An Act to amend the Criminal Code (controlling or coercive conduct)

Sponsor

Laurel Collins  NDP

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

Status

In committee (House), as of Feb. 7, 2024

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-332.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Criminal Code to create an offence of engaging in controlling or coercive conduct that has a significant impact on the person towards whom the conduct is directed, including a fear of violence, a decline in their physical or mental health or a substantial adverse effect on their day-to-day activities.

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.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

February 7th, 2024 / 7:35 p.m.
See context

NDP

Bonita Zarrillo NDP Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

Madam Speaker, everyone in the House should feel the urgency and the necessity of tackling intimate partner violence and gender-based violence. As has been said, every six days in Canada, a woman is killed from intimate partner violence. This fact is not new, yet the Liberals, and the Conservatives before them, have not addressed it adequately. New Democrats refuse to stand idly by while countless individuals, primarily women and girls, face physical and psychological trauma and fear for their lives on a daily basis.

Intimate partner violence and gender-based violence are not just private matters; they are systemic issues rooted deeply in ingrained inequalities and power imbalances in Canada. It is women, especially those from marginalized communities, who experience the worst of this violence.

We also know that individuals with disabilities are disproportionately impacted by this kind of violence. People with disabilities experience higher levels of intimate partner violence, and they face unique barriers to accessing support and escaping abusive situations. As the NDP critic for disability and inclusion, too many times I hear from residents who say that there is not enough research done on this, that there is not enough data on this and that there is not enough investment from the government in understanding the impact of domestic violence on persons with disabilities. Therefore, I encourage the government to invest in more research on violence against persons with disabilities, all genders.

I also want to note that indigenous women face higher levels of violence and that the current government has failed to meaningfully tackle the horrific levels of violence experienced by indigenous women, girls and 2 people. The Liberal government could immediately address some of that violence by investing in housing.

In 2019, the Downtown Eastside Women's Centre presented a report called “Red Women Rising” at the Metro Vancouver indigenous relations committee. The presenter said that no woman should be homeless on her own land. That really stuck with me, and I hope the Liberals will make the investments needed to ensure that every single indigenous woman and every single indigenous person has a home to call their own.

We cannot achieve an equitable and just society until we address the underlying structures that enable and perpetuate this kind of violence. As a New Democrat, I am committed to dismantling these systems of oppression and creating a society where everyone lives free from violence. All New Democrats are committed to that. A society where everyone has a home and has access to full and universal health care and pharmacare is also something the current Liberal government needs to move on immediately.

I want to acknowledge the work of survivors, frontline organizations and advocates who helped to make Bill C-332 a possibility. I also want to thank my colleagues: the MP for Victoria, for bringing this important piece of legislation forward; and the MP for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, for his work on criminalizing coercive and controlling behaviour. We would not be here without the commitment of those people.

Coercive and controlling behaviour is a form of abuse that so many people, especially women, have experienced and that many are experiencing today, living in fear in their own homes. It is a form of domestic violence that, rather than a single instance, is a repeated pattern of behaviour by the perpetrator. This pattern often includes physical violence and sexual violence, but in many instances, it starts with other types of abuse, like humiliation, threats and attempts to take away the person's support systems and independence. Often, that means limiting transportation options, like taking car keys or intentionally damaging vehicles, and also controlling their access to communication, like taking or breaking cellphones. It also often involves limiting access to bank accounts, passports and immigration documents.

We know that 95% of people who report physical abuse also report coercive control; they correlate. We need women and girls to know what these abusive red flags are and to know what this kind of abusive behaviour is and that it is unacceptable. It has terrible impacts on the person's mental health. It often means they live in fear of violence all the time. Too frequently, it ends in tragedy.

These stories are all too common. Coercive control is not only a serious issue on its own but also so often it is precursor to physical violence. This is an opportunity to stop physical harm before it happens.

I want to take a moment here to recognize an organization called BOLT Safety Society, a youth-funded, not-for-profit, building safer and equitable communities. I have known the women in this organization for many years. I am happy to say that my office in Port Moody—Coquitlam is called a safe hub. It is a place where women and gender-diverse residents can come and get information about support groups in our community and also to get a wellness kit, if they need it.

I want to thank BOLT Safety for their work, and I want to thank them for raising the issue with young women and diverse genders of what coercive and controlling behaviour looks like. Coercive control is one of the most common risk factors for femicide, even in cases where there were no instances of physical violence before the murder.

Passing this legislation gives victims and police the tools they need to prevent some of the most tragic examples of intimate partner violence. It is time we said, “enough is enough”. Years ago, the justice committee recommended criminalizing coercive and controlling behaviour in Canada, but the Liberal government, despite its claims to be feminist, has not acted. It continues to delay and disappoint.

All parties should listen to survivors, listen to frontline organizations, make sure we support those who experience this kind of abuse and give victims the tools they need to leave the situation.

I am urging every member in the House to take immediate action to protect women and victims of intimate partner violence, and to support this important bill. This is one important step in tackling gender-based violence and working to eradicate intimate partner violence from our communities forever.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

February 7th, 2024 / 7:25 p.m.
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Mississauga—Erin Mills Ontario

Liberal

Iqra Khalid LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue

Madam Speaker, I am rising today to add my voice to the second reading debate on Bill C-332, an act to amend the Criminal Code on controlling or coercive conduct. This bill seeks to strengthen Canada's legislative framework and address intimate partner violence by proposing reforms that would protect victims of coercive and controlling behaviour in intimate relationships.

A lot of people may ask what coercive control is. Coercive control is a form of intimate partner violence. It involves ongoing conduct that serves to subjugate victims and deprive them of their autonomy. We talk about life, liberty and freedom of the person; we have to put this in the context of what gender-based violence is.

I hear from constituents, who often call me in confidence to ask if something is coercive, controlling behaviour. Is it right for an intimate partner to control the finances, down to the last penny, of another person? Is it right for them to control access to their intimate partner, the person they are living with or are close to, and whom they engage with, hang out with, or go and get a coffee with?

We are tackling the broader issue and epidemic, as many of my colleagues have outlined, of gender-based violence, of women being killed, and of femicide occurring across the country, from coast to coast to coast in all communities. As we do this, how do we make sure that we are being more proactive? How do we proactively try to put an end to that violence and that murder? We need to make sure that Canadians, in their homes and across our communities, are able to thrive and really get to their full potential as they go about their lives with that freedom and autonomy.

I was the chair of the justice committee when we did this study on coercive, controlling behaviour. We heard stories, from coast to coast to coast, of people who have suffered the escalation of that violence, the escalation of that coercive control and the inability to control, leading to violence.

I think this bill has really good intentions. We listened to experts and their testimony within the justice committee and came to those recommendations. Those were very important pieces of evidence that informed the spirit of this bill. It is about saving lives. It is about preventing, in a proactive way, intimate partner violence as it occurs across our country.

We have seen so many tragic incidents, and we have lots of resources across the country to try to protect and save women from intimate partner violence. For example, in my community, we have the Safe Centre of Peel, which is a phenomenal project that brings community leaders and community organizations together to provide a wraparound service for those who are fleeing violence within my community. It is at its brink.

We cannot continue to fund these programs without also looking to see how we can proactively prevent these incidents from happening in the first place. We want to make sure that, when a woman tries to flee violence, she has the support system she needs in order to do so. We find that fleeing violence is often the most dangerous part for a woman who is trying to seek refuge, who is trying to find safety and autonomy.

I want to give a shout-out to our local chief of police, Chief Nish, who has been a phenomenal advocate for women within the region of Peel, ensuring that we provide safety and security for them.

We are talking about how to prevent it from happening in the first place. Yes, this legislation is very important. Yes, coercive and controlling behaviour precedes what often becomes violent behaviour and often puts women's and children's lives in danger. As we talk about awareness and making sure we bring our male allies into this conversation, I believe that the spirit of this bill is a step in the right direction. It would help in educating people and ensuring there is legal and criminal recourse for those who are seeking protection. Our legal system should be able to protect them.

There are a number of concerns that I, along with a number of my constituents and people across the country, have raised. One is what coercive or controlling behaviour is. Are people going to say that someone looked at them in a bad way and now they feel they need to modify their behaviour? Is that coercive or controlling behaviour? That is something we need to explore a little more to define those terms. How do we, in a court of law, prove that coercive or controlling behaviour has occurred? Those are things that need to be explored further in this bill.

When we try to ensure the safety of people in our constituencies, we try to do it through a gendered lens that makes sure we take into account the totality of the context of a person's lived experience. As members in the House have said before, we have to ensure that new immigrants coming to Canada have the awareness and ability to be able to protect themselves. Members can imagine a new family coming to Canada, the woman having previously been bound to her home to take care of young kids, not having financial freedom and now having to deal with the frustrations and tensions of moving to a new country and what could be coercive or controlling behaviour.

With bills like this, it is also important for us to provide the supports for the victims alongside the legislation. When we talk about making sure that coercive or controlling behaviour is included in the Criminal Code, we have to make sure we are providing supports to those seeking refuge from that as well. We have to make sure that institutions such as the Safe Centre of Peel are scaled up and located across the country for all who need the support so they can seek refuge and support, not just for themselves but also for their children.

We also want to make sure that this bill is balanced. I am sure there are tensions in every relationship. I am sure everyone has outbursts and exchanges of words, and that is why it is so important to define what coercive and controlling behaviour is in that context and with the evidentiary burden to prove it in court will be. I do not want people to think that raising one's voice or having a heated, open and honest discussion with one's partner is criminal. Those are normal things. However, at what point do we have to push that before it becomes abusive, violent or life-threatening. The issue of gender-based violence is significant in our country. It is a hidden pandemic.

We need to make sure that we prevent this from happening. This bill is an excellent first step toward getting there. I am looking forward to it going to committee to explore it and make sure we are doing the right thing and finding the right balance of separating it out and making sure that, while we live healthy lives together, we are also preventing violence from occurring. I am looking forward to following this very closely, as I did in the justice committee with this report and it recommendations, and to this bill passing in the House, with the concerns I have raised.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

February 7th, 2024 / 7:15 p.m.
See context

NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, BC

Madam Speaker, in Parliament, unanimous support is a rare thing to see, but on the issue of coercive and controlling behaviour, we have an instance where all parties agree that there is a need to act.

