Standing committee on Justice and Social Policy
1st session, 37th Parliament | 1re session, 37e législature
Mon 23 Oct 2000 / Lun 23 oct 2000
Monday 23 October 2000
Domestic Violence Protection Act, 2000, Bill 117, Mr Flaherty / Loi de 2000 sur la protection contre la violence familiale, projet de loi 117, M. Flaherty
Ministry of the Attorney General
Mr David Tilson, parliamentary assistant
Ms Joana Kuras, executive lead, victims' services
Ms Anne Marie Predko, counsel
STANDING COMMITTEE ON JUSTICE AND SOCIAL POLICY
Chair / Présidente
Ms Marilyn Mushinski (Scarborough Centre / -Centre PC)
Vice-Chair / Vice-Président
Mr Carl DeFaria (Mississauga East / -Est PC)
Mr Marcel Beaubien (Lambton-Kent-Middlesex PC)
Mr Michael Bryant (St Paul's L)
Mr Carl DeFaria (Mississauga East / -Est PC)
Mrs Brenda Elliott (Guelph-Wellington PC)
Mr Garry J. Guzzo (Ottawa West-Nepean / Ottawa-Ouest-Nepean PC)
Mr Peter Kormos (Niagara Centre / -Centre ND)
Mrs Lyn McLeod (Thunder Bay-Atikokan L)
Ms Marilyn Mushinski (Scarborough Centre / -Centre PC)
Substitutions / Membres remplaçants
Mrs Marie Bountrogianni (Hamilton Mountain L)
Mrs Tina R. Molinari (Thornhill PC)
Mr Joseph Spina (Brampton Centre / -Centre PC)
Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel-Wellington-Grey PC)
Clerk / Greffier
Mr Tom Prins
Staff / Personnel
Ms Elaine Campbell, research officer,
Research and Information Services
The committee met at 1536 in room 151.
The Chair (Ms Marilyn Mushinski): We'll call the meeting to order. Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. This is the standing committee on justice and social policy, to consider Bill 117, An Act to better protect victims of domestic violence.
Mrs Brenda Elliott (Guelph-Wellington): Chair, I move the adoption of the report of the subcommittee. Do you need me to read that out?
The Chair: That needs to be read into the record.
Mrs Elliott: It reads as follows:
Your subcommittee met on Monday, October 16, 2000, to consider the method of proceeding on Bill 117, An Act to better protect victims of domestic violence, and recommends the following:
(1) That the committee meet in Toronto on October 23, 24, 30, and 31 for the purpose of holding public hearings and that the committee will meet on November 14, 2000, for clause-by-clause consideration of the bill.
(2) That the Attorney General and appropriate ministry staff be invited for one hour to provide a technical briefing on October 23, 2000. Following this briefing, each of the three parties will have 30 minutes to make statements and ask questions.
(3) That scheduling will be accomplished by means of four lists. One list will be created by each of the three parties and the fourth list will contain the names of those people who contacted the clerk directly. Each party's list must contain a prioritized list of proposed witnesses and must be provided to the clerk by noon on Thursday, October 19, 2000. The clerk will divide the available time equally among the four lists.
(4) That the clerk have an advertisement placed once in the Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail and the National Post. The advertisement will also be placed on the Ontario Parliamentary Channel and on the Internet.
(5) That witnesses will be offered 20 minutes to make their presentation.
(6) That the Chair will accept requests by witnesses to have their expenses paid by the committee if the witness is from out of town and the request is reasonable.
(7) That the legislative research officer will prepare a number of background papers as well as a summary of recommendations.
(8) That there will be an opportunity for each party to take five minutes to make opening comments at the beginning of the clause-by-clause process.
(9) That the deadline for written submissions is November 9, 2000, at 12 noon.
(10) That amendments should be filed with the clerk by November 9, 2000, at 12 noon.
(11) That the clerk has the authority to begin implementing these decisions immediately.
(12) That the information contained in this subcommittee report may be given out to interested parties immediately, as opposed to after the committee has voted on it.
(13) That the Chair, in consultation with the clerk, will make any other decisions necessary with respect to this bill.
Mr Peter Kormos (Niagara Centre): Chair, at the subcommittee meeting, with the allocation of the 20-minute time slots, there was some contemplation about whether or not that would be appropriate in terms of the number of people applying to speak to the committee. I wonder if we've got some sort of report on the numbers. If the numbers are low, then 20 minutes obviously is fine. Do we have to address that?
The Chair: My understanding from Mr Prins is that at this point the 20 minutes seems to be fairly reasonable, based upon the responses we've been getting.
Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel-Wellington-Grey): Madam Chair, I'd like to speak to the committee on items 9 and 10 of the report. I gather there has been some confusion as to what this date was. Originally it was the 12th and now it's the 9th. The ministry would prefer that the date for both those items be the 7th, which would be a Tuesday. The rationale is that the date of November 7 for both items 9 and 10 is one week after the public hearings and it'll be one week before clause-by-clause. Ministry officials feel they would prefer to have a full week to consider the written submissions as well as the amendments that would be filed.
