the intimate partner study has been completed, and all witnesses on the resource development and violence against women and girls study have been heard.

Thank you.

May 13th, 2022 / 2:40 p.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

Okay. Not a problem.

Go ahead....

Yes. That's what I thought. It's because there are conditions. It is a dilatory motion with conditions, which is a debatable motion, just to let you know. But we can't have two debatable motions at the same time. The debatable motion is now on the adjournment with conditions.

Because we've gone from one, when we've gone from.... Something that currently is debatable has an end. She's asked for a dilatory motion with conditions, but the conditions put in there now become what we're also debating. If we adjourn with these conditions, the conditions are that Bill C-233 needs to be reported and intimate partner violence needs to be addressed and tabled. That's what's really important. Do we want to make sure that we're putting in the time on intimate partner violence and make sure that those studies get done? Or do we want to continue to debate this?

So the debate is on whether we adjourn with conditions.

Go ahead.

May 13th, 2022 / 2:40 p.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

Okay.

So I hear a lot of chatter on this, and I'm going to take the chair's prerogative once again. We can choose to actually discuss this or we can choose to use this as a political football, like I have seen for the last few months. I'm actually going to put my foot down on this one right now, because I'll be honest—a little upset. We have just come through an extraordinary study of Bill C-233, where we have proven that we can work together very, very well.

I'm going to let you guys know: This is not going to be coming up in the next three years. You're in a minority government with the support of the NDP. I fully respect that.

I know that people want to respond—I see your hand—but I'm just hoping that this committee can continue to do the excellent work that we want to do and that, instead of bringing in the politics, we actually worry about women in this committee.

I am...I understand that. But I really get annoyed when I think that people think they are more right on this one. I'm going to discuss this. We can carry this out. We have a decision, as the status of women committee, on whether we want to join in the politics of divisiveness that are being brought in or whether we want to actually do what's right for women.

We know what the vote's going to end up like today. Perhaps I can ask this committee if we can just go. I know how the resolution is going to be. I know what I'll be taking to the committee, and I know the votes are actually fine, but what happens when we take it to the House? Are we going to waste three and four hours of concurrence? Yup.

Is there perhaps a way of putting this through such that we have the vote today, I report it back to the House, and there is no concurrence motion, so that we don't waste four hours of debate in the House of Commons? And “waste” is not a time, but if you can tell me that abortions are going to end tomorrow in this country, or if you can tell me that in the next three years abortions are going to end in this country, then I will take this as not a political football. I will take this as the urgency for all Canadians. We need to make sure that there are different things....

Anita, I see you are getting angry. It's great that you've come here—

May 13th, 2022 / 2:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Shelby Kramp-Neuman Conservative Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

We've come so far and we're making so much progress with this current study, so I would move to adjourn debate on this particular motion, with conditions.

I'm suggesting that we could discuss the motion once Bill C-233 is completely done and reported back to the House and all is good, the intimate partner violence study has been completed, and all of the witnesses for the resource development and violence against women and girls study have been heard.

May 13th, 2022 / 2:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

Sorry, Madam Chair, there is a part to put at the beginning that is exactly the same as what we used previously. I don't have that written down.

I move:

Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), the committee has considered Bill C-233, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Judges Act (violence against an intimate partner), and wishes to make the following recommendations to the government:

The recommendations would be:

That the committee considered issues and consequences around the availability of cell service in the use of e-monitoring and recommends the Government of Canada move as soon as possible to ensure access to cell service is available across Canada, and that the committee feels strongly and recommends that when developing training for new judges, that issues of intimate partner violence, coercive control in intimate partner and family relationships, and social context be included.

May 13th, 2022 / 2:10 p.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

Thanks, Sonia, for bringing that forward. I appreciate that.

From this discussion that we're having, this may be an opportunity for us to put forward this resolution. This is something that we've all discussed. It's important to everybody, so perhaps we can work on a resolution.

I could say, “Here's a report. I'm reporting it back, but then our committee has also adopted this resolution on this.” Perhaps we can get started on a resolution, because Bill C-233 has opened up a can of worms. We know there's more to be done.

Is that okay? Am I working it okay, or am I just making up my own rules?

May 13th, 2022 / 2 p.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

Excellent. Thank you so much. I just want to make sure we're on the same page.

Emmanuella has no other comments.

Shall Liberal-5 carry?

