Madam Speaker, I want to indicate to the member for Mississauga South that I am not trying in my presentation during this debate in principle on Bill C-22 to inflame an already emotional issue or polarize matters any more than they are.
In my opening statement I wanted to simply try to ensure that the House was aware of the fact that one cannot look at custody and access matters and legislative changes to the Divorce Act without taking into account the impact on women and without considering the prevalence of violence against women in our society today.
It is clear that we are operating on different premises and assumptions. I want the member to know that I believe he is wrong when he suggests that violence in the home knows no gender, that gender is not a factor in when analyzing domestic abuse. All the statistics show the opposite and those statistics have not changed over the years, certainly from the days when they were reported during the special House-Senate study on the issue.
I do not believe that the member can deny the fact that when we look at the statistics over the years of spousal abuse where convictions occur, well over 90% of the offenders are men and almost 90% of the victims of those offences are female. I already made that point in my remark.
I want to further quote from Jane Ursel who is an expert in this area. She looked at 562 convictions in the same period to which I just referred. She said:
--89% of the accused were male and 76% of the victims were female, with the remainder male and female children who were victimized. In the case of elder abuse, 91% of the accused were male and 81% of the victims were female.
She concluded by saying, “It is a sad statement about our society that the factor that makes a person at risk is vulnerability”.
That must be taken into account in this debate. So many experts already have said that legislation on divorce and provisions on custody and access have an impact on women and could create for a situation where violence in the home is perpetuated, not diminished. We need to look at all the facts. I am not an expert in terms of this whole area but I know one thing. We must be open to the testimony, the facts and we must ensure that our legislative proposals do not have a deleterious impact on women who are already vulnerable and facing domestic violence in the home.