I hope there would be unanimous consent from all committee members to change the date on items 9 and 10 from November 9 to November 7.
The Chair: Would you want the time to remain at 12 noon or would that be moved to 5 pm?
Mr Tilson: The time's fine.
The Chair: Is the committee in agreement with that? OK, so we have a motion to change the dates outlined in clauses 9 and 10 to November 7. All in favour? That carries.
Can I have a motion to adopt the report of the subcommittee? All in favour? That carries.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE PROTECTION ACT, 2000 / LOI DE 2000 SUR LA PROTECTION CONTRE LA VIOLENCE FAMILIALE
Consideration of Bill 117, An Act to better protect victims of domestic violence / Projet de loi 117, Loi visant à mieux protéger les victimes de violence familiale.
MINISTRY OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
The Chair: Then we'll go to Mr Tilson, the parliamentary assistant to the Attorney General and native affairs. Congratulations, Mr Tilson.
Mr Tilson: Thank you, Madam Chair. It looks like I'm listed to speak now. What I would prefer we do at this particular point of the agenda is that I introduce the two individuals listed on the agenda who come from the Attorney General's office to give the committee a technical briefing, and that any comments I make would be in the half-hour time slot each caucus is given, that my time slot be at that time.
The Chair: So we'll hear from Anne Marie Predko and Ms Kuras first?
Mr Tilson: Sure. I'll introduce them to you, Madam Chair, and members of the committee, if they could come forward to the table. Anne Marie Predko is counsel to the Ministry of the Attorney General. With her is Joana Kuras, who is the executive lead of the victims' services of the Ministry of the Attorney General. They will make a technical presentation at this time.
Ms Joana Kuras: Good afternoon. By way of background, I would like to provide some information about events that brought us to this hearing today and to the introduction of Bill 117.
In December 1998, the provincial government created a committee composed of community experts in the field of domestic violence and senior government officials called the Joint Committee on Domestic Violence. This committee's mandate was to provide advice to government on the implementation of jury recommendations from the inquest into the deaths of Arlene May and Randy Iles. The joint committee tabled its report in August 1999.
The report of the joint committee contains 16 strategies to address domestic violence in Ontario. Strategy 5 is entitled "Ensure consistent enforcement of restraining orders and explore strategies to improve their effectiveness." There are 10 recommendations under strategy 5. If passed, Bill 117 and its related policy changes would respond to these 10 recommendations.
Specifically, recommendation 63 asked the Ministry of the Attorney General to establish a task group to critically examine restraining order policy and practice and to determine if new civil legislation was necessary. In September 1999 the ministry established the task group on restraining orders. The members were drawn from relevant divisions in the Ministry of the Attorney General and the Ministry of the Solicitor General, including representatives of the OPP. That committee has now reported, and as a result Bill 117 has been tabled.
I will ask Anne Marie Predko now to provide you with the technical briefing on Bill 117.
Ms Anne Marie Predko: Good afternoon. As counsel in the policy branch of the Ministry of the Attorney General, I am pleased to provide you with the technical overview of Bill 117, An Act to better protect victims of domestic violence. This presentation will be divided into three main parts. Joana Kuras has given us the first, which is an overview of the background which led to the development of the proposed legislation. I will next provide an overview of the major components of the bill and the effect of these components. For your reference while we discuss the bill, in your material provided to you by the clerk, there is a compendium of the bill contained at tab 4 and the text of the bill itself is contained at tab 1. At the end of this presentation, there will be an opportunity to ask technical questions relating to Bill 117.
Since 1989, there have been a number of attempts to strengthen the existing restraining order system in the province of Ontario. Currently in Ontario, under the Children's Law Reform Act, a person with custody of or access to a child can seek an order restraining another person from annoying, molesting or harassing the applicant or the children. Under the Family Law Act a married spouse or a common-law spouse or same-sex partner can seek an order restraining their former spouse or partner from annoying, molesting, harassing or communicating with the applicant or the children. Persons only qualify as a common-law spouse or same-sex partner if they have resided with their partner for a period of three years or reside together in a relationship of some permanence and are together the parents of a child. Neither the Children's Law Reform Act nor the Family Law Act contains any criteria for a judge to consider when deciding whether to grant a restraining order.
Breaches of existing restraining orders are provincial offences, punishable for a first offence by a fine of up to $5,000 and imprisonment for up to three months or both. On a second or subsequent offence, punishment increases to a fine of up to $10,000 and imprisonment for up to two years or both.