This bill and the associated recommendations from the justice committee have now twice received the support of all parties at the justice committee, and we heard strong speeches in support of this bill from all parties in second reading debate just before the holiday break. Given this degree of support, it is my hope that Bill C-332 can move forward quickly from this point. As we are all too well aware, this is a minority Parliament, and one which is already well past the normal life of minority parliaments in Canada, so the clock is ticking, and we need to act in the House to make sure this bill still has time to get through the other place before the next election.

There is no doubt among any of us here that there is an urgent need to act to combat domestic violence in Canada, and we have shocking statistics that clearly demonstrate the fact that intimate partner violence is a growing problem across Canada. More than 40% of women, that is more than 6.2 million Canadian women, have reported experiencing some kind of psychological, physical or sexual abuse in the context of their intimate partner relationships in their lifetime. For indigenous women, that number is 61%. For women with disabilities, it is 55%, and for lesbian, bisexual, non-binary and trans women, it is over 67%. These are shocking numbers.

One woman is still killed by an intimate partner every six days in this country, and as femicide in intimate partner relationships is almost always preceded by coercive and controlling behaviour, this bill would save lives.

Some may wonder what caused me to take up this issue in 2020. At the start of the pandemic, I did a call around to police and social services agencies in my riding. I heard universally that one main thing was happening, and that was a spike in domestic violence calls for assistance as a result of the pandemic. In fact, those rates of calls for assistance have not decreased, even as the pandemic measures have eased.

What I heard from police and frontline social services agencies, and in particular from women's shelters and anti-domestic violence agencies, was that this is something we should think of a as shadow pandemic. It was something that was being hidden because women were being isolated at home during the pandemic, and it was even more difficult for them to reach out for assistance.

The second thing I heard, almost universally again, and in particular from both police and social services agencies, was their frustration at lacking the tools to offer help to those trapped in abusive relationships until there is physical violence. Local police recounted leaving many domestic violence calls without being able to help, yet they were certain they would be called back soon, and that the next call would involve physical violence. Shelters reported seeing the same women multiple times, but without the presence of physical violence, there was no ability to seek restraining orders or get removal of the abusive partner from the home.

Making coercive and controlling behaviour a criminal offence is not really about adding a new offence to the Criminal Code. Instead, it would recognize this behaviour is in itself a form of violence. It would move the point at which victims can get help to before physical violence occurs, instead of waiting until there are bruises and broken bones. Bill C-332 is not by itself a solution to the problem of intimate partner violence, but it is rather a tool for addressing abusive relationships before that violence turns physical.

In this debate, we heard a couple of concerns about the impacts of this bill. Certainly, when I began working on this topic, I did often hear that there is no accepted definition for what constitutes coercive and controlling behaviour. This bill would solve that problem by putting in law a very specific description of what this involves.

I have to say, most of those saying that they did not know what coercive and controlling behaviour looks like were men. From women, I almost universally heard about the kinds of coercive and controlling behaviour they, members of their family or their friends had been subjected to. They had no trouble recognizing this behaviour. In fact, I had to admit to myself that the lens of coercive and controlling behaviour helped explain a lot of the family dynamics from my own childhood.

A second concern we heard in this debate referred to the slow start in making effective use of the provisions in other jurisdictions where similar legislation has been adopted. It was adopted in the U.K. in 2015, in Ireland and Wales in 2019, and in New South Wales in Australia in 2022. Hawaii also has a similar provision. Measures to criminalize coercive and controlling behaviour are also moving forward in a number of other U.S. states.

Studies looking at the U.K. show that there was a period of time before there was broad knowledge of the existence of the bill and how to make use of it, and this was not just among those who were victims, but also among police, prosecutors and social services agencies. However, this in itself is no reason for further delay. Similar studies show that the rates of charging and convictions in those other jurisdictions have steadily increased as both the public and enforcement agencies become aware of the possibilities in such a bill. So, we will probably go through the same period of adjustment in this country once we pass the bill, but, for me, that is a strong argument to get started now and not an argument for delay. We should remember that this bill in one form or another has now been before the House for three years.

Members will also have heard some concern that the bill would potentially have a negative impact on marginalized women as it might provide another tool to be used against them by their abusive partners. It has been suggested that the abusive partner might be able to accuse the victim of coercive and controlling behaviour. I have no doubt that this will happen, but I have three, admittedly somewhat impatient, responses to this concern. One is that it is in fact marginalized women, so, racialized women, new Canadians and indigenous women, who are most often the victims of coercive and controlling behaviour and often have the fewest resources to escape those relationships. My second response is to agree that, of course, the whole legal system systematically disadvantages marginalized women, but this is a broader reform we need to tackle in the justice system and not a reason to not proceed with this particular bill. Finally, I would say that I have never heard this concern raised by frontline social service agencies and, in particular, I have never heard this concern from those who serve marginalized women or from marginalized women themselves.

We should also recognize the broad community impacts that this bill will have, the positive impacts. Yes, women are the primary victims of coercive and controlling behaviour, but it is equally damaging in whatever context and whatever the gender of those being abused. Studies have shown that coercive and controlling behaviour is an equally large problem in the queer community. As well, we should also recognize that coercive and controlling behaviour does not just impact the victims but also their children in terms of physical safety and mental health. This is a particularly serious concern when relationships between mothers and their children are weaponized by abusive partners, and it is a particular concern when it comes to questions of child custody when someone is trying to leave such a situation.

At this point, I want to stop and thank all of those who have shared their personal experiences with me and my office. This is not an easy thing to do. We have heard from literally hundreds of women over the past four years, some expressing their thanks for recognizing coercive and controlling behaviour as a form of violence, some just for putting a name to what they were going through and recognizing they were not alone, but all of those women expressing their hope that we would press forward with this bill.

One conversation in particular still stands out for me. It was with a women in my local constituency who holds a highly skilled job and a prominent position in our community. She said she would like to tell her story publicly to show other women that this could happen to anyone, even to those who we would imagine have all the skills, abilities and resources to avoid or escape a coercive and controlling relationship. She wanted to tell that story, because she wants others to understand that it is never the victim's fault no matter how many times the abusive partner tries to make them believe that it is their fault. However, she cannot tell her story publicly yet as her ex-husband is still using child custody as a weapon in trying to reassert control over her.

To conclude, I did not introduce this bill in the beginning thinking it would pass immediately. I introduced it to try and get attention to the crisis that came about in parallel to the pandemic. However, when this report was adopted by the justice committee, I became hopeful that we could get this bill through, and here is where my thanks go to my NDP colleague for Victoria. She and I have been working closely on this and other important issues involving women and the law and, thankfully, the member for Victoria had a much luckier draw in the precedence for PMBs than me. My number would have been virtually last in this Parliament, but she was able to get it before us now, and here we are today.

Let me just say that I hope we advance this bill quickly. It would be a good way of showing Canadians that we, as parliamentarians, can work together effectively to tackle important problems. It would show that we understand that intimate partner violence is indeed an epidemic in our society. It would show that we are going to devote everything we can to fight it, not just with a new law, but also with a necessary—

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

February 7th, 2024 / 7:10 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Nathalie Sinclair-Desgagné Bloc Terrebonne, QC

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-332, which amends the Criminal Code to make it an offence to engage in controlling or coercive conduct that has a significant impact on the person towards whom the conduct is directed, including a fear of violence, a decline in their physical or mental health or a substantial adverse effect on their day-to-day activities.

It is high time we had legislation on this issue, which is distressing to too many people and too often to women.

It is also important to note that this problem is being fuelled by technological advances, including geolocation trackers, miniature cameras, smart phones and social media platforms. All of these tools make it easier for abusers to continue to inflict harm or further isolate and control their victims, wherever they may be.

Although coercive and controlling violence may a factor in other cases, it is definitely present in 95% of cases of domestic violence as we understand it. Only about 36% of family violence incidents and 5% of sexual assaults are reported to the police. We can therefore assume that there are many more cases of coercive and controlling violence than the justice system knows about.

Based on data reported by police services across Canada in 2018, women in rural areas experience the highest rates of intimate partner violence. The committee also notes that the risk is greatest for marginalized women, including indigenous women, racialized women, women with disabilities and migrant women. Let us not forget the children either.

First, it is important to define coercive control. Coercive and controlling behaviour does not relate to a single incident, but a pattern of behaviour that takes place repeatedly and continuously. It is currently hard to define this behaviour, in isolated cases, in the Criminal Code. We could talk about harassment, but, again, in isolated cases, it is hard to express. However, repeated and well-defined coercive behaviours could become a criminal offence if this bill is passed. Examples include financial control and implicit or explicit threats against a partner or ex-partner or against their children, belongings or even pets.

Abusive behaviours are intended to cause fear and gain power and control over the thoughts, beliefs and actions of the victim. Despite what one might think, this behaviour often does not involve physical violence and takes away the victim's sense of personal agency.

Generally, the abuser uses isolation, both physical and psychological, as a means to control their partner's contact with friends and family to emotionally bind the partner to them with the shackles of fear and dependency.

The bill that the member for Victoria has introduced is in line with legislative efforts to bring about change on the issue of coercive violence. A few years ago, in 2019, we passed legislative changes to divorce law. However, they apply to married couples only. There are many individuals who were not covered by that legislation, but, more importantly, it did not make this behaviour a criminal offence. While the amendments defined coercive behaviour as part of what is known as “family violence”, there was still no criminal sanction associated with it. It is about time we made it a criminal offence.

Having passed first reading and been added to the order of precedence of the House on September 20, 2023, Bill C‑332 has come farther in the legislative process than any previous bill on this issue and has the best chance of coming to fruition.