Can we have a recorded vote, please?

(Amendment agreed to: yeas 10; nays 0)

Excellent. Thank you so much.

I just want to make sure we have everything going here. Everything looks like it's fine.

Now let's get to the title of this. It is An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Judges Act (violence against an intimate partner).

Shall the title carry?

(Title agreed to: yeas 10; nays 0)

You guys are just being too easy on the chair today.

Shall the bill as amended be carried?

(Bill C-233 as amended agreed to: yeas 10; nays 0)

Excellent.

Shall the chair report the bill as amended to the House?

Is there a question?

May 13th, 2022 / 2 p.m.
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Liberal

Emmanuella Lambropoulos Liberal Saint-Laurent, QC

It is that Bill C-233 be amended by adding, after line 9 on page 2, the following new clause after the title “Coming into Force”: “This Act comes into force on the 30th day after the day on which it receives royal assent.”

May 13th, 2022 / 1 p.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

I call the meeting to order.

Welcome to meeting number 20 of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women.

I know that many of you are online and some people are just getting online right now. We have a very important day and the time is tight.

Pursuant to the order of reference of Friday April 29, 2022, the committee will begin its clause-by-clause study of Bill C-233, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Judges Act (violence against an intimate partner).

Today's meeting is taking place in a hybrid format, pursuant to the House order of November 25, 2021. Members are attending in person in the room and remotely, using the Zoom application.

I would like to make a few comments for the benefit of our witnesses and members. Please wait until I recognize you by name before speaking. For those participating by video conference, click on the microphone icon to activate your mike and please mute it when you are not speaking. For interpretation for those on Zoom, you have the choice at the bottom of the screen of the floor, English or French. For those in the room, you can use the earpiece and select the desired channel.

I would remind you that all comments should be addressed through the chair.

Before we begin, I would like to welcome the Department of Justice officials who are here and will be discussing Bill C-233 with us. We have Shannon Davis-Ermuth, senior counsel in the criminal law and policy section of the policy sector; Claire Farid, director and general counsel in the family and children's law team of the policy sector; and Melissa Moor, counsel in the judicial affairs section of public law and legislative services.

We will be proceeding, but for some reason, Philippe, you are not in my introduction. I am sitting beside the legislative clerk, Philippe, who will keep this all in order and assist me with this if we have questions.

Because these were all confidential, there are some amendments that we may have questions on. You may want to ask one of the legal professionals about these, so that we can have a better understanding. I don't believe there are many lawyers in the room. I think we're all advocates for women and women's health.

We are going to proceed with clause-by-clause. I am going to move now to the agenda for clause-by-clause.

Do we have all of our members? I see Michelle and Shelby are on there. Fantastic.

Is Marc Serré here today?

May 10th, 2022 / 5:30 p.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

Awesome.

We are coming to 5:30, the time I was told we have to end today.

On behalf of the status of women committee, I would like to thank all of you for being our important witnesses for Bill C-233, and that we could have this discussion.

Are there any issues? Are we ready to adjourn today's meeting?

Thank you very much.

The meeting is adjourned.

May 10th, 2022 / 4:45 p.m.
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Bloc

Andréanne Larouche Bloc Shefford, QC

Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

I thank all of the witnesses for appearing today as part of our study on this bill.

I would like to begin by addressing Ms. Cross and Ms. Strauss.

As a preamble, I would say that there is a subsection of Bill C‑233 that adds a new condition that judges must consider when making an order for interim release with additional conditions under subsection 515(4.3) of the Criminal Code. If the Attorney General so requests, judges must consider whether it is desirable to require the accused to wear a remote monitoring device.

I would just like to know if you have been able to look into this. I would also like to hear from you that under this new legislation, a judge could not impose on his or her own initiative the wearing of an electronic device on an accused person when making a bail order with additional conditions. There must absolutely be a prior application by the prosecutor.

What do you think? How do you react to the fact that the bracelet would be imposed at the request of the public prosecutor, and not at the sole discretion of the judges?

Have you had a chance to look into this?

May 10th, 2022 / 4:20 p.m.
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Pamela Cross Legal Director, Luke's Place Support and Resource Centre for Women and Children

Thank you very much. Good afternoon. I'm very happy to be with you to talk about Bill C-233. I do so on behalf of Luke's Place Support and Resource Centre in Durham Region where I'm the legal director. I'm happy to talk to you more about the work that we do with survivors of family violence if we have time during the question period.