A number of technical difficulties flow from the vague wording of the existing legislative provisions, and enforcement through the Provincial Offences Act. These include inconsistency in the level of evidence required to obtain a restraining order. In some locations in this province, these orders are routinely granted on consent without any evidence provided to the court. In other locations, serious conduct which affects the safety of the applicant or the children must exist.
Persons affected by the order may be confused about the meaning of the terms "annoy, molest or harass," including the applicant, the person who's restrained by the order and, at times, the police.
The orders may contain exceptions for specific purposes; for example, under the existing restraining order, a common type of phrase would be "the respondent shall not communicate with the applicant except for the purpose of discussing child access." This makes it difficult to enforce the order due to the potentially broad interpretation of this exception.
Enforcement through the Provincial Offences Act leads to confusion because several types of courts could be the forum of prosecution for this offence, including provincial offences court, criminal court, specialized domestic violence courts and Family Court.
Enforcement through the Provincial Offences Act also means that the conditions of release are more limited than under the Criminal Code. The accused who is accused of breaching a restraining order cannot be held beyond 24 hours under the Provincial Offences Act, even if he or she is deemed to be a safety risk, and a fine is the most common outcome of a charge for breach of restraining order.
After reviewing these legislative concerns, the policy and practice currently surrounding restraining orders, the task group on restraining orders recommended the development of new civil restraining orders legislation.
Bill 117, if passed, would provide for intervention in cases of domestic violence by building and expanding upon elements currently found in existing provincial legislation. In preparing this bill, staff reviewed existing legislation in Alberta, Manitoba, Prince Edward Island, Saskatchewan and the Yukon, as well as some American states, New Zealand and Australia.
The bill defines "domestic violence" to include acts or omissions that cause bodily harm or damage to property, physical assaults and threats that cause a person to fear for his or her safety, forced physical confinement, sexual assault, sexual exploitation, sexual molestation and any series of acts which collectively cause a person to fear for his or her safety. This definition is found in subsection 1(2) of the bill. The acts or omissions listed in that section can be against the applicant, a relative of the applicant or any child.
The bill allows the following persons to apply for an intervention order: spouses as defined within the Family Law Act, former spouses, same-sex partners, former same-sex partners, persons who are cohabiting in a conjugal relationship, persons in a dating relationship and relatives who reside together. The definition of persons who can apply for an intervention order is contained in subsection 2(1) of the bill.
The bill provides for two types of intervention orders: an intervention order and an emergency intervention order. An application for an intervention order would be made in a non-urgent situation, with notice to the respondent, to a Superior Court judge. An application for an emergency intervention order would be made in an urgent situation, without notice to the respondent, to a Superior Court judge, a designated provincial court judge or a designated justice of the peace. Under the bill, provincial court judges or justices of the peace would be designated to hear applications for emergency intervention orders 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The designation section is contained in section 13.
The bill allows a Superior Court judge to make an intervention order if he or she is satisfied that domestic violence has occurred and that a person or property may be at risk of harm or damage. The intervention order may contain a range of provisions, including: restraining the respondent from being near any specified person or place, from contacting any person or from engaging in any specified conduct that is threatening, annoying or harassing to any person; requiring the respondent to vacate the applicant's residence; requiring police to escort a specified person to the applicant's residence to remove a person's belongings; requiring a peace officer to seize weapons and weapons permits, where the weapons were used or threatened to be used to commit domestic violence; granting the applicant exclusive possession of the residence; requiring the respondent to compensate the applicant for any financial losses caused by the domestic violence; granting either the applicant or the respondent temporary possession and exclusive use of specified personal property, such as a car, bank accounts or bank cards; restraining the respondent from dealing with property in which the applicant has an interest, again such as bank accounts or the property that the parties might share together; and requiring the respondent to attend counselling or to pay for a child's counselling. This range of available provisions is contained in subsection 3(2) of the bill.
The bill allows a Superior Court judge, a designated provincial judge or a designated justice of the peace to make an emergency intervention order if he or she is satisfied that domestic violence has occurred, a person or property is at risk of harm or damage, and the matter must be dealt with on an urgent basis for the protection of a person or property that is at risk of harm or damage. This is a three-stage test that's required for the emergency intervention order which can be compared to the two-stage test that is required for a regular intervention order on notice. The third stage of the test is that the matter must be dealt with on an urgent basis for the protection of a person or property that is at risk of harm or damage. An emergency intervention order may only contain the first seven provisions contained in subsection 3(2) of the bill. These are restraining the respondent from being near any specified person or place, from contacting any person or from engaging in any specified conduct that is threatening, annoying or harassing of any person; requiring the respondent to vacate the applicant's residence; requiring police to escort a specified person to the residence; and requiring a peace officer to seize weapons and weapons permits where the weapons were used or threatened to be used to commit domestic violence. These provisions that can be contained in an emergency intervention order are aimed at the personal and immediate safety of the victim of domestic violence.