While a number of Criminal Code offences can apply to acts of family violence, some issues have been brought to light regarding the way the current legislation applies to victims of controlling or coercive violence.

Victims have little or no confidence in existing mechanisms. Once again, distrust is even higher among the groups who are most often targeted, namely, marginalized women. Immigrant women, for example, fear that speaking out will result in their immigration application being denied. While aspects of coercive control and controlling behaviour may be present, the police and the justice systems often say that the victim's word alone is not enough to file a complaint. Victims also fear that they will not be taken seriously if they contact police.

Finally, during the study of the ninth report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, it was stated that multiple charges against abusive men are regularly reduced to one single charge, usually assault. That charge is then often withdrawn in exchange for a peace bond, the infamous “810 order”.

To address this problem, which is close to the Bloc Québécois's heart, we support the objective of Bill C‑332, which amends the Criminal Code. However, we do have some reservations, along with a few proposals and suggestions that would address certain shortcomings that we feel are significant.

First, we should study the possibility of expanding the scope of the bill so that ex-partners and other family members who are not part of the household can testify, in order to address the problem of “one person's word against another's”. We could also extend this idea even further by including testimony from outside witnesses such as a neighbour, for example.

Second, we should look at the severity of sentences and the consideration given to children in cases of coercive or controlling violence. Third, the link between the new offence and the impact on family law and child welfare cases should be studied. This bill must link up with what already exists. That is part of the work that will be done in committee on this bill.

Finally, the wording in the NDP members' bills does not necessarily address the issue of victims being retraumatized and having to recount their experiences over again. Furthermore, Bill C-332, in its current form, does not change the way the courts and authorities deal with this issue.

I would like to emphasize one thing. If coercive control were to be added to the list of criminal offences, victims would finally be able to obtain financial assistance. As members know, victims of crime are entitled to financial assistance. A person could receive such assistance if, for example, they want to leave their home for fear of physical or emotional violence. If this bill is passed and coercive violence is added to the Criminal Code, victims of coercive violence will be able to apply for financial assistance to help them move or get counselling. All of the financial support offered to victims of other types of crime could then be offered to those who have experienced coercive control, which can be harmful to victims' mental, psychological and physical health.

When victims are financially or otherwise dependent on their abuser, it can hinder them from taking action and make it difficult to establish evidence. If this bill is implemented, victims of coercive violence will no longer have to be financially or otherwise dependent on the perpetrator of the violence.

Lastly, I would like to underscore another very important point. We see a lot in the news about femicide, and we often observe that physical violence only happens at the end of a relationship. It often involves an act of violence, a total loss of control where a man kills his partner. There are too many cases of femicide. However, we also observe a pattern of coercive control throughout the relationship. By making coercive behaviour a crime, we might help prevent femicide, and that is essential.

I was very moved by the Latin American campaign Ni Una Menos or “Not One Woman Less”. The campaign is designed to get people talking about cases of domestic violence where it is not limited to physical or sexual assaults, but also encompasses the use of violence to control victims, as I defined it earlier.

I am therefore asking my colleagues, parliamentarians, stakeholders and the community at large to support this legislative effort, which is crucial to the physical and mental well-being of victims of domestic and family violence.

The House needs to recognize problems related to coercive control as a priority to ensure that victims get support and protection. We also need to ensure that abusers are held accountable for their actions before it becomes too late for their victim.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

February 7th, 2024 / 7 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Madam Speaker, I will begin by saying to the interpreters that I will try to talk slowly, but this is something that I am so passionate about, so when I do speed up I will look to the Speaker to say, “slow down”.

I wanted to start off this speech by stating the importance of making sure we add coercive control to the Criminal Code here in Canada. I want to read a story from the CBC on December 7, 2021. The title of it is “Coercive control, the silent partner of domestic violence, instils fear, helplessness in victims”. I will give a bit of background on it.

It is a story about a young woman who was in a relationship that she was trying to leave. Her friends and family knew she was trying to leave this relationship desperately, but unfortunately so did her partner, and with that the partner decided that he would take her life in order to deal with some of these issues.

I want to read from this story, because it is rather graphic:

In the last few weeks before a murder devastated people in her Halifax social circle, Ardath Whynacht began to worry.

“I had a sick feeling in my stomach,” she said.

Whynacht was concerned about two people she knew socially: a high school friend, Nicholas Butcher, and the woman he was dating, Kristin Johnston.

Butcher's friends knew that he was struggling to find work, in debt and depressed. People in their circle knew the two were having problems in their relationship.

Whynacht says she later learned in court that others among her friends knew Butcher was accessing Johnston's private messages. He also followed her movements ... [called] "stalking" behaviour.

Unfortunately these stories do not go away. I have had the honour of sitting on the status of women committee since 2015, with a small break when I went to PROC, but over and over we have talked about violence against women, and we know that violence against women is not just physical, that there is such an emotional piece to it. Coercive control is exactly what we are talking about today.

I want to read to members a second piece, and it is titled, “'A life sentence': No escape from abusive relationships when navigating family court system, say victims”. It states, “Victims, experts say courts often fail to recognize and protect people from non-physical forms of abuse”. This entire story talks about the torture, and I am going to use the pseudonym used here, of Sarah:

Sarah says her ex-husband's abusive behaviour slowly escalated after their family court decision in 2022. For instance, she says he began dropping off their kids with her later than the court order stated.

“What I've found is now that we no longer are living together as a family, I can't actually protect them,” she says.

Then, she says, the stalking and harassment began.

When she went to the police, she felt she wasn't taken seriously. Sarah says she was denied a peace bond because her ex-husband hasn't physically assaulted her or her kids recently.

This, to me, is the tragedy of what we are seeing in the justice system, and not just necessarily in the justice system, but in our society. What we are seeing is women being controlled, beaten and violated by men in the majority of these cases. I am not saying that coercive control cannot be reversed and cannot be applied to men as the victims, but we know the majority of these cases are women. What are we going to do about it?

In this House, Bill C-233 was passed unanimously, and I am so proud of the incredible work that we did as a Parliament to ensure that there are judges trained, when it comes to domestic violence issues, because we have to understand that domestic violence is not just physical violence. Of the cases, 30% may show physically, but the majority of these cases that we are seeing when it comes to domestic violence are coercive control.

What does that mean? I think that is what we have to get down to, and this is exactly what the member who has put forward the bill, whom I would like to thank for putting forward the bill, and I want to talk about: what coercive control is and why we as parliamentarians need to take it seriously for the safety of our women and girls.

The definition presented in Bill C-332 indicates:

(a) it causes the person to fear, on reasonable grounds, on more than one occasion, that violence will be used against them; (b) it causes the person's physical or mental health to decline; or (c) it causes the person alarm or distress that has a substantial adverse effect on their day-to-day activities, including (i) limits on their ability to safeguard their well-being or that of their children, (ii) changes in or restrictions on their social activities or their communication with others, (iii) absences from work or from education or training programs or changes in their routines or status in relation to their employment or education, and [finally] (iv) changes of address.

This was all put forward by Evan Stark, an American forensic social worker, back in 2007. That is why I am really proud to see this definition in Bill C-332. It so important that we have this discussion.

In my role as the chair of the status of women committee, I can speak for every member of that committee on the strength and vulnerability of so many of the victims who have come to speak to our committee, knowing that when they go to the police, if they do not have a bruise, it is not going to be taken into consideration. Coercive control is not in the Criminal Code. Things like harassment are, but coercive control, that idea of controlling another individual, is not.

We have to take it into consideration. Let us look at the first case that I talked about. The young man was reading all of her emails and intercepting those types of messages. The prying into that relationship: That is control. It takes me back to a phone call that I had just last week from a teacher, who was very concerned. A young woman, an EA, had come to the school very fearful for her life. She had never had physical abuse. She had never been violated or anything like that. However, the fear of coercive control was there, because she was being controlled. What ended up happening to this young woman is that she did not go to work, flag number one.

This is important: Putting coercive control into our Criminal Code will give the opportunity for our police to understand what coercive control is. Thus, when they are investigating or going to a scene of a dispute, they can understand and know what they are looking for.

Right now, with its absence from the Criminal Code, how are police officers supposed to recognize it? Does it look like harassment? Are they being stalked? There are various different things.

The one thing we know about coercive control is that it does not just happen once. In physical abuse, someone can actually show and date the abuse, and all those things. They can go to the hospital, report it, show the bruises and provide evidence to the police or the doctors. With coercive control, that option is not there. How do they go and show somebody what another person said or that the person has read all their emails?

There is one thing that I found really disturbing from doing the research that we have done in the last number of years on this. That is the number of women who are not believed. This is really concerning to me. We have to understand that many women are isolated in their homes. We saw that through COVID-19. In March 2020, we saw an absolute increase. By May 2020, I believe, the government was saying that we need to help out shelters more. That is something we all agreed on. We know that, when women cannot leave a place where they are being victimized, they are not safe. That is exactly what happened with COVID.

Coercive control is one of those things that we must talk about. It is not just about the physical. It is about looking at the whole person.

I want to read a part that was received from the federal ombudsman for victims. It is very important that I read this, because when women are talking about coercive control, when we are talking about it, it is cumulative. It is not just one incident. It is something that could have happened yesterday and continues each and every day.

One of the stories I read was talking about a women who watched her husband driving up the laneway every day. She needed to see his facial reaction, because she needed to know how he was entering that house. Was he happy that day? Was he angry? Those are things that women who are victims of coercive control are thinking about all the time. They are always tiptoeing on glass. The fact is that they are worried about their safety. That is what we see with coercive control.

There is that threat down the road. Today they may not hit them, but they do not know what is going to happen later. We know from the Canadian Femicide Observatory that one woman is being killed here in Canada every other day. What is that telling us? We have to change our laws, and we have to take a better look at this.

The federal ombudsman for victims of crime has asked for this to be looked at thoroughly, recognizing that it is a pattern. It is not just a one-time incident.

Therefore, I ask the justice minister and his department, and everybody, to work together to ensure that we save women's lives.