First, with respect to judicial education, Luke's Place strongly supports judicial education on the issue of intimate partner violence, or IPV. The family law system in Canada is not always an understanding and safe place for women who have been subjected to IPV. Women face barriers in simply getting to the courtroom and, once there, they're often met with a legal system that does not understand their experiences or hear their concerns.

Just over a year ago, significant changes were made to the Divorce Act, making it mandatory for judges to consider family violence when deciding on parenting arrangements. These changes also introduced an expansive definition of “family violence” that goes well beyond the physical to include patterns of coercive control. As we just heard from Dr. Paterson, it's that coercive control that can be such a dangerous kind of IPV.

Those changes to the legislation, important as they are, are only one part of the solution when it comes to protecting women and children, to saving their lives. Education for those tasked with applying the law is equally important if judges are to have the tools and resources they need to make effective, safe parenting decisions.

Over the past year, we've seen excellent decisions that clearly reflect a deep understanding of the legislation and of IPV on the part of many judges. However, we also continue to see decisions that lack that understanding. When a judge does not fully understand what family violence looks like and its harmful long-lasting effects, decisions can be made that put women and children at risk. Stereotypes about violence and victims remain alive and women who have been subjected to subtle, non-physical forms of violence continue to be disbelieved, continue to be retraumatized, or even worse, they're vilified throughout the family law process.

We strongly support judicial independence and impartiality and the need to ensure that judges make decisions based only on the law and the facts before them, but to do so effectively and competently, judges require ongoing education about the laws that they're applying. This should not be controversial. We understand that a memorandum of understanding was recently signed by Chief Justice Richard Wagner and the Minister of Justice, David Lametti, recognizing the judiciary's autonomy over education. We believe that this bill can coexist with the memorandum through the permissive language found in the Judges Act.

While we generally support Bill C-233's proposed amendments, we suggest that it could be made stronger by including a provision that sets out suggested requirements for the creation and content of the training, similar to those in subsection 60(3) in respect of seminars related to sexual assault law. In the interests of time, I'll save my comments about the details of what we propose for that kind of education for the question period.

We also submit that Bill C-233 should include an amendment to paragraph 3(b) to require that new judges undertake to participate in continuing education on matters related to IPV and coercive control. This obligation already exists with respect to sexual assault law and social context, and it should simply be expanded to cover the topic of intimate partner violence.

Very briefly, we're not opposed to electronic monitoring as a mechanism for promoting the safety of victims and survivors of intimate partner violence. There's no doubt that this form of electronic tracking can provide women with an added level of security and no doubt that it has the potential to increase both actual safety and feelings of safety.

However, we need to do more before we codify electronic monitoring. In order to avoid unintended negative consequences, let's take the time to find out more about when and how it will be used, and whether it's appropriate in all circumstances.

We have a list of questions that we believe need to be answered before proceeding with electronic monitoring, and I'm happy to share them and discuss them during the question period, if time permits.

Let me conclude by saying that Luke’s Place supports Bill C-233, but encourages the committee to consider our proposed suggestions and amendments as a way to strengthen the bill and promote safer outcomes for women and children.

Thank you.

May 10th, 2022 / 4:05 p.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

I'd like to call this meeting to order.

Pursuant to the order of reference of Friday, April 29, 2022, the committee will resume its study of Bill C-233, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Judges Act (violence against an intimate partner).

Today's meeting is taking place in a hybrid format pursuant to the House order of November 25, 2021. Members are attending in person in the room and remotely using the Zoom application. Per the directive of the Board of Internal Economy on March 10, 2022, all those attending the meeting in person must wear a mask, except for members who are at their places during proceedings.

I would like to make a few comments for the benefit of our witnesses and members.

Please wait until I recognize you by name before speaking. For those participating by video conference, click on the microphone icon to activate your mike, and please mute your mike when you are not speaking.

For interpretation for those on Zoom, you have the choice at the bottom of your screen of floor, English or French. For those in the room, you can use the earpiece and select the desired channel. As a reminder, all comments should be addressed through the chair.

Before we welcome our witnesses, for drafting amendments I would like to remind members to contact Alexandra Schorah, the legislative counsel, as soon as possible should there be any amendments to be drafted. The deadline for submitting amendments in both official languages is Wednesday, May 11, at noon. Amendments should be sent to the clerk.