The bill provides that every emergency intervention order must advise the applicant and the respondent that they are entitled to a hearing before the court for the purpose of asking for a variation or termination of the order. This is subsection 4(8) of the bill.
An emergency intervention order made by a designated provincial judge or justice of the peace must be reviewed shortly thereafter by a Superior Court judge. If the Superior Court judge is satisfied that there was sufficient evidence before the designated provincial judge or JP to support the granting of the emergency intervention order, and there has been no request for a hearing, the Superior Court judge shall confirm the order. If the Superior Court judge is not satisfied that there was evidence before the designated provincial judge or JP, then the Superior Court judge shall order a hearing. At the hearing, whether it's ordered by the Superior Court judge or whether it's requested by the applicant and the respondent, the Superior Court judge may confirm, vary or terminate the emergency intervention order. These provisions are contained in sections 5 and 6 of the bill.
The bill provides that breaches of emergency intervention orders and certain provisions of intervention orders shall be enforced by peace officers under the Criminal Code of Canada. Breaches relating to no contact with the applicant or other persons, vacating the home and weapons are police enforceable. Breaches relating to property, monetary compensation and counselling can be enforced by the Family Court through the respondent posting a bond or entering into a recognizance.
The provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba utilize section 127 of the Criminal Code to enforce their domestic violence legislation that is similar in intent to this bill.
The bill provides that the applicant or respondent to an intervention order may make a motion to the court at any time, upon notice to the other party, to vary or terminate the order. The court must be satisfied that there has been a material change in circumstances before changing the order.
At section 10, the bill provides that the court, when reviewing an intervention order at a hearing or at an application to vary or terminate the order, shall consider current family law orders and may, if it is authorized under the family law legislation affecting the order, change the family law order to the extent necessary to provide protection under the intervention order. The bill also provides that an appeal from an intervention order may be made to the Divisional Court.
The bill gives the Family Rules Committee, subject to the approval of the Lieutenant Governor in Council, the authority to make rules under section 68 of the Courts of Justice Act and in relation to the practice and procedure in proceedings under the proposed Domestic Violence Protection Act. The Attorney General may require that the Family Rules Committee make, amend or revoke a rule. If the Family Rules Committee does not do so, the Lieutenant Governor in Council may make a regulation that carries out the intent of the Attorney General's requirement. These provisions are contained in sections 17 and 18 of the bill.
The bill amends the Courts of Justice Act so that, if passed, the Domestic Violence Protection Act would be within the jurisdiction of the Family Court in the province. It also repeals section 35 of the Children's Law Reform Act and section 46 of the Family Law Act. In terms of the repeal of those two sections, which are the existing restraining order provisions, the bill has been drafted to allow these provisions to be repealed in stages if required.
At this time, if people have questions of a technical nature--
The Chair: Have you finished your submission?
Ms Predko: Yes.
The Chair: OK. I believe what we were going to do was give half an hour to each party, at which time they could both ask questions and make their speeches or submissions.
Mr Kormos: Chair, if I may, the subcommittee gave an hour for this submission, but subject to what other people might tell me in terms of correction, my impression was that we were going to be somewhat, dare I say, liberal.
Mr Kormos: It irks me as much as it does you. We've got two hours left, so I'm wondering if we could agree that we'll share the remaining two hours.
The Chair: Yes, I had also anticipated that fairly conservatively at two, I might add.
Mr Kormos: And my approach is somewhat radical, I understand.
Mr Tilson: Seriously, I don't know whether it's being suggested that the three parties split the remaining 25 minutes or whatever it is, but I don't have a problem with that, if that's what you're asking. As I understand it, each caucus was going to have half an hour to either speak or ask questions. Mr Kormos is perfectly correct: we now have 20 to 25 minutes' leeway. I don't have a problem if you divide that among all three caucuses.
The Chair: We'll give each party about 40 minutes. Is that OK?
Mr Tilson, I believe you mentioned in your introduction that you wanted to add after the submissions of the ministry. Is that correct?
Mr Tilson: Actually, I'll just be part of the government questions and comments.
The Chair: OK, because normally I would hear from the Liberal side first.
Mr Tilson: That's fine. I have no problem with that.
The Chair: Mrs Bountrogianni?
Mrs Marie Bountrogianni (Hamilton Mountain): I'll let the lawyers ask the really technical questions.
The Chair: We'll give you until about a quarter to five, OK?
Mrs Bountrogianni: I may not need that long. I'll give the rest to my colleague. I saw in Hansard where the former parliamentary assistant--the order might include "ordering counselling for children at the alleged abuser's expense." Is that correct? Is that part of the bill?
Ms Predko: Yes, that's correct.