The House resumed from November 9, 2023, consideration of the motion that Bill C-332, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (controlling or coercive conduct), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

École polytechnique de MontréalRoutine Proceedings

December 6th, 2023 / 5 p.m.
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NDP

Lindsay Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Madam Speaker, I too would like to rise today and honour the memory of the 14 women who were murdered 34 years ago at École polytechnique de Montréal. These women, studying to become engineers, were trailblazers in a male-dominated field. They were going to change the world. They were going to build, create and inspire other women to follow in their footsteps, but they did not have the chance. Their lives were cut short by an act of unspeakable misogynistic violence. I too want to say their names as my colleagues have here today, because this provides that memory with power in this place.

Today we remember Geneviève Bergeron, Hélène Colgan, Nathalie Croteau, Barbara Daigneault, Anne‑Marie Edward, Maud Haviernick, Maryse Laganière, Maryse Leclair, Anne‑Marie Lemay, Sonia Pelletier, Michèle Richard, Annie St‑Arneault, Annie Turcotte and Barbara Klucznik‑Widajewicz. We will remember them.

These women were killed because they were women. They were killed by a man who was consumed by hate. He shouted, “You're all a bunch of feminists, and I hate feminists”. Then he opened fire in a classroom.

It is just as true now as it was then that hate kills. Gendered violence is still a clear and present danger to the safety of women, girls and gender-diverse people; moreover, that violence is rising. In the last year alone, three women in my city of London, Ontario, have been killed by the men in their lives. We lost Carolyn Carter, Caitlin Jennings and Tiffany Gates to femicide. Across Ontario, 62 women and gender-diverse individuals were killed by a man in their life. Anova's emergency shelter for abused women and their children in London has helped 342 women in our city this year, but the shelter was forced to turn people away more than 2,400 times because of a lack of beds.

The experience is the same for so many organizations fighting on the front lines against gender-based violence. The London Abused Women's Centre, Le carrefour des femmes, Atlohsa and My Sister's Place are all seeing a rise in demand for the support and services they provide. The people who work in these organizations are incredible. They are doing everything they can to save people's lives. Of course, that rise in demand is not just happening in London, Ontario. Across Canada, more than four in 10 women have experienced intimate partner violence and a woman or girl is killed every 48 hours.

Yesterday, we received new numbers from Stats Can showing that more women have faced sexual violence and gender-based violence in the military. After years of repeated promises for systemic change and an overhaul of the toxic culture, after so many false starts from senior leadership in terms of making those reforms, the sexual misconduct crisis is only growing.

In this country, there is a hard truth that, if I went missing, it would mean something different than it would if an indigenous woman or girl went missing. In Canada, indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people are 12 times more likely to be murdered or go missing compared with any other woman in Canada. It is important that we take today to remember the victims of violence against women, but that is not enough. Year after year, government after government has kept women waiting on action for systemic injustices.

There are real, tangible solutions that we can take up in this chamber to support women. Today is a day for us all to find the political courage to act. My colleague spoke about that action that we need to see now. It is possible. We hold that position here today. We have bills from my NDP colleagues, such as Bill C-332, to criminalize coercive and controlling behaviour, from the member for Victoria. Over 95% of victims of intimate partner violence report coercive behaviour and control as a precursor to physical violence. We can take a meaningful step towards ending femicide with this bill by allowing women to speak out early.

On other important changes, I have two bills, Bill C-362 and Bill C-363, that would give women in the military access to justice. Since Justice Arbour's recommendations came forward, we have heard from every party in the chamber that members want to end the rampant abuse and cover-ups that protect perpetrators and hurt survivors of military sexual trauma. We can come together and pass all of these bills.

Finally, in the spring, we unanimously passed the motion from my colleague, the member for Winnipeg Centre, to create a red dress alert system to find and protect indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people. We can act to create that system.

On this National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, I hope we all reflect on the actions we can take and the responsibility we have as parliamentarians. We must renew our efforts to end gender-based violence with the urgency it requires and demands.

Protecting Young Persons from Exposure to Pornography ActPrivate Members' Business

November 23rd, 2023 / 6:05 p.m.
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NDP

Lisa Marie Barron NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Madam Speaker, I am happy to rise today to speak to Bill S-210, an act to restrict young persons’ online access to sexually explicit material. As we know, the bill is intended to protect children from access to sexually explicit materials. This is a very important bill, and I am happy we are speaking to it today.

One thing I want to address from the outset is that an important consideration of this bill is not only ensuring that we look at protecting children from access to sexually explicit material, but also ensuring that mechanisms are in place to protect the personal information of Canadians when developing what is required to protect children. Witnesses testified at the Senate on this exact issue, speaking in favour of using a responsible third party service provider, as an example, to conduct age verification rather than sites. Many Canadians, of course rightly so, do not want their personal information to be provided to those who are seeking profit, so we need a responsible third party provider.

I want to quote Kevin Honeycutt, an educator. He said, “Kids are growing up in a digital playground and no one is on recess duty.” I thought that was a really powerful way to show what is happening online right now. I am a former educator who worked in the school system, and I can say there are always many eyes on the playground to ensure that children are playing respectfully with one another and to identify any concerns. Now we have children accessing online content without any such supervision and it is highly problematic.

Kerri Isham is a constituent in my riding of Nanaimo—Ladysmith. She is an educator, author and award-winning presenter with 25 years of experience in the field of sexual health education. She is also the founder of a company called Power Up Education. I wanted to bring her up because she has dedicated her professional career to the safety of children and responding to the needs of communities. I want to highlight the work of people like Kerri Isham and so many across our country who are working tirelessly to make sure that children and youth have access to the education they need around sexual health.

Kerri Isham was so kind to provide me with the wealth of information she uses when she is in the community and in our schools educating parents and children on the importance of not only having the appropriate information and safety mechanisms in place around online access, but also having the information and tools needed to know what it looks like to be safe among this wealth of information.

One interesting point Kerri Isham pointed out to me is that 30% of all Internet traffic is pornography-related. That is a huge number. Tragically, 10% of visitors to pornography sites are under the age of 10. I found it interesting to hear my colleague talk earlier about whether the people accessing it intended to or not. A large portion of people are accessing these sites from a very young age. The average age when boys first view pornography is nine years old, so at nine, boys are seeing this information online. This content is made for adults, not children.

Pornography is shaping sexual imaginations, expectations and practices. It is designed for what is called “adult fantasy”, which is an abstract concept. Teens are concrete learners at a stage of development when they are learning and when their brain is in a much different state. When they watch pornography, they are learning that this is what sex should look like, which is highly problematic. We know that what pornography often showcases is not at all what a healthy sexual relationship looks like, and our children are learning through pornography that this is the way a healthy sexual relationship should look. It is not realistic what children are seeing, and they need to be presented with healthy images and access to the information they need.

We know that pornography has steadily increased. There is violent pornography, horror pornography, child pornography and racist pornography. We are seeing an increase in pornography that, tragically, supports or promotes racial inequality and an increase in revenge pornography, which too many youth right now are experiencing and seeing the impacts of. Misogyny is deeply embedded in so much of what we are seeing, with violence against women, and many are profiting from abuse through the pornography available. The National Child Exploitation Crime Centre, in 2020-21, received 52,306 complaints, which represents a 510% increase from 2013-14. That is a huge increase.

Neurologists have found that brain activity among heavy pornography users showed a behavioural addiction similar to what we would see in substance and gambling addictions. The study, which was conducted in 2017, showed that similar brain activity was present in people who are heavy pornography users, which is highly problematic.

Dr. Megan Harrison, with the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario, testified before the Senate legal committee that developing brains are affected by images it sees. The process is called neuroplasticity, which is something many of us are familiar with. However, to ensure we are all on the same page, I will note that it is the forming of new neural networks and pathways when the brain is optimizing itself. That is probably not the best descriptor, but the point is that through neuroplasticity, when the brain sees pornography repeatedly, it adjusts and determines that this is normal content to see. The exposure of pornography can create a distorted view of sexuality that can damage children's and teens' understanding of sexual relationships and their self-image as they mature.

The result of the excess viewing of pornography, which is often misogynistic and violent, is an increase in violence against women, one of the many symptoms. Violence against women is a global public health crisis, and pornography contributes to cultural conditions in which violence against women is tolerated, acceptable and even desirable. It unfortunately creates a sense of entitlement to have sex at any time, in any way, with whomever a person wished, and it regularly depicts sexualized aggression toward women. We know that 44% of women have experienced abuse from a partner in Canada. This is a statistic from 2018, and we know that these numbers have increased since then.

I want to highlight the work of my colleague, the member for Victoria, who recently brought forward a private member's bill, Bill C-332, an act to amend the Criminal Code regarding controlling or coercive conduct. This work was carried on by the member for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke. The reason we are seeing support in the House for this bill to move forward is that we know, given the science surrounding the development of adolescent brains, graphic sexual images and how they affect an adolescent's understanding of sexual relationships when they are older, that protections and preventions need to be in place from the outset. Instead of us having to create bills that would criminalize behaviour of controlling, coercive and abusive behaviour, I would like us to put in place more preventive tools to ensure that children are accessing appropriate, healthy information from the outset.

We know that key to this work, in addition to having mechanisms in place to control online access to pornography, is prevention so that we do not always have to react to abusive and coercive behaviour after it happens. Sexual health education promotes, among other things, consent, safety and respect, both for ourselves and within our relationships.

Overall, I am happy to support this bill and clearly have a lot to say on it. I hope it gets through committee quickly, as we have a lot of information and want to see it move forward.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

November 9th, 2023 / 5:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in support of Bill C-332, an act to amend the Criminal Code, controlling or coercive conduct. The government certainly takes this matter extremely seriously. We recognize the fact that Bill C-332 proposes to create a new hybrid offence that would criminalize repeated controlling or coercive conduct toward a person to whom they are connected, including a spouse or other family member, which has a significant impact on the person at whom the conduct is directed.