On another note, I had a call this morning from Megan Walker. She is unable to attend today due to family circumstances. I have taken this to the clerk, and I would like to propose that her speaking notes be taken as read and appended to the evidence of today's meeting.

Do I have the consent of the committee?

May 6th, 2022 / 2:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Dominique Vien Conservative Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, QC

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I thank you, ladies, for being here this afternoon.

I don't have many questions for you. However, I do have one that relates to one of your answers, which surprised me a bit.

Ms. Davis-Ermuth, in response to a question from one of my colleagues about the application of the new provisions of Bill C‑233 and how all of this was going to be verified on the ground, as well as my question earlier this afternoon about how the effects of these new provisions were being analyzed, you responded that Statistics Canada was going to be doing that work.

Did I understand correctly?

May 6th, 2022 / 2:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Emmanuella Lambropoulos Liberal Saint-Laurent, QC

This is my final question.

You've seen Keira's law, which is Bill C-233. I'm wondering if you can tell us if you believe that this bill would help children and women in these situations in the future. Would it help empower women when it comes to divorce and when it comes to an abusive partner?

May 6th, 2022 / 2:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Michelle Ferreri Conservative Peterborough—Kawartha, ON

Okay. Thank you so much.

I have what I feel is a delicate question. Obviously, I think this whole committee is very passionate about this, and we've come together because we know how important this bill is. I think sometimes when we're super-emotional, we can forget about something that can happen, perhaps negatively, as a result of a bill.

Just to ensure.... I've had a lot of questions and feedback from male victims of intimate partner violence and male victims of domestic abuse as well. Do you see this Bill C-233 and the education being applied to judges protecting all people, regardless of gender?

May 6th, 2022 / 2:05 p.m.
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Shannon Davis-Ermuth Senior Counsel, Criminal Law and Policy Section, Policy Sector, Department of Justice

Thank you very much for the opportunity to speak today to the reforms proposed by Bill C-233, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Judges Act (violence against an intimate partner).

I would like to begin by acknowledging that I am joining you from my home and place of work that is situated on the traditional territories of the Haudenosaunee and the Algonquin Anishinabe nations.

I propose to provide a brief overview of the bill's reforms with reference to the relevant existing legal frameworks, and then my colleague, Melissa Moor, and I will be happy to attempt to answer any questions you may have.

As you know, the bill proposes two sets of amendments, one to the Criminal Code's interim judicial release, commonly known as bail provisions, and one to the provisions in the Judges Act for continuing education seminars. I will address each in turn.

Amendments to the Criminal Code would require a justice of the peace to determine whether an accused charged with an offence against his or her intimate partner should be required to wear a remote monitoring device as a condition of bail, commonly referred to as a “bond”, when requested by the Attorney General.

Currently, the Criminal Code allows courts hearing bail applications to impose any conditions they deem necessary, as long as they are justified, in any of the following cases: to ensure the accused's presence in court, for the protection or safety of the public, including victims, and [Technical difficulty—Editor] so as not to undermine section 515(10) of the Criminal Code.

In particular, they may impose any conditions they consider necessary to ensure the safety of victims or witnesses to the offence, which may include the requirement to wear a remote monitoring device as a condition of release for any offence, including offences against an intimate partner. The electronic monitoring of accused persons on bail is a matter of administration of justice, and therefore a provincial and territorial responsibility. The use of such a device varies across the country. Some provinces and territories provide electronic monitoring programs and pay for the device, while others require the accused to pay for it.

Now I will turn to Bill C-233's Judges Act amendments, which would add intimate partner violence and coercive control to the list of continuing education seminars for judges that the Canadian Judicial Council may establish. That list of continuing education seminars already references “matters related to sexual assault law and social context, which includes systemic racism and systemic discrimination”, as enacted by Bill C-3, which came into force in 2021.

“Coercive control” is a term coined by sociologists to refer to a pattern of controlling behaviour that takes place over time in the context of intimate partner or familial relationships and serves to entrap victims, eliminating their sense of freedom in the relationship. A broad range of controlling conduct may be employed, but the focus is on how a pattern of such conduct serves to subjugate, not the individual incidents in which abusers exercise control.