Mrs Bountrogianni: I'd like to ask, will the province or legal aid or some other funding agency pay for the children's counselling if the alleged abuser cannot pay for it? Let's face it: in many of these cases, the alleged abuser can't pay, so is there any backup plan or any--
Ms Predko: That's a resourcing issue in the process that would obviously need to be addressed. It's not something that is within the context of a briefing the Ministry of the Attorney General could give you, but I certainly could touch base with other ministries that would be responsible for that type of information.
Mrs Bountrogianni: I would appreciate that. I'm not being critical here. There are actually quite a few points I like. I'm a child psychologist, and from my experience I know that alleged abusers often don't have the money or hide the money or don't want to or delay, and counselling is very important. If another ministry can get back to me on that, that would be great. Mr Tilson, will you make that commitment to ask if the other ministries can provide--
Mr Tilson: Absolutely. My understanding is that the ministry is going to be providing resources in a number of areas. But in terms of what you're speaking of now, my belief is that there are already resources put forward in the victims of crime process to assist the type of people you speak of. In answer to your question, we'll be pleased to clarify that.
Mrs Bountrogianni: A similar question for the counselling for abusive partners--I guess I'd like that to go for those as well, Mr Tilson. Again, professionally speaking, sometimes it's a little late at that point, and the counselling of children is extremely important.
The Ontario Women's Directorate used to fund counsellors going into the schools and speaking to violence prevention. Again, as a former employee of a school board, I would partner with some of these counsellors and we would go in together and talk about the signs of abuse and so forth. The majority of that funding was cut. Today there were some announcements on more funding. I'd like to know if this ministry values that sort of counselling and, again, if they can get the appropriate ministry to get back to me on that--once Mr Kormos stops distracting the parliamentary assistant.
Mr Tilson: I'm sorry. You'll have to repeat what you were saying.
Mrs Bountrogianni: Basically, a very similar issue to what I said earlier.
The other question is, presumably then the courts will be busier with this bill. The women will have another road to go to, once they're in this terrible position. Is there then more access or more funds for legal aid? Because it is very difficult even right now for women to access legal aid.
The Chair: Does anyone from the ministry have an answer for that?
Mrs Bountrogianni: Are there plans to increase legal aid for women to be able to access the positive steps in this new bill?
Ms Kuras: There are no plans at this point, that I am aware of, to increase funding for it. However, legal aid certainly has made a commitment to ensuring that women who are facing domestic violence are a priority for legal aid certificates and legal aid services.
Mrs Bountrogianni: We'll underline that one. I guess my other point is that 75% of women don't report their abuse. I know that the Attorney General's not responsible for those 75% but I feel that I have to talk about the 75%.
Mr Tilson: A good point.
Mrs Bountrogianni: It is a good point. Again, with someone from a different culture, there are sometimes cultural reasons why they don't report right away--sometimes they're personal reasons, sometimes they're psychological reasons--but we cannot criticize women who don't want to report; we just have to try to make it easier for them to report.
I was in the women's centre in London on Saturday. I just want to read you some statistics for the record before I hand it over to my colleague. Last year, they turned away 685 women--I guess this is underlining need for more shelters. They admitted 703. This year, to date--we haven't got a complete year yet--they've already turned away 869 women at the Women's Community House in London, Ontario. I guess my plea on the record is--even though I know this is a different ministry--it's wonderful what you're doing, but it will not address the big picture of domestic violence and I look forward to you or your minister influencing the other ministers involved in domestic violence legislation.
Mr Tilson: Is that a question?
Mrs Bountrogianni: It's just a statement to you, and I'm hoping that you'll talk to your other ministers.
Mr Tilson: May I respond to what she said?
The Chair: Please.
Mr Tilson: You're actually right. Horrific crimes happen. How do you get women, and specifically women--the bill is designed for a number of people with domestic violence, but a large percentage would be women, and your point is certainly well taken--to even deal with it?
We believe this bill is going to provide more confidence in the system for women, to use your example. It will be easier to approach the police, to approach justice officials. When a police officer arrives at a home, for example, where there are problems, the police officer will have an easier time in assisting the woman to deal with these horrific issues that have developed. It may not be the solution, but we believe that this bill will make it easier for women to have more confidence in the system to deal with these horrific crimes.
The Chair: Members of the committee, I have received a request to go in 15-minute rotations rather than 40 minutes.
Mr Tilson: Madam Chair, you can direct me here. I don't know what I'm supposed to do when comments are made. I am here as the parliamentary assistant, and whether I am supposed to respond or wait until the end, I'll do whatever you wish.
Mr Michael Bryant (St Paul's): I can tell you, I'll direct my questions--I think it makes sense--to the government. If I am sending a question to them that I should send to Mr Tilson --I think we should give them a time to respond. But I like the idea of rotating.
The Chair: OK. We'll go to Mr Kormos next, then, Mr Bryant?
Mr Bryant: Do we have time left in my 15?
The Chair: No, you don't actually.
Mr Bryant: Fair enough. Then let's rotate to Mr Kormos.