Clearly, as I indicated, the government is interested in this. There are a few possible amendments that we would like to propose once this bill gets to committee. We are keen on seeing this through the process so that it can be deliberated at committee, studied and reported back to the House.

We acknowledge that gender-based violence and intimate partner violence have no place in Canada and our government has made a priority to end them in all their forms. The Minister of Justice called gender-based violence an epidemic because it is an appropriate characterization of a serious and pervasive social issue that has immediate and long-term impacts for victims, survivors and their families. In fact, 44% of Canadian women report having experienced some form of intimate partner violence in their lifetime. This is significant and a distressing figure.

The government is committed to ending gender-based violence in all its forms through preventative and responsive measures, including a responsive justice system. To that end, I do look forward to continuing this debate the next time it is before the House and getting it to committee so that we can bring legislation to this effect into law.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

November 9th, 2023 / 5:20 p.m.
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NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill—Keewatinook Aski, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to speak in this House in support of Bill C-332, an act to amend the Criminal Code, referring to controlling or coercive conduct.

I want to begin by thanking my colleague, the member of Parliament for Victoria, for her hard work on this historic piece of legislation. I know that my colleague has been a long-time defender of women's rights; she has been outspoken about the need for federal leadership and action to end violence against women and gender-based violence. The presentation of this bill is part of her work as an MP and as an advocate.

We all know this bill is sorely needed and will make a difference. We could even say that it has the power to save lives across the country.

We know that this bill addresses a critical component of domestic violence by making controlling or coercive conduct in intimate relationships a criminal offence. This bill would amend the Criminal Code to create a new offence of “engag[ing] in controlling or coercive conduct”.

This involves patterns of behaviour that have significant impacts on the person toward whom the conduct is directed, including a fear of violence, a decline in their physical or mental health or a substantial adverse effect on their day-to-day activities. Coercive and controlling behaviour is also one of the most consistent early warning signs in femicides in intimate partnerships, even when no physical violence has occurred.

We know that Canada desperately needs this kind of legislation and that women in Canada desperately need the federal government to do much more to end the epidemic of violence against women. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, calls to the police about domestic violence have risen by 50%. We are also aware that the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights recommended addressing coercive and controlling behaviour in a report from the spring of 2021.

We, in the NDP, have heard calls from survivors of abuse to criminalize coercive and controlling behaviour. We are the only party to take the steps necessary to present legislation to address this issue.

There are warning signs of aggressive behaviour in toxic relationships, which include coercive and controlling behaviour. By amending the Criminal Code, the NDP is giving victims more tools to address domestic abuse and stepping up the fight against all forms of domestic violence.

I want to go back to that first point about the increase in calls to police by 50% when it comes to domestic violence. We are in 2023, and it has now been multiple decades where we have heard openly and been aware of many reports, made changes to our justice system and put systems and services in place to support women fleeing violence. To hear that number of a 50% increase in domestic violence is chilling. We all know of that reality, whether it is in our communities, in our households or among our friends. Depending on what experiences women are having, we know that there has been a sharp increase in violence against women.

We are coming up to December 6, when we think of the women who were shot dead by a misogynist at École Polytechnique. Every year we read the names of other women, as well, who have been the target of misogyny and have been killed because they are women. We read of women who have been killed by their partners or ex-partners.

We know that these numbers are not going down. To hear of an increase of 50% in calls to the police when it comes to domestic violence is not only chilling but also ought to be a call to action. We need this legislation passed, and we need to go much further to end domestic violence and gender-based violence in our country.

Just recently, in October, many of us were shaken by the femicide in northern Ontario, in Sault Ste. Marie. Angie Sweeney was killed, along with her three children, and another woman was shot by the ex-domestic partner. This femicide shook many of us across the country, particularly those of us from and connected to northern communities. We know that domestic violence is a very serious matter there; despite the awareness and the supports, women continue to be victims of domestic violence and gender-based violence.

In my own constituency, in February, Noreen Tait, who lived in O-Pipon-Na-Piwin Cree Nation, which is also known as South Indian Lake, was killed by her former partner. The chief and leaders in the community came out right away and said that there need to be more supports for women fleeing violence, more supports for women who are trying to get on safe ground. I want to get into that a bit, because today's bill is an important step, and like I said, we need to go a lot further and see a lot more from the federal government.

The Liberals talked a good talk when they talked about investing in women after the years of cuts and lack of investment from the Harper Conservatives, but the reality is that the Liberals certainly have not stepped up in the way we need them to. I want to focus particularly on the fact that indigenous women continue to be disproportionately targeted by violence. We have yet to see a red dress alert, which my colleague from Winnipeg Centre has been pushing for. We have yet to see the kind of investment we need in housing, particularly in first nations communities for on-reserve housing. This was something that was brought up after the murder of Noreen Tait. In a community like South Indian Lake, which is desperate for housing, Noreen had nowhere to go. Knowing that the closest women's shelter is over an hour away, she needed her own home. This was known to everybody in the community, and because of the lack of funding by Liberal and Conservative governments, there is a housing crisis on first nations. It is a factor that renders indigenous women particularly vulnerable.

We also know there need to be investments in education. Again, thinking of indigenous communities, they need to be able to support women pursuing their education and better opportunities. We need to see investment in health care. I am very concerned about the lack of support when it comes to people seeking treatment for addictions and also seeking to break the cycles of violence they face. We need to see support in terms of the child welfare system, recognizing there are vicious cycles that often disproportionately impact mothers and other women.

Today is an important step in taking action when it comes to ending domestic violence by including the recognition in the Criminal Code of coercive control. I certainly hope that all parties will support this and that we can see the bill come to fruition as soon as possible to give that tool to women fleeing violence and to give that tool to women and their children and to communities that are seeking to support them. However, we have a long way to go to be able to end the gender-based violence we are seeing on the rise in our country and to address the crisis of femicide in our country. Finally, here we are talking about violence against women, and it is incumbent on us to push for an end to violence against women here at home and around the world.

Today, I also want to take a moment to reiterate my call for an immediate ceasefire in Israel and Palestine, recognizing that over 4,000 children and over 10,000 civilians, many of them women, have been killed already. We need all hostages to be freed. We need to make sure there is a ceasefire to end this human catastrophe.

I hope the bill put forward by my colleague from Victoria becomes a reality as soon as possible.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

November 9th, 2023 / 5:10 p.m.
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Bloc

Andréanne Larouche Bloc Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise this evening to speak to Bill C‑332, which amends the Criminal Code to create an offence of engaging in controlling or coercive conduct that has a significant impact on the person towards whom the conduct is directed, including a fear of violence, a decline in their physical or mental health or a substantial adverse effect on their day-to-day activities.

The issue of controlling and coercive conduct has been an interest of mine for quite some time. This type of conduct includes physical, sexual and emotional abuse, financial control, and implicit or explicit threats to the partner or ex-partner and to their children, belongings or even pets.

First I will spend a little more time talking about the definition, before moving on to other measures we are currently looking at to address violence. I will conclude by explaining some of our concerns with the bill.

First, I have discussed the topic with my colleague from Rivière‑du‑Nord on a number of occasions. That is how I found out that Megan Stephens, one of the witnesses who participated in the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights' study, had mentioned a minor complication, namely, the fact that there is no universally accepted definition. However, the following are some of the definitions that were given over the course of the study: limiting transportation, denying access to household, controlling food consumption, disconnecting phone lines, breaking cell phones and preventing them from going to work or going to school. Combined together, all those forms of behaviour fall under coercive control.

Abusive partners uses isolation, both physical and psychological, as a means to control their partner's contact with friends and family to emotionally bind the partner to them with the shackles of fear, dependency and coercive tactics of control.

In some cases, the violent partner uses state-sanctioned structures to continue to coerce and control their victim by creating problems related to custody of the children and visitation rights. The justice system is used as a weapon against the victim. According to a study published by Statistics Canada in April 2021, intimate partner violence is a serious problem, and controlling and coercive behaviours are an integral part of that. It is difficult to know the exact scope of this type of violence in Canada, because most cases are not reported to the police.

I want to point out that, in 2021, we were in the midst of the pandemic and victims were at home with their abusers 24-7. The fact that most cases of intimate partner violence are not reported to the police is the biggest impediment to determining how many people are affected, documenting the situation and implementing solutions for the victims of these types of behaviour. It is difficult for them to find a way to talk so someone.

During her testimony in committee, Lisa Smylie, the director general of communications and public affairs for the research, results and delivery branch at the Department for Women and Gender Equality, said that only about 36% of domestic violence incidents and 5% of sexual assaults are reported to the police. Those numbers are very low.

According to the data reported by the country's police forces in 2018, women living in rural areas experience intimate partner violence the most. That is also important to note. What is more, even though coercive and controlling violence may be present in other cases, it is present in 95% of cases of domestic violence as we know it.

Today, it is facilitated by technological advances such as geolocation systems, miniature cameras, smart phones and social media platforms. This makes everything more complex. All these things make it easier for the abusers when they want to continue to inflict harm and reinforce the isolation and control, regardless of where their victim may be. There are also the traditional forms of blackmail on social media, such as identity theft, the repeated sending of threatening messages or the disclosure of personal information or content about the victim that is sexual in nature.

In light of the testimony offered during the study at the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, a rather high number of offences under the Criminal Code can apply to domestic violence. The committee noted a few problems with the enforcement of the current legislation in the cases of victims of coercive or controlling violence.

Victims are wary of and have little confidence in existing mechanisms, police services and the justice system to adequately deal with their trauma. A number of stakeholders noted that victims believe that they will not be taken seriously and they worry about myths. They do not want to be judged by institutions on their credibility when they report their abusers.

Abusers often create financial and other forms of dependence, which limits the actions that victims caught in this vicious circle can take, because they could lose everything, end up on the street or lose custody of their children.

The divide between the criminal justice system, family courts and community organizations needs to be addressed.

When elements of coercive control and other forms of control are present, the criminal and judicial systems too often say that simply telling one's story is not enough to file a complaint.

