moved that Bill S-205, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to another Act (interim release and domestic violence recognizance orders), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Madam Speaker, I am deeply honoured to be here today talking about Bill S-205, which ultimately is about electronic bracelets. It is an act to amend the Criminal Code and make consequential amendments to other acts regarding interim release and domestic violence recognisance orders.
This is a very important moment for women and domestic violence survivors. It is a very big deal, and I am very honoured to have this opportunity. However, I can take absolutely no credit for this at all. It is Senator Boisvenu, a senator from Quebec, who has really done all of the work here. Senator Boisvenu has been leading the charge in both chambers on standing up for victims. It is an incredible body of work he has done in his career, and I sincerely thank him on behalf of all the women's groups that I have met with. His efforts have made a tremendous difference in their lives. It is wonderful to see someone standing up for victims of domestic violence and women in general who are impacted by many things like this. It is great to know a real crusader who stands up for women on such a regular basis.
I will brag a little more about him. Senator Boisvenu is the founder of the Murdered or Missing Persons’ Families Association. He is the co-founder of Le Nid, a shelter for abused women in Val-d'Or, Quebec. He is also the founder of the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights, which is an incredible document that I encourage all parliamentarians to read. Again, I am very honoured to sponsor his legislation in the House of Commons.
I will start off with a story about a woman who had a very difficult time with domestic violence and whose life and safety would have been greatly improved if something like this had been in place when she was going through a very difficult time in her life.
Her name is Elisapee Angma. She was a 44-year-old mother to four children and worked in an early childhood centre in Kuujjuaq in northern Quebec. In November 2020, her ex-partner had been ordered not to try to contact her or to be in her presence in an act of denunciation after he was accused of assault with a weapon. Her ex-partner subsequently broke this order on three different occasions over the span of three months. After his last breach of conditions, he was again arrested by police and the Crown in the case opposed his release.
However, five days later, despite objections from the director of criminal and penal prosecutions and fears that he would reoffend, her ex-partner was released pending further proceedings. On the morning of February 5, 2021, Ms. Angma was found suffering serious injuries and was rushed to hospital where she succumbed to her injuries and died. Her ex-partner was found deceased in his home later that day.
The tragic reality is that Ms. Angma's death could have been prevented. Women's rights groups have warned that this release was the chronicle of a death foretold and that the numerous breaches should have been taken into account. Our justice system failed. It failed her, it failed her four children and it failed many women like her.
This bill is looking to address this and save the lives of women like her today and for many years to come. It is very important that all members of Parliament from all parties take serious consideration of their support for this bill. There should be no more stories like this in Canada. If we can prevent them with tools like this, then we should. This is really a story of one too many. We all have tragic cases in our communities like this. In Canada, a woman is murdered every 48 hours. Just last year, 184 women were murdered in Canada, of which 60% were killed by an intimate partner.
Leaving an abusive partner and seeking legal action is an act that takes immense courage and resilience, and those women deserve to be protected. However, our judicial system seems to focus far too often on releasing criminals and what is good for them rather than protecting the vulnerable victims. When a person is arrested by police for domestic violence, the police or the judge may release that person on an interim basis pending trial. In the Criminal Code, this mechanism falls under compelling appearance of accused before a justice and interim release. The judge or the police can set conditions that the accused must meet or be returned to custody. Once the conditions of release are set, the accused may be released until the date of their trial, which is the really difficult period when a lot women have been abused and murdered.
Currently, there is no monitoring mechanism in place to ensure that potentially dangerous behaviour by the accused is detected. Many victims of domestic violence have lost their lives or have been victims of attempted murder at this stage in the judicial process. This bill would directly impact that specific area of vulnerability for women.
I will give a little more testimony. This is from Diane Tremblay, and just to forewarn the House, what she talks about is a bit graphic. However, I think it is relevant for the context of this debate and how important it is that we bring forward tools like this to protect women in domestic violence situations. She has tremendous courage.
She appeared before the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs to give her testimony about this important bill. It was deeply moving, and I will read a bit of what she described of the ordeal she suffered for years. The court had ordered her partner to stay away from her, but he violated that condition and caused her significant harm. Her words were as follows:
My abuser would put the dresser in front of my bedroom door to keep me from leaving so that he could force me to have sex while I screamed and cried. Sometimes, my children could hear me....
I told them that I was upset and that it wasn’t serious. My abuser even put a lock on the door to keep the children out. He was showing them that he had control over their mother. Julien rebelled a great deal, and rightly so. However, I told him to go away and that I had everything under control....
