That the Standing Committee on the Status of Women be instructed to undertake a study on the subject of best practices in education and social programs in Canada that prevent violence against women, and report its findings to the House within one year of the study's initiation.
Mr. Speaker, I am privileged to rise today to introduce Motion No. 504. I highlight that the key word in the motion is “prevention”. I am really pleased, Mr. Speaker, that you are here today to hear this speech because I know you share my value system. I am very pleased also that I have family members, friends, and staff here to hear this very important motion.
The motion was initiated in part because I became aware of the annual domestic violence statistics in my riding of Sault Ste. Marie. The results were astounding, considering our population of 75,000. These types of statistics are consistent Canada wide.
In 2010, Sault Ste. Marie Police Services recorded 1,178 domestic incidents, of which 258 had criminal charges laid. The Ontario Provincial Police investigated an additional 402 domestic incidents in Algoma, which resulted in 119 criminal charges being laid. Combined, that results in over one criminal charge per day. These are reported cases. I can only imagine the number of incidents that go unreported.
The majority of domestic violence incidents are violence against women. On top of that, the victim witness assistance program opened 371 case files specific to partner assault, which represents 72% of its case load. Women in Crisis provided emergency shelter to 456 women and children. Let me reiterate that this is all in a one-year period. These trends repeat year after year.
Additional research presented more statistics that are unacceptable to me as a male. I have been fortunate to be married for 32 years and to raise two sons, both of whom are in healthy relationships with their girlfriends. When I read about these statistics I am deeply disturbed as I do not believe domestic violence by men against women and girls should be tolerated, nor do my sons. They have never experienced domestic violence in my household.
These statistics come from a report completed by the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, released February 2013. They are based upon an internationally accepted definition of violence against women by the UN in 1993 as being:
...any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.
It should also be noted these statistics are based primarily on those acts that constitute crimes under the Criminal Code.
In 2011, the five most common violent offences committed against women were common assault, uttering threats, serious assault, sexual assault, and criminal harassment. Women were eleven times more likely than men to be a victim of sexual offences and three times more likely to be a victim of criminal harassment or stalking.
Overall, men were responsible for 83% of police reported violence committed against women. Most commonly, the accused was the woman's intimate partner, at 45%; followed by acquaintances or friends, at 27%; strangers, 16%; and non-spousal family members, at 12%. This contrasts with violent crimes against men, where intimate partners are among the least common perpetrators at 12%.
Intimate partner violence, which was nearly four times higher for women, was characterized by physical assault and the use of physical force, rather than weapons. About half of female victims of intimate partner violence suffered some type of injury.
As mentioned in the UN definition, there are many forms of violence including physical, sexual, emotional, and financial abuse and neglect.
Physical abuse is obvious and includes such things as pushing, hitting, slapping, pinching, or punching, to name but a few. Sexual abuse can include sexual touching, or sexual activity without consent, or forcing someone to commit unsafe or humiliating sex acts.
Emotional abuse happens when a person uses words or actions to control, frighten, or isolate someone, or to take away their self-respect. It can include such things as constant yelling or criticism or keeping someone from seeing family or friends.
Financial abuse happens when someone uses money or property to control or exploit someone else, and can include such things as withholding or limiting money in order to control someone.
Neglect occurs when a family member who has a duty to care for someone fails to provide them with basic needs.
Many men and women alike do not even recognize that some of these are even forms of violence. I believe that if best practices and prevention are implemented at appropriate stages in an individual's life, domestic violence can be dramatically reduced. I believe this because I am familiar with some of the rehabilitation programs delivered to incarcerated individuals, and they actually change these individuals' lives to the point that they do not reoffend once released.
Certainly, if we can rehabilitate those who have already offended, then we can also reduce the possibility of offending in the first place by providing preventative tools.
Treatment programs provided in prisons include such things as life without violence, criminal thinking distortions, and substance abuse. These programs are intensive in nature and generally involve 12 hours per week over a 20-week period in a classroom-type setting. Significant one-on-one counselling also occurs. The rate of recidivism is reduced significantly in comparison to those who have no rehabilitation services provided.
However, the issue is one of why individuals end up in the correctional system in the first place. A majority of the inmates feel that had this programming occurred much earlier in life, they would not have ended up in prison. Quotes such as “Where was this when I was 10 years old?” are common.
As a government and as a society, we are dealing retroactively with violence. We are told how to behave in society; however, we are not provided with the skills to do so. The skills I am referring to are such things as assertiveness training, conflict resolution, anger management, communication, healthy relations, and the ability to weigh and balance consequences, to name a few. Ultimately, this knowledge would assist in steering our children away from high-risk behaviour. Providing these programs would also help identify those individuals who need additional supports that are not currently in place.
There is so much more proactive intervention that can be done to minimize the chance of our children becoming violent offenders. We need to break the cycle.
I am not suggesting for one moment that we have done nothing as a government. We have made great strides to address this important issue, and this motion, if accepted, will build upon those initiatives. As a matter of fact, since 2007 more than $69 million has been invested in projects designed specifically to end violence against women and girls, and I expect my colleagues will expand on these initiatives later on.
All members of society are affected by family violence. There can be long-term impacts of violence on victims' physical and emotional health that can result in their inability to work, loss of wages, lack of participation in regular activities, and limited ability to care for themselves or their children. Children may suffer long-term emotional, behavioural, and developmental problems that can even lead them to be violent later in life.
The financial consequences and the effects stretch far beyond the victims' family, friends, and communities. There are social costs. A considerable amount of Canadian resources are directed to address this issue, including health care costs and the cost to the justice system, to employers, to businesses, and to social and community services.
A study by the Department of Justice, “An Estimation of the Economic Impact of Spousal Violence in Canada, 2009”, estimates the impact of spousal violence to be about $7.4 billion per year. This includes $6 billion in costs to victims. Those costs are associated with victims seeking medical attention, lost wages, damaged and destroyed property and the intangibles of pain and suffering. It also includes $890 million in costs to third parties, including social service operating costs and losses to employers. This also includes about $545 million in costs borne by the justice system.
It is so unfortunate that social programs have to exist for groups of children that have witnessed forms of abuse or violence against their mothers or female caregivers, or programs that teach safety planning for women who are abused, or programs that educate on how people can identify and help women at risk of abuse, or programs that are specialized for individuals who have been physically violent and/or emotionally abusive or controlling toward a spouse or intimate partner. These are all designed for violence that has already occurred.
Let us find the best programs that prevent violence in the first place.
I realize that if everyone had these programs, domestic violence would not be eliminated, as there are many root causes of domestic violence. Addressing causes is certainly one way of reducing domestic violence. Applying best preventative practices is absolutely another way.
Through this motion, I am simply asking the status of women committee to explore best practices that prevent violence against women. Decisions will then be required to determine what next steps might be to implement those programs. I look forward to the unanimous support of my motion and, more important, the recommendations that will come forward from the status of women committee.
I wish every person had this very rare opportunity to initiate legislation that could be profoundly meaningful to so many. I am deeply honoured to be standing here today and so grateful to my constituents for placing their faith in me. I would like to dedicate this motion to my wife, who inspired it and who works so hard on the rehabilitation side of corrections.