Lastly, one of the most serious obstacles is the under-enforcement of the law. Multiple charges against violent men are often reduced to a single charge, usually assault. This charge is then often withdrawn in exchange for a peace bond. This is the infamous section 810.

The many femicides and cases of harassment demonstrate the limitations and the weakness of section 810 in cases where violent men pose a high risk of reoffending. They must be treated differently and required to wear an electronic monitoring device.

Second, the bill proposed by the member for Victoria is part of a growing trend among legislators to focus on coercive violence. In recent years, the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights released a report on this issue, which was presented in the House on April 27, 2021. The Standing Committee on the Status of Women also touched on the issue during its study on intimate partner violence and made two motions a priority for the winter of 2024, one of which was my study proposal to look at international best practices in this area and try to learn from them.

I also examined this issue to a lesser degree at the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, when I participated a few times in its study on safe practices in sport and the topic of coercive control came up.

More recently, the Liberal member for Dorval—Lachine—LaSalle's Bill C‑233, which was also examined by the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, received royal assent on April 27.

The bill amended the Criminal Code to require judges, in cases of domestic violence, to consider whether it is appropriate for the accused to wear an electronic monitoring device before issuing a release order. In addition, the bill amended the Judges Act to include an obligation to hold continuing education seminars on issues of sexual assault, intimate partner violence and coercive control.

To a lesser extent, Bill C-21, which is currently before the Senate, focuses primarily on gun control and revoking possession when an individual is suspected of, or has engaged in, domestic violence, including coercive and controlling behaviour. This is part of a trend.

Third, Bill C-332 amends the Criminal Code, after section 264, by introducing the concept of controlling or coercive conduct as a criminal offence. The Bloc Québécois supports the objective of Bill C-332. However, we see several major shortcomings that will have to be studied in committee. The scope of the bill should be expanded to allow former spouses or other family members who are not part of the household to testify, in order to break the infamous “one person's word against another's” system. That is good.

What is more, consideration of testimony from neighbours, colleagues or others might also make it easier for victims to come forward. The severity of sentences and the consideration given to children in cases of coercive or controlling violent behaviour are other important factors. Reviewing the grounds on which prosecutors drop several charges and opt for the lowest common denominator shows that this can hinder the administration of justice and undermine public confidence and the victims' confidence in the courts that deal with these issues. We have to study all of that.

There are already 35 sections in the Criminal Code that can apply to domestic or family violence. They just need to be rigorously enforced, and we need to think of ways of ensuring that prosecutors rely on these sections more often in cases of coercive or controlling violence. We also need to address the difficulties associated with collecting evidence and ensuring solid and sound prosecution.

Megan Stephens, Executive Director and General Counsel at Women's Legal Education and Action Fund argued that Bill C‑247 and Bill C‑332 can make the legislation unnecessarily complex because new concepts are being introduced when the Criminal Code already contains very similar offences, particularly on criminal harassment and human trafficking. We will need to take a closer look at that.

The wording of the two NDP members' bills does not address the issue of victims having to relive their trauma. They will have to retell their stories over and over again, just as they do now, which has been roundly criticized. Furthermore, Bill C-332, as currently drafted, does not change how these matters are dealt with by the courts and the authorities.

In closing, if we want to ensure that this never happens again, if we want to put an end to this shadow epidemic, we must take action. We must take action because violence is not always physical, but it always hurts.

As a final point, the Quebec National Assembly has also made this call. I had a discussion with an MNA in Quebec City this summer. She told me that the Quebec National Assembly had done its part, that it had produced the report “Rebuilding Trust” and said that the ball was now in Ottawa's court. She said that the National Assembly does not have jurisdiction to study coercive control in the Criminal Code. I took it upon myself to heed the call from the Quebec National Assembly, a call made by female MNAs who did exceptional, non-partisan work.

Let us try to examine it intelligently in committee.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

November 9th, 2023 / 5 p.m.
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Conservative

Michelle Ferreri Conservative Peterborough—Kawartha, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is a really important bill, and it is always a true honour to stand in the House and represent the people from Peterborough—Kawartha who elected me.

I have been here for two years now, and the slowness of this place is frustrating. People are suffering, and a lot of people reach out to us, as members of Parliament, who are often in the depths or at their worst by the time they get to us. We have seen an increase in victims' rights' being eroded. Victims are really suffering, and we need change. The bill before us is a very positive movement on something that can be done, and I am very honoured to stand to speak to it.

The member for Victoria, who brought the bill forward, also shared a very personal experience as to why she created this private member's bill. It is very motivating to see that it comes from a place of humanity, to make the world a better place. Bill C-332 is an act to amend the Criminal Code with respect to controlling or coercive conduct. I am going to do a little bit of housekeeping stuff, and then I will get into some personal stories about this, because I think most people, especially women members of the House, have a lot of experience or know somebody who has experienced this.

The private member's bill would amend the Criminal Code, in particular section 264, by adding the following offence:

Everyone commits an offence who repeatedly or continuously engages in controlling or coercive conduct towards a person with whom they are connected that they know or ought to know could, in all the circumstances, reasonably be expected to have a significant impact on that person and that has such an impact on that person.

Basically, the bill would be giving language to coercive control, which is relatively new in the Criminal Code. We have seen it happen in a couple of other places. In 2015, we saw it happen in England. Scotland and Ireland, I believe, were in 2019. This is the first time this has happened.

What is coercive control? Some people may actually know what this is, but they might not know the name of it. Many people would probably know it from Hollywood movies actually. Alice, Darling is a fairly new movie that really delves into this. From my era, people may remember the movie Sleeping with the Enemy, and there was a great Netflix series called Maid.

I am going to tell a story about my friend, what happened to her and what she had to do to get out of her relationship. I remember being on the phone with her many times, and she said, “Well, he's not hitting me, so it's not that bad.” I said, “Okay, but you don't have any money in your bank account, you're not allowed to go where you want to go, you don't have your own phone and you're afraid to leave your house.” That is abuse. That is where coercive control comes into this, and that is ultimately what it is. For women and men watching this, anybody who slowly takes away a person's finances, does not let them share a credit card or does not allow them to buy things on their own, and it is like a slow and steady kind of thing, that is coercive control, and the bill before us would build that into the Criminal Code to make it a criminal offence.

I talked to a couple of people before I rose to speak today, in order to get their thoughts on this, and I will share their feedback. However, before I do, I want to share what happened to my friend whom I spoke of.

My friend knew that she needed to get out of that relationship, but she could not. She could not leave him. She and her children were hostages in their own home. She had no money and no way to get out, and he would take her car keys. She could not leave. She literally had to get a burner phone. She had to stash away money that she got somewhere else. She had to leave when he went to work. It was like a Hollywood movie in real life. However, I want to tell members that today, she is doing amazing. She got her master's in education and built herself up from nothing.

It is possible to escape for anybody who is living in this reality. Most victims often do not even know they are victims, because it happens so slowly and the abusers make them feel like they are nothing.

Some people wrote to me with their stories, and I will share them shortly.

I asked a former prosecutor what he thought of this bill. He said that any time we can improve access to justice for victims, that is a win. Coercive control is an element of other offences, and this bill would be really helpful in preventing the often, sadly, inevitable escalation that happens in domestic violence. What is so great about the bill is that it is a prevention end, because people often cannot go to the police or do not want to go to the police until there is a physical assault. That is the slow progression of coercive control. It can start with not being allowed to wear what one wants to wear, and it progresses. This bill would help victims feel empowered to come forward.

I will read what the chief of the Peterborough Police Service wrote to me when I asked for his thoughts on this bill. The message from Chief Stu Betts is, “It would mean that there would be recognition of the fact that many crimes are only reported after a long history of coercive control and victims of those crimes may feel a greater sense of vindication and that someone recognizes that the history has caused increased harm. It also recognizes that some of those engaged in this type of behaviour essentially operate with the knowledge that their victims are likely not to report, if ever. I believe it may also go a long way toward the work we do to assist victims of crime.”

There was a horrific story out of Pembroke. I do not even like to say the murderer's name because I feel it gives him the attention that he feeds off of, so I will only refer to the victims. There were three women killed, point-blank shotgun killings: 36-year-old Anastasia Kuzyk, 48-year-old Nathalie Warmerdam and Carol Culleton. They were all murdered within the space of less than an hour by a man who everybody, including the police, knew was dangerous, yet nobody could do anything.

This bill would be a very simple, tangible solution to put into the Criminal Code to help victims.

I asked folks at home if they wanted to write to me to share any experiences and contribute to my speech today. One woman wrote to me. I am not going to use her name to protect her, but she gave me permission to share her story with everyone. It is important that I read this into the record.

She said, “As a mom who's been separated four years now and someone who has gone through hell with an ex-spouse, I feel this bill will hopefully help people who go through these types of situations. I left a 13-year marriage because of emotional, verbal and psychological abuse four years ago, which took me a lot of strength and courage to do. My mental state was drastically going downhill and I knew I had to finally leave, which was the hardest decision I ever had to make. I was having unpleasant thoughts. With support and help, I managed. I thought I was breaking free and things would get better, but as you are probably aware, the post-separation abuse escalated and got worse.” That is just what I spoke of. She said, “After four years, I am still dealing with coercive control and emotional and verbal abuse.”

The next part is so profound. It is emotional. She said, “I would rather be punched in the face than have to go through years of emotional, verbal and psychological abuse. I have talked to the police in the past a couple of times about situations, but all they could do was talk to him and warn him. They told me there is nothing they can do until he actually physically hurts me. The effects and damage of emotional and psychological abuse is horrible and exhausting, mentally and physically. After four years of being separated, I am still trying to find peace and build myself back up. It is very hard to do when you are still being abused, but with time and a lot of help and support, it is possible. Putting this in place would help.”

Members can obviously see that Conservatives fully support this bill. It has been put forward before. The former justice minister agreed with it, but nothing was done. Victims have repeatedly taken a back seat in the last eight years under the Prime Minister. This bill solidly states that yes, we will do something; yes, we see victims; yes, we recognize the implications and dangers of coercive control.