Mr Kormos: We've got to be quick because we don't have a whole lot of time.
On the legal aid issue, on Friday morning a constituent in my office, a woman who was last in our office a year ago, wrote to the Niagara Regional Police because of some concern she had about the police not enforcing a Unified Family Court restraining order coming out of St Catharines. Mind you, the police responded appropriately, but the problem is now her spouse--three kids. She gave me permission to talk about this today. NCDC, Niagara Child Development Centre, for instance, has refused to do any more supervised access because the father is being just so outlandish. He has renewed the litigation. She can't find a lawyer to represent her on legal aid, because of the block constrictions on funding for legal aid representation in family law. Lawyers simply aren't doing it. So she's got to pay to defend herself against what is, from a layperson's view, probably frivolous or vexatious litigation--I know those are legal terms and I'll leave that to the lawyers--so she's out a good 10 grand-plus.
To boot, she had one of those alarms that the local committee, with Women's Place being a part of the committee, gave her some year and a half to two years ago, because that's when she was having a problem with the first instance with the restraining order and the constituency office got involved. The husband had backed off. She had to return the alarm, because of course there's a shortage of them. There were no incidents.
But I'm going, "Holy zonkers, Jane." We're pre-Christmas, the litigation is set for mid-November, the husband's taking her back to Family Court and raising all these access and custody issues, and wants the restraining order from the original Unified Family Court withdrawn or abandoned. We're entering a very volatile time frame. There's the combination of the litigation going back into court, the guy's being denied access effectively because supervisory services won't supervise the access any more, and we're entering Christmas season, with all the emotions that accompany that. I'm going, "Holy zonkers, if you ever needed an alarm, it's now." And that's no criticism of anybody. Of course, she then has to go back on to some sort of a waiting list, I'm told, to access one and she's not going to have priority, because the guy hasn't been harassing her recently, but surely she's at a higher risk now, with the upcoming litigation along with Christmas season and all the other stuff that goes on with it.
So I share, I've got to tell you, the concerns about the adequacy of legal aid funding, because the nature and the manner in which they fund has excluded a whole lot of family practitioners from representing people in family cases.
Let's get down to the bill. There are a couple of very specific things. Section 3, or I suppose even the interim or emergency orders: why is the word "and" between paragraphs (a) and (b)? In other words, why does the trier there have to conclude not only that there was domestic violence but "and" that person has to find that there may be risk of harm. Why isn't it "or"? What do they call them, Mr Bryant, a conjunctive? Seriously, why isn't it merely a conjunctive "or"?
Ms Predko: The drafting in this section is trying to address an issue that has been a problem in existing restraining order provisions, which was that there were no criteria for the judge to follow. In terms of domestic violence having occurred in the past and then there's some future risk, in the case of an intervention order, that something will happen again, I think if the two events are contemporaneous, in that something happened in the recent past, yesterday or last week, there should be no difficulty flowing to the second stage of this test. I agree with you that where the events are not exactly contemporaneous, as in the situation that you've described, it's more difficult, and that's why the level of the test is "may be" at risk. There only needs to be a possibility of risk for the situation to qualify in order to get a restraining order.
Mr Kormos: OK, gotcha.
Ms Predko: One of the problems with the existing enforcement regime is that there are a lot of orders on the CPIC system that do not relate to domestic violence at all.
Mr Kormos: We're going to get to that. Going back in terms of the definition of "domestic violence," why does subsection 1(2) read "domestic violence means the following acts"? Why doesn't it say it "includes the following acts," so as not to be restrictive? You've got to agree with me that there are some clever lawyers out there who are going to argue that the act that's the foundation for this application doesn't fall within those six areas. I don't know a whole lot about this, but when it says "means" as compared to maybe saying "includes," that means the person hearing it could be in a position of saying, "Oh, oh, I can't grant a restraining order, because you're right, high-priced Toronto lawyer, it doesn't technically fall within those six categories." Why doesn't it say "includes" instead of "means"?
Ms Predko: The question is, why is the list exhaustive as opposed to inclusive, from a drafting perspective?
Mr Kormos: Yes, ma'am.
Ms Predko: It's exhaustive because these were the anticipated limitations of domestic violence in terms of the definition. This definition is an adaptation of definitions that are used in other jurisdictions in the country, and it's also a further adaptation of part of the definition as put out in the Joint Committee on Domestic Violence report.
Mr Kormos: But do you agree that "includes" would broaden the area a whole lot and prevent those technical arguments from being made against a restraining order?
Ms Predko: I'm not going to answer the second part of your question.
Mr Kormos: Why not? You answered the first part. Either you agree or you don't agree.
The Chair: Give her a chance.
Mr Kormos: I know; I knew that.