The concept of coercive control has been used in both family law and criminal law contexts. In the family law context, the concept was recently added to the Divorce Act's definition of family violence. Although there are no specific offences of intimate partner violence or coercive control in the Criminal Code, numerous Criminal Code offences of general application can address this type of conduct, such as homicide, assault, threats of death or bodily harm, sexual assault and criminal harassment.

That concludes my remarks. I welcome any questions you may have.

Thank you.

May 6th, 2022 / 2 p.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

Good afternoon. We are starting our second hour of debate and discussion on Bill C-233.

For our second panel, I would like to welcome members of the Department of Justice. We have Melissa Moor, counsel of the judicial affairs section, public law and legislative services sector, as well as Shannon Davis-Ermuth, senior counsel, criminal law and policy sector.

You have five minutes together. When you see me start rolling my pen, if you could start wrapping it up, that would be fantastic.

I'm going to pass the floor over to you. I'm not sure who would like to get started, but I'm passing over the floor to the Department of Justice. You have five minutes.

May 6th, 2022 / 1:55 p.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

Awesome.

On behalf of the status of women committee in the first hour of the debate on Bill C-233, I would like to thank Anju Dhillon and Pam Damoff for coming forward and presenting today.

To Jennifer and to Phil, thank you so, so much. I can't agree more with Pam about the work you have done and the advocacy you're done in memory of Keira. We're all there. Thanks for letting us join your train and making sure that we change things for all Canadians. Thank you so much.

We are now going to suspend for a few seconds. We will be welcoming the justice department.

You can hang up. Once again, thank you so much for joining us.

We are suspended.

May 6th, 2022 / 1:50 p.m.
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Bloc

Andréanne Larouche Bloc Shefford, QC

Ms. Dhillon and Ms. Damoff, thank you very much, once again, for introducing Bill C‑233. I also thank Dr. Kagan-Viater and Mr. Viater for being here.

I would like to remind you that talking about this issue is not new. Dr. Kagan-Viater, you pointed out that violence is not always physical, but it always hurts. There was an ad campaign that ran at the time that made an impression on me as a young woman. It was my partner who was behind the campaign, who thought of it. I thought it summed up what coercive control is all about.

If I understand correctly, the electronic bracelet might not have saved your daughter. You recalled that it was more the training of the judges that was at issue in this case. That is my understanding.

For survivors and victims of intimate partner violence, the important thing is that there are no other victims, but also to give women back their confidence so that they want to report these situations, feel that they will be listened to and that their situation will be given all the importance it can have.

Dr. Kagan-Viater, I would like you to talk about the impact that better training of judges will have, and the fact that women will be encouraged to report these situations.

May 6th, 2022 / 1:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Dominique Vien Conservative Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, QC

Of course.

In closing, Madam Chair, I would like to ask a question of our colleague Ms. Dhillon.

Instead of a sunset provision, would it have been appropriate for Bill C‑233 to include a provision that would provide for an analysis of its implementation? So we could have looked at what it would have achieved in three or five years, perhaps?

May 6th, 2022 / 1:30 p.m.
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Bloc

Andréanne Larouche Bloc Shefford, QC

You are absolutely right.

In fact, I am proud to say that one of the specialized court pilot projects will be implemented here in Granby, in the heart of my riding.

The thinking behind the implementation of specialized courts is precisely based on the question of the training of judges. It is essential that they be better trained.

I just want to point out that coercive control is only addressed in relation to the training of judges and that, as you say, the amendment to the Criminal Code that is proposed in the bill that has been tabled does not address the criminalization of coercive control. I heard you say that this was the beginning of a reflection. Yet a recommendation to that effect has been made by many experts, on numerous occasions, to the Standing Committee on the Status of Women and the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

At this point, what is the reason you have not incorporated the recommendation to criminalize coercive control into Bill C‑233?

May 6th, 2022 / 1:25 p.m.
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Bloc

Andréanne Larouche Bloc Shefford, QC

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Ms. Kagan‑Viater and Mr. Viater, I would like to start by offering my deepest condolences. As a recent mother of a little girl myself, I can only imagine the pain you must have felt as parents. This shows how intimate partner violence affects not only the partners, but the whole family. We have had several witnesses say it before the committee. My thoughts are with you.

Ms. Dhillon, thank you very much for introducing Bill C‑233. You've heard me talk a lot about coercive control, as has Ms. Damoff.