I hope everyone in the House supports this bill.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

November 9th, 2023 / 4:50 p.m.
See context

Hamilton Mountain Ontario

Liberal

Lisa Hepfner LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth

Mr. Speaker, I am so pleased to speak today to Bill C-332, an act to amend the Criminal Code, introduced on May 18 by the member for Victoria. This bill seeks to achieve the critically important objective of greater protection from coercive and controlling conduct in intimate partner relationships.

Coercive control is a pervasive, long-term form of intimate partner violence that is intended to deprive victims of their autonomy. While some behaviours may constitute criminal offences in themselves, coercive control has to do with the cumulative impact of a series of behaviours, most of which do not constitute separate criminal offences.

Coercive control is a pervasive form of intimate partner violence. It takes place over time and serves to deprive victims of their autonomy. While some types of conduct, in and of themselves, may constitute separate criminal offences, coercive control concerns the cumulative impact of a range of behaviours, most of which do not.

Before I speak to this important piece of proposed legislation, I would like to express my deep condolences and sorrow to the families, friends and communities of the victims of intimate partner violence across Canada, including recently in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario; Truro, Nova Scotia; and Renfrew County, Ontario.

As someone who spent many years covering criminal court, I have graphic images and horrific details burned into my brain. They will never leave my head. I have come to know countless grieving families over the years, and they will never leave my heart.

These losses are immeasurable. Gender-based violence and intimate partner violence have no place in Canada, and each instance of these crimes is a tragedy. I echo the Minister of Justice in calling gender-based violence an epidemic in Canada that must be stopped.

We know that women are most often the victims of intimate partner violence, including coercive control, and that it is commonly perpetrated by men. In fact, 44% of Canadian women report having experienced some form of intimate partner violence in their lifetime. In 2021, women and girls represented 79% of police-reported victims of intimate partner violence. Between 2011 and 2021, two-thirds of all women and girls who were victims of gender-related murder were killed by an intimate partner. These are significant and distressing figures. Clearly, more needs to be done.

Our government is committed to ending the gender-based violence epidemic. I want to thank my colleague from Victoria and my colleague from Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke for their hard work on this issue.

Prior to Bill C-332, in 2020 and 2021, two private members' bills were tabled. They proposed almost identical reforms. Parliamentarians have also recently studied the issue of coercive control.

For example, the April 2021 report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights entitled “The Shadow Pandemic: Stopping Coercive and Controlling Behaviour in Intimate Relationships” recommended that the Minister of Justice engage with provincial and territorial counterparts to study the possibility of creating a new coercive control Criminal Code offence. I am pleased to note that this work is under way. Justice officials are collaborating with their provincial and territorial partners, and they are engaging stakeholders to inform that work.

Furthermore, the Ontario Renfrew County coroner's inquest recommended criminalizing coercive control, and the Minister of Justice's response to the inquest recommendations reiterated openness to criminalizing control and noted the ongoing work at the federal, provincial and territorial levels. I understand this work is also informed by the insights from the Nova Scotia Mass Casualty Commission's final report, which included a number of recommendations related to coercive control.

We know from parliamentarians' study and Justice Canada's engagement that there are diverse views on creating a new coercive control offence. In particular, a number of concerns have been raised, including that an offence could disproportionately negatively impact indigenous people, racialized and marginalized communities. It could also exacerbate their overrepresentation in the criminal justice system. Perpetrators of intimate partner violence may also use a potential coercive control offence to further abuse their victims, for example, by accusing victims of committing coercive control, including to gain an advantage in family court. Victims may be charged with the offence, especially when they are defending themselves or their children.

The offence may be difficult for criminal justice actors to understand, enforce and prosecute because coercive control involves ongoing behaviour that serves to deprive the victim of their autonomy, which may be difficult to identify. Survivors may be revictimized by the criminal justice system when they testify.

Those who do support a coercive control offence spoke to the benefits of enacting such an offence, including that a new offence would better capture the actual experiences of victims, which concerns the impact of ongoing abusive conduct, rather than individual abusive incidents. A new offence could assist justice system actors in understanding and responding to intimate partner violence, including coercive control. A new offence could serve to prevent future violence, because coercive control often occurs prior to physical forms of violence and is a risk factor for its most serious forms, such as what is referred to as femicide. A new offence would be symbolically powerful and thus would empower victims of coercive control.

The experience of other jurisdictions may also assist us in examining this important issue. Specifically, England was the first jurisdiction to enact a coercive control offence in 2015, followed by Scotland in 2018, Ireland in 2019 and New South Wales in 2022. England's 2021 evaluation of their offence outlined a number of policy concerns, including that only a small number of incidents have come to the attention of police, indicating difficulties for both victims and police in recognizing the offence, missed opportunities for recording the offence as coercive control, and the necessity for training and specialized resources. A very high proportion of charges were withdrawn due to evidentiary difficulties, including where victims withdrew from the process, which highlights that gathering evidence in such cases is a significant challenge for police and prosecutors. Most prosecutions involved charges for other offences, for example, violent offences, which may indicate that the offence is more likely to be reported or identified by the police when another offence is committed.

Last May, Scotland published an evaluation of its coercive control offence. The conclusion was that there are no intrinsic problems with how the legislation is drafted, but there are problems with how it is enforced. One such problem is the degree to which the police are equipped to interpret and enforce the legislation.

These evaluations no doubt explain, at least in part, why stakeholders expressed support for the Scottish approach rather than the English approach. The findings of the evaluations also support an approach that would delay the coming into force of a new offence of coercive control in order to allow time to address enforcement issues, such as training.

Bill C-332, which is modelled on England's offence, proposes to criminalize repeated or continuous controlling or coercive conduct towards a spouse or other family member where that conduct has a significant impact on the person subjected to the conduct.

I am proud to support Bill C-332. However, I encourage committee members to compare the English and Scottish approaches and draw lessons that can be used to optimize Canada's path forward.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

November 9th, 2023 / 4:35 p.m.
See context

NDP

Laurel Collins NDP Victoria, BC

moved that Bill C-332, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (controlling or coercive conduct), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am grateful to be here to debate my private member's bill on coercive and controlling behaviour. I first want to start by acknowledging all of the work that so many advocates and survivors have done to make this bill a possibility.

Coercive and controlling behaviour is a form of domestic violence, and it touches the lives of so many people, especially women. Without the advocacy of partners like Andrea Silverstone from Sagesse Domestic Violence Prevention Society, Alliance MH2, Carmen Gill and so many others, this bill would not be possible today.

I also want to thank my colleague, the MP for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, for his work on criminalizing coercive and controlling behaviour. In the previous Parliament, my colleague presented a similar bill to mine which was supported by domestic violence prevention groups across the country. I am grateful for his allyship on this topic, and I am also incredibly grateful for his mentorship over the years.

In the spring of 2020, Canadians stayed home to slow the spread of COVID-19 in their communities. People from all walks of life worked together to take care of each other. However, at the same time, there was another epidemic taking place. The rates of intimate partner violence were skyrocketing. Since the start of the pandemic, calls to the police regarding domestic violence have risen by 50%.

Coercive and controlling behaviour is a form of domestic violence. Rather than a single instance, coercive control is a repeated pattern of behaviour from the perpetrator. While certain individual behaviours may seem normal if considered individually, when taken all together, they can amount to coercive control.

This pattern sometimes includes sexual and physical violence, but in many instances it starts with other tactics, such as threats, humiliation and depriving the person of independence. Often that means preventing them from accessing their support network, limiting transportation and communication, taking their car keys, breaking their cellphones, and limiting access to bank accounts, passports and immigration documents.

However, it can also look like controlling what food they eat, or not allowing them to wear certain clothes, denying them access to social media, and a number of other examples of what a partner can do to control another. Coercive control is one of the most common precursors to physical violence. In fact, 95% of victims of physical abuse also report coercive control.

In April 2020, as people stayed home to stop the spread of COVID-19, we also woke to the shocking news of a mass shooting in Nova Scotia. The shooting left 22 people dead. It was a national tragedy.

The public inquiry that followed found that the shooter had a history of gender-based violence, including coercive and controlling behaviour. When his long-time girlfriend tried to leave the relationship, he locked her out of their house, removed the tires from her car and threw them in the ditch in an attempt to prevent her from leaving.

Years later, on the night of the shooting, he attacked and forcibly restrained her. Luckily, she was able to escape, surviving by hiding in the woods overnight. She was able to give critical information to police as they conducted the manhunt.

This example of coercive and controlling behaviour is one that is now very public and well known, but often these red flags are ignored. Even when the victim, their community or police want to intervene, there are no tools in our justice system to support victims of coercive control.

The first time I recognized coercive control was when my sister showed up at my doorstep in tears. Her partner had taken her cellphone and bank cards. He had taken her car keys too, but she luckily had another set. It was the first time but definitely not the last time. Over the next few years, like so many other stories of intimate partner violence, coercive and controlling behaviour eventually escalated to physical violence. I remember being scared for her life.

It takes an average of seven attempts for a woman to leave an abusive partner, and I am so thankful that my sister is now free from that relationship. She gave me permission to share her story, even though when women disclose these stories, it always comes with risk.

She took this courageous step because, if there had been more awareness about the examples we have raised of coercive control when she was experiencing it, it might not have taken so long to leave. She wants women and girls to know that these behaviours are not acceptable and to have the tools to get out.

These stories are all too common. I urge my colleagues, especially my male colleagues, to talk to the women in their lives. Statistically speaking, we all know someone who has been in an abusive relationship. There is a very strong chance that, in that relationship, they experienced coercive control at the hands of their abuser.

Because coercive control is not only serious on its own account, but also a precursor to physical violence, we have an opportunity to intervene before people become physically injured. It is also one of the most common risk factors for femicide. Even in cases where there were no instances of physical violence before the murder, coercive control is almost always present.

Passing this legislation would give victims and police the tools they need to prevent some of the most heinous examples of intimate-partner violence. In Canada, every six days, a woman is killed from intimate-partner violence. It is time we said that enough is enough.