Ms Predko: You've asked me two questions. You've asked me if I agree that "includes" would expand the list. Yes, I do. Do I agree that it would address the technical arguments that lawyers are likely to make? I can't say, because really it's going to be for a judge to interpret the legislation, not for counsel to interpret the legislation.
Mr Kormos: Fair enough. Is there a difference between "on the balance of probabilities" and "reasonable and probable grounds to believe" in terms of the test or the standard?
Ms Predko: In terms of legal tests, those are used in two different locations in law. The "balance of probabilities" is a sort of a 50%-plus-one type of test. "Reasonable and probable grounds to believe" might be a lower test. It's a test that means, from a legal perspective, that you have examined all of the information that you have available to you and that a reasonable person could move from where you are, in terms of your knowledge, to where you think this process is going. It's a test that's normally used in a criminal context for--
Mr Kormos: Assault charges.
Ms Predko: Well, for investigative purposes, I guess, to put it that way, where an officer faced with particular circumstances has to decide.
Mr Kormos: Quite right. The reason I'm asking that is because section 4 with the ex parte order, the emergency order, uses the same test as the order "upon application with notice" and "the balance of probabilities." I don't quarrel with "balance of probabilities" for being the appropriate test when you've got a "with notice," where it's litigated. But in the context--I'm just wondering; I don't know what my colleagues feel about this--of an emergency order at 2 in the morning, I'm wondering if there shouldn't be consideration given to what you suggest is that marginally lower test but still a standard of "reasonable and probable grounds to believe that." People get busted on that basis, don't they, and held in custody? So I'm just wondering why the drafters didn't put "reasonable and probable grounds" for section 4, understanding full well why they put "balance of probabilities" in section 3.
Ms Predko: In response to that I would say that in the situation in section 4 you actually only have evidence from one side, so it should actually be easier to prove on a balance of probabilities because you don't have the other side at all. You've only got one side of the--
Mr Kormos: Oh, I understand that part. Subsection 4(2), because the bill contemplates going at 2, 3 or 4 in the morning, really makes me crazy, because on an emergency order application at 2 in the morning a victim has to provide, because it says, "shall contain a summary of all previous and current court proceedings and orders affecting the applicant and respondent including all applications and orders under this act." Holy zonkers. I'm not aware of any section that gives the court, the judge or JP, the power to dispense with that. It says "shall." Shouldn't there at least be the power to dispense with that by a JP or whoever the court is composed of? Go ahead.
Mr Tilson: Isn't it--and you're right, this is an ex parte proceeding--fairer that the applicant should reveal everything they know about the proceedings, past and present, to the best of their knowledge?
Mr Kormos: I agree but--
Mr Tilson: If they make it up, they're going to be in doo-doo trouble because they're saying--
Mr Kormos: Oh, I'm getting to that silly section in a minute. But to be fair, Parliamentary Assistant, it says "shall," with no relief from requiring to produce it.
Mr Tilson: We're talking about a very serious matter, this proceeding ex parte, and I would hope that the judge or justice would have as much information before him or her as possible.
Mr Kormos: So if I'm a woman who has just been threatened by some crazy partner of mine, and I am rattled and shaken to begin with, and I don't provide all of that, because it says "shall," is that what my abuser is going to use as grounds to set aside that emergency order? I'm raising it; we will talk about this more, but I'm concerned about it. I'm concerned that it says "shall" because of the nature of the emergency order, which gets me around to section 16.
This is the sort of stuff the Red Tape Commission would include in one of their omnibus bills repealing, isn't it? It's redundant, isn't it? Perjury and public mischief are offences under the Criminal Code, as I recall. Section 16, why is it in this bill? Does it do anything for the bill?
Mr Tilson: It's a very serious matter indeed: tell the truth. You better tell the truth. You better not make up things or you're going to be in big trouble with the court.
Mr Kormos: I always tell the truth, Mr Tilson. But does it do anything for the bill?
Ms Predko: It sends a clear message. I think beyond that, as you say, its content is already existing in law.
Mr Kormos: Let's make this clear, because you referred to section 127, and I want to thank ministry staff for providing me with a copy of the briefing notes for their minister, or the parliamentary assistant, his briefing notes to section 127. I want to assure them I shared them with Mr Tilson because I didn't have my code--I don't have a Criminal Code--with me.
If somebody breaches it, they can either be prosecuted under section 127 of the Criminal Code, "breach of a court order," that general section--if I recall, some lawyers have told me that there has been some case law around that in terms of what is and isn't included in court orders. I can't recall those conversations, but I've been told that.
When you say the police shall enforce this, the problem a whole lot of my constituents have had historically is that they've got a family court order, a Unified Family Court order or a Supreme Court order in a divorce, and the police are very nervous. No disrespect--they're just very nervous. Their line is, "It's a civil matter," or, "Call your lawyer in the morning." The police basically know the Criminal Code and that's the focus of their work.