I had the opportunity to meet a survivor who was receiving the stories of other survivors as part of her blog Les mots de Myra. If we look at all those stories, it becomes clear that the notion of coercive control affords a much broader and holistic view of the domestic violence issue. You've heard me talk about this many times.

I'm pleased that you are introducing Bill C‑233, and it will come as no surprise to you that my party and I will, of course, be supporting it.

In a sense, the bill follows in the footsteps of what the Quebec government recently put in place. It's in line with what's been done in the National Assembly. We were looking forward to seeing Ottawa get there. However, Quebec has already moved perhaps a little more quickly. In short, I want to tell you that we very much support this new public policy, which is consistent with Quebecers' values.

However, I must stress that this improved legislation will not solve all domestic violence issues. It's not a quick fix. Several witnesses cautioned the committee against thinking that one measure, like the anti-approach bracelet, for example, is going to solve everything by waving a magic wand. Many witnesses have told us we are going to need to add several other measures to curb this violence.

We know that the Quebec government has already announced plans to implement the anti-approach bracelet as part of a set of 14 other measures under way to curb intimate partner violence.

To ensure the continued implementation of these measures, I want you to know how important it is that health care funding to Quebec and the provinces continue to increase to maintain adequate services for victims of domestic violence. Several witnesses have mentioned it. Many organizations can provide support to victims, and their services must go hand in hand with measures like the anti-approach bracelet.

Many witnesses have emphasized how critical these organizations are. What are your thoughts on it?

May 6th, 2022 / 1:15 p.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

Perfect. Thank you so much.

At the beginning of 2020, when I was the shadow minister for women and gender equality, I remember people calling me at home, saying, “We need to find a safe place for this woman.” It was just absolutely tragic.

Jennifer, I want to pass it over to you.

First, as a mom, I don't even know how words can say it. “Sorry” is not enough, but I'm thinking of you each and every day. As we're going through this bill, Bill C-233, your beautiful little girl with those ringlets comes to mind each and every day.

I just want to ask you this. You had 53 court orders, and nothing was done. People were giving out these court orders that said the man can't come over, your ex-husband can't come over, it just can't happen. Every single time he defied these court orders. What happened? What was the next thing you were able to do? What sort of enforcement was done? What did the police do? What resources did you have?

May 6th, 2022 / 1:05 p.m.
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Dr. Jennifer Kagan-Viater As an Individual

Thank you very much.

My name is Jennifer Kagan. I'm a mother and physician, and I will introduce my husband, Mr. Philip Viater, who is a father and family law lawyer.

I'm here to speak with you today about Bill C-233, the judicial education component of which is named informally in honour of my daughter, Keira Kagan.

Today I want to thank MPs Dhillon, Damoff and Saks, as well as all of you on the committee, for inviting us here to speak. It is really an honour.

It is obviously difficult for me to come today to speak about this, but it is very important, and this bill is going to save lives.

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.

Keira was put unsupervised into the hands of a very dangerous individual. As was mentioned previously by MP Dhillon, Keira was killed in a murder-suicide in February 2020. She and her father were found dead at the base of a cliff in Milton, Ontario.

Out of this, we don't want any other child or family to have to go through what we have had to. Each year, 30 to 40 children in Canada are killed by a parent. One child is too many. When we look at family court failures, we see that Keira was failed by the family court system and that other children are being failed. Children who experience domestic violence in their lifetime will have a myriad of issues, including physical and psychological health problems. Domestic violence is a public health crisis that demands urgent action.

We are of the strong view that judges require education in domestic violence and coercive control; hence the judicial education component to Bill C-233.

A woman is killed somewhere in Canada every 1.5 days. This warrants urgent action, and we are grateful to the MPs for bringing this forward so that no other child has to experience a violent and premature end to life at the hands of a parent, which is preventable.

We are very hopeful that the education will be done in consultation with survivors of violence and the organizations that support them. We would certainly welcome a conversation with the judiciary to discuss domestic violence education and what that education should contain. In my view, it obviously needs to include coercive control but certainly also risk assessment, risk factors for lethality and data from Canadian domestic violence death review committees, which look at what those red flags and warning signs are.

I'm going to turn it over to Mr. Viater.

Thank you so much again. It's really an honour to be here.

May 6th, 2022 / 1 p.m.
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Liberal

Anju Dhillon Liberal Dorval—Lachine—LaSalle, QC

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.