My abuser threatened to kill us every day, so I kept quiet to protect my children.
It is difficult to read that testimony. I cannot imagine the courage it took for her to put it on the public record when she appeared before committee in the Senate.
This man did these things to her while he was ordered not to be near her. Had there been an electronic bracelet on him at the time, the police could have better enforced the protection order for her. Again, it is a very difficult thing, but unfortunately her story is not unique in this country or around the world. There are a lot of women who suffer this type of abuse by their intimate partner.
What stood out to me most during the four years that she suffered was that she argued she did seek help from the justice system several times but did not receive the protection she needed. There are many stories that many of us have heard, and certainly I have heard them in my role as shadow minister for public safety.
Bill S-205 would correct this in many ways. It is a critical step that would prevent the deaths of women and children fleeing situations of domestic violence. This bill would offer the electronic bracelet as a means of supervision when a person who is released on bail or is subject to a court-ordered recognition poses a risk to the safety of his or her spouse and breaks the cycle of domestic violence. It would empower judges to impose the wearing of an electronic bracelet on a violent spouse or ex-spouse as soon as he or she is released and pending trial. This bill would primarily protect vulnerable women and children trying to flee these situations of domestic violence.
On the issue of electronic monitoring, we have looked to other countries, such as Spain and France, which have introduced similar electronic monitoring systems. There is also a great success story here at home in Quebec. The Province of Quebec passed legislation that requires offenders who have been found guilty of domestic violence and released from a provincial prison to wear an electronic monitoring bracelet. Quebec has taken this amazing provincial step. This bill would add this across the country, and that is a very important first step for all women in Canada.
In my remaining moments, I would like to outline some of the impacts of this bill.
In December 2022, there were 650 offenders released in Quebec who will be wearing the electronic bracelets. That is 650 people's families and children who may be protected because of a provincial bill just like this one. It is now up to the federal Liberal government to take responsibility and pass this bill to complement that provincial legislation. Quebec requires the electronic bracelet solely for those who release from provincial prisons. It really does not impact federal offenders. This bill would do that.
It also proposes therapy to end the cycle of domestic violence. I think this is a very excellent preventative step built into the legislation. We know that in some cases therapy can be effective, as some people have substance abuse problems or have issues in their history that they need to work through. If we can rehabilitate some of these individuals, then we should try. That is built right into the bill. It also offers court-ordered therapy as another alternative to protect victims of domestic violence. This was suggested by one of Canada's best known psychiatrists, Dr. Chamberland, as a tool to counter domestic violence at its source and prevent the deaths of innocent women and children.
The bill would ensure our judicial system prioritizes the rights and protection of victims over the release of criminals. Again, this is very important to the Conservative Party and many others in this chamber. That really is the foundational value of this bill.
The bill also includes several provisions designed to enable victims to be consulted about their safety and to be better informed of the judicial process, something I repeatedly hear from victims groups. They would like more information and they would like access, and this bill would do that.
We really should be looking to pass this bill quickly. The quicker we do it, the more women and children who can be protected. As I mentioned a few times in the House, the latest StatsCan data on sex abuse against children, for example, is up 126% over the past eight years and sexual assaults are up 71%. Things are going in the wrong direction. Now more than ever, we need legislation like this to protect victims of domestic violence.
I very much appreciate the opportunity to get up in the House to speak about this. I want to conclude with one more testimony from a woman named Dayane Williams, who is a survivor of domestic abuse. With respect to this bill, she said:
If he [her abuser] had been wearing a bracelet, yes, I could have gone to the gym. I could have had my freedom...it will ease my anxiety and I can have my freedom back. I'm in therapy, and they tell me that I have to go for walks, that I have to go to the gym, that I can't stay locked up [but] I am constantly thinking about the possibility of him attacking me when I'm with my children. If he decides to kill me, I am not safe.
She went on to say:
If he’s wearing a bracelet and approaches my location, the police will be there before I call 911. The bracelet will alert them. He has committed a crime, but he gets to walk around as if he’s done nothing, and I’m the one who has to hide at home. Right now, he has won — he has his freedom and I do not. I don’t have freedom.
That is quite a powerful testimony in favour of this bill. I am sure members would agree.
In conclusion, Bill S-205 would save lives, particularly those of women and children. It would save survivors and the many victims of domestic abuse considerable stress, anxiety and, frankly, terror. I hope that all parties will give this bill serious consideration to quick passage. I look forward to working with them to make that happen.