Despite years of calls and recommendations to criminalize coercive control, the Liberals have not acted. For a government that claims to be a champion for women, a champion for protecting women, it continues to delay and disappoint. It is time to take action to support victims, as 25% of calls to 911 are connected to intimate-partner violence. Domestic abuse is pervasive. It not only has horrific impacts on individuals and families. It also costs the economy $7 billion each year.

The cost of domestic abuse is highest for women. Coercive control impacts women at a ratio of five to one. The trauma of domestic abuse and intimate partner violence is long-lasting. One study shows that children who witness violence in the home have twice the rate of mental health disorders.

Two years ago, the justice committee tabled recommendations to Parliament calling on the government to pass legislation. My NDP colleague, the member for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, spearheaded the report on coercive control. I also want to thank MPs from all parties for their work on the justice committee in listening to survivors and listening to frontline organizations.

I thank my Bloc colleague, the member for Rivière-du-Nord, my Conservative colleagues, the member for South Surrey—White Rock and the member for Fundy Royal, my Liberal colleague, the member for Mississauga—Erin Mills, and so many more on the justice committee for their work and for calling on the government to take action.

It has been two years and, two years later, we are still waiting. Other countries have moved forward, including the U.K. with its controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship offence in the Serious Crime Act. Since this bill was passed in 2015, the U.K. has experienced a 30% increase in people reaching out for support. For the first time, many victims of coercive control now know that they can call domestic violence shelters or police for help.

We have also seen conviction rates rise in the U.K. as judges and police become more aware of the reality of coercive control. I want to touch briefly on the additions I have made to the bill from that of my colleague, the member for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke. One small change was that we added people who are engaged to be married explicitly into the bill, to ensure that those who are engaged but not explicitly dating would be covered. The more critical addition was the inclusion of people who are in partnerships that have ended.

We know that the time period when a woman is leaving an abusive relationship is the time when she is at most risk for violence and femicide. It is critical that we include separated partners in the bill so that victims and police have the tools they need to protect the person as they leave.

Criminalizing coercive control means giving victims and survivors additional tools to leave abusive situations. We have a responsibility to give these victims more control, more autonomy and more power to escape dangerous situations, hopefully to prevent the all too common escalation to violence.

There is no way of knowing whether the April 2020 shooting could have been prevented by criminalizing coercive and controlling behaviour, but my hope is that we can support victims and prevent further violence. I am urging my colleagues from every political party to support this bill to protect women and to protect victims of intimate partner violence.

I want to thank everyone who has had a hand in crafting this bill, especially the survivors, the frontline organizations and my colleague, the member for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, for his tireless efforts. Again, I urge members in the House to support the bill.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

September 18th, 2023 / 1:25 p.m.
See context

NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am extremely pleased to rise in support of Bill C-48 today.

I did not think we would get the bill to this stage as quickly as we have in this Parliament. One of the reasons we did so is that the justice committee recognized the public concern about repeat violent offenders and problems with bail. It conducted hearings last year and came up with a series of recommendations that helped inform this bill. Therefore, today, we have something before us that the justice committee has already considered, that the premiers have been calling for and support, and that has broad support in the law enforcement community.

Today, we have heard many people talk about things other than bail reform. However, when we talked about bail reform, we heard the minister say that the government is prepared to proceed expeditiously. We have heard the Leader of the Opposition say that the official opposition supports the bill. I heard some more ambiguous things from the last speaker from the Bloc Québécois, but he still said that the Bloc supports the bill. Therefore, the question I have been asking in this session is this: Since we have this broad support for the bill, are we serious about moving expeditiously? Maybe the bill does not have everything that everyone wants, but certainly there is broad support, as well as an urgent need to make the public more confident in our bail-reform system.

Since the leader of the official opposition personally gave me credit for a crime wave on Vancouver Island, I have to take a moment to say that I have dedicated my entire life to working to help keep communities safe. I say that as someone whose professional career was in teaching criminal justice before I came here. Therefore, for him to say that I have somehow supported measures in a deliberate manner that provoke criminality or a crime wave is really quite personally offensive.

What we get from the Leader of the Opposition is talk about common sense. I want to point out a piece of common sense that contradicts most of what he was saying today. Over the last 30 years, we have tripled the number of people in pretrial detention in this country. If detaining more people caused a decrease in crime, we would have way less crime than we have today. Therefore, common sense would tell us that detaining three times as many people does not solve the problem.

Bill C-48 would not cast a broad brush, as the Conservatives are asking for. Rather, it has some narrow and targeted measures aimed at repeat violent offenders; New Democrats are in support of those measures. This means that it would insert a definition of “repeat violent offender” into the Criminal Code so that we would know whom judges should be looking at when it comes to denying bail. It would also create some additional reverse onus categories. “Reverse onus” is a technical term meaning that when it is proposed to put someone in pretrial detention, in certain cases, that person has to show why they should not be detained.

Therefore, the bill would add to the list of offences. It would not create a new category; there are already lots of reverse onus provisions in bail. However, it would add illegal weapons, including handguns. That is an important provision, which I definitely support. People have to go to a lot of trouble to possess an illegal weapon; they do not accidentally possess a handgun. Therefore, if someone has a charge that involves a handgun, they should have to show the judge why they should be released and why they are not a threat to the public.

In addition, the bill would increase the reverse onus in cases of intimate partner violence. Again, we know that when there has been intimate partner violence, it is usually not a one-time incident. When people are charged more than once, this bill would make it much tougher for the offender in an intimate partner relationship to get released, which is something that New Democrats definitely support. It goes along with our proposal, which is now a private member's bill, Bill C-332, sponsored by the member for Victoria.

Bill C-3s32 calls for making coercive and controlling behaviour in intimate partner relationships a criminal offence. That would move the goal posts in the Criminal Code; instead of having to wait for broken bones and bruises, a pattern of behaviour that leads to such violence would be a criminal offence. This would allow earlier intervention and prevent much of that violence from happening in the future.

Therefore, this bill goes together with our proposal on coercive and controlling behaviour to help provide better protections for those who suffer violence in intimate partner relationships. In this country, we continue to lose women to violence; every six days, one woman is killed by an intimate partner. This is part of the urgency of this bill and why I believe that we should deal with it expeditiously.

There is a third piece in this bill that I think no one else has talked about today. It is a piece that came up in the hearings we held at the justice committee. In addition to the real problem we have with repeat violent offenders getting bail, which this bill I believe will solve, we have the problem that we detain way too many people in Canada and at far higher rates than any comparable countries around the world. Why is this a problem? There are two reasons it is a problem.

One is the injustice. One-third of the people who are detained before their trial are never convicted but found innocent. What happens to people who are detained and held in jail before the trial? Most often they lose their job. Often they lose their housing. They lose custody of their kids. There are all kinds of negative impacts for people who are not found guilty of anything. Therefore, we need to improve our systems so we are detaining the people who need to be detained and not detaining other people. Who are the people who are over-detained? Disproportionately they are poor, women, indigenous or racialized Canadians.

This bill adds a provision that would require judges to look at community-based bail supervision programs, which are very successful. The John Howard Society has been running them in Ontario. I am looking through my notes, but I am pretty sure I am right. The success rate of the John Howard Society programs, as limited as they are in Ontario, is about 90%. What does a 90% success rate mean? It means that those people who are on community-based bail supervision have a caseworker assigned to them, they will not commit another offence while they are on bail and they will show up in court when they are supposed to. In the meantime, they can maintain their jobs, housing and custody of their kids. Even if they are eventually found guilty, they may not serve prison time. Therefore, having a community-based bail supervision program would help maintain that coherence of families.

Here is the kicker in all of this. Those who serve even limited time in custody before trial are far more likely to reoffend. If we are actually worried about public safety, one of the best things we could do is get people into community-based bail supervision programs where they are put in touch with the services they need, whether mental health services, substance abuse programs or upgrades to their education. If people are in a community-based bail supervision program, they can get that assistance, which will help lead them out of whatever problems they were in to begin with. When they are in pretrial custody, they are in the provincial system and there are no programs available to them. There are no mental health programs, no addiction programs and no education programs while they wait, with the current delays in our trial system, up to six months for a trial. If we are really interested in public safety, we need to put more people into community-based bail supervision programs, which Bill C-48 would now mandate as an option to be considered by the judge. That would require the Liberal government to provide the upfront funding to get community-based bail supervision programs more widely available across the country.

Now all members will say that the New Democrats are demanding more spending, but guess what? It costs about one-third the amount to put people into community-based bail supervision compared to putting them into custody. Therefore, we need upfront start-up funds for community-based bail supervision, which ultimately would produce huge savings in addition to better public safety outcomes and avoid injustice to those who are eventually found not guilty of the offence for which they were charged.

These are the reasons that I think we need to proceed expeditiously on this bill. We need to get a commitment from the government to help fund community-based bail supervision programs.

I know this bill is going to pass. We had the hearings. The hon. member for Rivière-du-Nord who spoke before me said that he wants to examine the bill. The bill is the result of the hearings we already held at the justice committee, so I do not think there is a need for that detailed examination. Maybe the other opposition parties will decide we have to go to committee and do it all over again, and I am prepared to do that, but we could proceed expeditiously, get this bill passed and get a better start on making Canadians safer.

I am not saying that the concerns that Canadians have about repeat violent offenders are unjust. There are many tragic examples that all too often are exploited in this House for political reasons, and I have sympathy for those families, but we have to pass Bill C-48 to prevent the release of violent offenders.

Let me say the other part of this. New Democrats continue to call for on-demand mental health and substance abuse programs.

When the Conservatives like to talk about the 6,000 rolling, revolving-door incidents in Vancouver, those are not violent crimes. Those are people who are poor, who shoplift, who are drug-addicted or who have mental health issues. If we could get, first of all, better support in this time of increasing costs for all Canadians who are poor, if we could get better mental health programs and if we could get better substance abuse on-demand records, then we will have progress in making communities safer.