May 6th, 2022 / 1 p.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

I call this meeting to order.

Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to meeting number 18 of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women. Pursuant to the order of reference of Friday, April 29, 2022, the committee will begin its study of Bill C-233, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Judges Act (violence against an intimate partner).

Today's meeting is taking place in a hybrid format, pursuant to the House order of November 25, 2021. Members are attending in person in the room and remotely by using the Zoom application. As per the directive of the Board of Internal Economy on March 10, 2022, all those attending the meeting in person must wear a mask, except for members who are at their place during proceedings.

I would like to make a few comments for the benefit of the witnesses and members.

Please wait until I recognize you by name before speaking. For those participating by video conference, click on the microphone icon to activate your mike. Please mute yourself when you are not speaking.

For interpretation, for those on Zoom, you have the choice at the bottom of your screen of either “floor”, “English” or “French”. For those in the room, you can use your earpiece and select the desired channel. All comments should be made through the chair.

Concerning the drafting of amendments, I would like to remind members to contact Alexandra Schorah, the legislative counsel, as soon as possible, should there be any amendments to the draft.

It is now my honour to welcome our first panel on this—I'll be honest—very important bill. Obviously, I have a little bias there. As the chair, I will be very honest on this one.

Today we will be speaking about Bill C-233 and welcoming a special guest, Anju Dhillon, who is the sponsor of this bill.

Thank you very much for this bill, Anju.

We also are proud to have Pam Damoff, the seconder of this bill, who has been supporting this bill through its entire time through the House.

Today it's my honour to have both Jennifer Kagan-Viater and Philip Viater here today as we're discussing this really important law.

I am going to be honest right from the beginning. We usually like to keep things right on time. I know that the first hour of this panel is very, very important to the committee, so I will be lenient with time. When you see my arms flapping, though, please try to have it done in the next few seconds, if you don't mind.

I am now going to pass the floor over to Anju Dhillon.

Anju, if you would you like to start with your presentation, we will provide you with five minutes.

Thank you very much.

April 29th, 2022 / 2:25 p.m.
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Bloc

Andréanne Larouche Bloc Shefford, QC

Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

I'd like to thank the witnesses for their testimony, to which I listened attentively before leaving to give my speech on Bill C-233, whose purpose is to counter violence between intimate partners. I took the time to listen to you before rushing off to the House of Commons.

I'd like to return briefly to Ms. Étienne's opening address. Given that she had to leave, Ms. Sirois-Gauthier might be able to answer my question.

In her address, Ms. Étienne spoke about the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which has not yet been signed.

What are the consequences of the fact that this United Nations declaration has still not been signed ?

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

April 29th, 2022 / 2:10 p.m.
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NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

Pursuant to order made earlier today, Bill C‑233 is deemed read a second time.

Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on the Status of Women.

(Bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

April 29th, 2022 / 2:05 p.m.
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Oakville North—Burlington Ontario

Liberal

Pam Damoff LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Madam Speaker, today is a very special day as we begin debate on this important bill. Let me begin by thanking the MP for Dorval—Lachine—Lasalle for bringing forward Bill C-233 and for her passion and commitment to ending gender-based violence. I would also like to thank the member for Châteauguay—Lacolle and the member for York Centre for their support. Finally, I give special thanks to the Minister of Justice and his team for their empathetic work and advice on this critical issue.

Bill C-233 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 C-233 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 C-233, 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 C-233. 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 Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Women and the chair of the status of women committee, the member for Elgin—Middlesex—London, 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 C-233, Keira will truly be changing the world, something she always wanted to do.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

April 29th, 2022 / 1:45 p.m.
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Bloc

Andréanne Larouche Bloc Shefford, QC

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, 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”.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

April 29th, 2022 / 1:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Melissa Lantsman Conservative Thornhill, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the member for Dorval—Lachine—LaSalle 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 Thornhill 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.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

April 29th, 2022 / 1:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Anju Dhillon Liberal Dorval—Lachine—LaSalle, QC

moved that Bill C-233, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Judges Act (violence against an intimate partner), be read the second time and referred to committee.

Madam Speaker, I dedicate my Bill C-233 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 C-233, 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 Oakville North—Burlington and the member for York Centre 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.

April 5th, 2022 / 5:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

If you have any other recommendations for the federal government, please feel free to send them to us in writing, because we don't have a lot of time when we have this many witnesses.

Dr. Jaffe, you talked about the importance of judicial education and the changes in the Divorce Act. I've been working with Jennifer Kagan to get a private member's bill passed, called Keira's law.

Can you comment on the importance of judicial education around domestic violence and coercive control, in about 10 seconds?

March 25th, 2022 / 1:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

Thank you so much, Madam Chair.

It's absolutely wonderful to be here at the status of women committee today, especially when I saw who the witnesses were. Thank you to both of you for your work.

Pamela Cross, your reputation and the work you've done with people I know is very much appreciated.

You mentioned judicial education in your opening remarks, so I would like to talk about Keira's law. Even though her mother Jennifer had been subjected to domestic violence, which the courts acknowledged, as well as acknowledging that her ex-husband had lied to the court, the courts still allowed little Keira to spend time with him. As a result, a little four-year-old girl who had her life in front of her died in a murder-suicide.

In my area, there was the case of Darian Henderson-Bellman, which I know you're also familiar with. The man who killed her had breached conditions four times. The last time a judge released him to house arrest, he was caught with possession of a loaded firearm and drugs.

There is a private member's bill coming up, Bill C-233, which includes Keira's law and speaks to judicial education for domestic violence and coercive control. Could you speak a little bit about the importance of that and where the gaps are?

Domestic ViolenceStatements By Members

February 9th, 2022 / 2:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, Keira Kagan was going to change the world.

I wish I had met Keira. She was a bright and beautiful four-year-old whose life was stolen by an angry father who killed himself and Keira two years ago today. Keira should be playing with her brother and making her mom, Jennifer, and stepdad, Philip, laugh and smile. Instead, Jennifer has had to become an advocate for changes to the court system to educate judges on domestic violence and coercive control. I cannot begin to imagine the heartbreak that Jennifer faces every day, but I can support her advocacy work to ensure that no other child is killed because our judicial system does not recognize that domestic violence and coercive control are real, and must be taken in to account. I can continue to work with Jennifer to see Keira’s Law, which is part of the member for Dorval—Lachine—LaSalle's private member's bill, Bill C-233, become a reality in Canada.

Domestic ViolenceStatements By Members

February 9th, 2022 / 2:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Ya'ara Saks Liberal York Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, two years ago today, we were horrified to learn of four-year old Keira Kagan’s death at her father’s hands. Despite her mother, Dr. Jennifer Kagan’s pleas for Keira’s safety and providing ample evidence of a history of coercive control and abuse, the court system failed her and a bright little girl was lost.

Dr. Kagan’s cry for action as a mother resonated across Canada. For victims of domestic abuse and coercive control, their struggles to protect themselves and their children is a real and terrifying challenge played out in mediations and family courts across the country.

On Monday, I joined my colleagues from Dorval—Lachine—LaSalle and Oakville North—Burlington in tabling Bill C-233 to ensure training and education of judges on the warning signs and dangers of domestic violence and coercive control.

I want to thank the many families who joined Dr. Kagan not only in her pain but in her courageous advocacy to protect our most vulnerable. We hear Jennifer. We hold her in her pain, and we will work to protect others from this harm and abuse. Keira’s light shines bright and her memory is forever a blessing.

Criminal CodeRoutine Proceedings

February 7th, 2022 / 3:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Anju Dhillon Liberal Dorval—Lachine—LaSalle, QC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-233, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Judges Act (violence against an intimate partner).

Mr. Speaker, it is with immense gratitude that I introduce my very important bill to amend the Criminal Code and the Judges Act. I want to thank my colleague from Oakville North—Burlington for supporting it.

This bill would protect women against intimate partner violence. In Canada, a woman is murdered every two and a half days, and of the women murdered, 50% are killed by intimate partners.

Of those women, 22% are killed within 18 months of the separation.

This bill would amend the Criminal Code to require a justice to consider whether it is desirable to include as a condition, before making a release order, that the accused wear an electronic monitoring device when the offence they are charged with is against their intimate partner.

This bill would also amend the Judges Act to provide for continuing education seminars for judges on matters related to intimate partner violence and coercive control.

It is our duty to protect these vulnerable Canadians and allow them to feel safe.

I call on all parliamentarians to support this vital initiative and send the message that violence against women will not be tolerated.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)