What's going to go on to make these orders more enforceable than the Unified Family Court, the Family Court, provincial division, and the Supreme Court or various Superior Court orders that police have been nervous about enforcing? Not in terms of busting somebody who violates them--or I suppose they could be charged under the Provincial Offences Act too, couldn't they?
Ms Predko: They could not be charged under the Provincial Offences Act the way this act is structured.
Mr Kormos: I thought at least they could be charged, that they could be given a provincial offence ticket; I was hoping, at least.
What I'm worried about is in terms of the enforcement. You're aware of the circumstances I'm talking about, right? The guy's there--I say "guy"; it usually is--and the police are saying, "Whoa, we don't see any blood dripping. This is a civil matter. Call your lawyers." What's going to change that with this act?
Ms Predko: If we turn to subsection 4(7) of the bill--
The Chair: You have about 30 seconds to answer the question.
Ms Predko: At subsection 4(7) of the bill we see, "An emergency intervention order prevails over any order made under the Children's Law Reform Act." Part of the difficulty for police officers when they attend at a scene now is that they are not clear which order prevails. That is a very common concern that police officers have, as well as the wording of the order. Those two things are addressed directly by this bill, first by the specific wording contained in subsection 3(2), and also by this subsection 4(7) which would make the order prevail.
The Chair: We'll go to the government side.
Mr Tilson: So I'm clear, each caucus will still have half an hour to either make a presentation or comments about the bill?
The Chair: Yes. Actually you have just a little under half an hour. You now have 15 minutes, and then we go back. We're going in 15-minute rotations, except that for the last half-hour I'm going to narrow it down a little bit because we need time to get up to vote.
Mr Tilson: The last point Mr Kormos raised was one I had intended to ask about and you may wish to elaborate. We all hear, as Mr Kormos has indicated, that police arrive at the scene and they groan, they literally groan, about getting involved in these matters. One of the reasons they groan, just as you've indicated, is because of the contradictory court orders, because of a restraining order and child access. It's conceivable that those two orders could conflict, as I understand it, for example, and there may be others you may wish to comment on.
You have now answered that. Subsection 4(7), "An emergency intervention order prevails over any order made under the Children's Law Reform Act, the Divorce Act (Canada) or the Family Law Act against or affecting the applicant or respondent or any child." Maybe you can tell me what sort of consultations you've had with the police or the police organizations on this topic, continuing on from the part that was raised by Mr Kormos.
Ms Predko: Certainly. The task group on restraining orders, which was convened by the Attorney General in September 1999, first of all had a stakeholder relations meeting with the police officers in, I believe, January or February 2000. That would have been a first opportunity for police officers to give some feedback in terms of the perceived problems with the existing restraining order system.
There was then an advance meeting with police officers in June of this year on recommendations that new civil domestic violence legislation be an option for the government to proceed with. There was further confidential consultation with some police services in September of this year to provide some feedback in terms of the proposed direction of this bill. We certainly expect that as regulations under the bill, if passed, are developed, the police will be a very important stakeholder group to be involved in the development of those regulations, particularly in the areas where the bill impacts upon municipal police services and the OPP.
Mr Tilson: I have one other question. Presentations have been made, particularly by the government members in the House, with respect to the speed of dealing with issues. Perhaps a summary of comparison between restraining orders and intervention orders--in other words, under the current regime as opposed to the regime that's being proposed by this bill, for one, essentially now there's 24-hour service. Perhaps you can elaborate on that.
Ms Predko: I can give an overview now. The other possibility would be that I could ask staff to prepare a chart that would give committee members a comparison between the existing system and the proposed system. I wouldn't have that available today, but I can briefly give you an overview of the main differences if you would like.
Mr Tilson: That would probably be very useful. A chart would be useful, but perhaps you could comment on some of the items. That would be helpful, but a chart would be very helpful.
Ms Predko: In terms of the existing system, as I mentioned in my overall technical briefing, there are no existing criteria for granting a restraining order. What flows from that, and maybe wasn't specifically clear, is there is no existing definition of "domestic violence" in legislation in Ontario. This definition that's been put forward in the proposed Domestic Violence Protection Act would be our first definition of "domestic violence."
The other main difference is that people in a much broader category of relationships could apply for intervention orders than can currently apply for restraining orders under the existing legislative regime. So persons who are in dating relationships, for example, and persons who are related and reside in the same household can apply for intervention orders.
I would like to point out that in the situation of Arlene May and Randy Iles, they would not have qualified for a restraining order under our existing legislative framework. As well, the addition of family members residing in the same household has the possibility of allowing persons who are subjected to elder abuse to be protected by these intervention orders.
In terms of timelines, which you had pointed out in your comments, one of the main differences is that now, of course, you have to apply during regular court hours, and in some locations in the province regular court hours are not even every day of the week. In the north or in small locations, the fact that a process will be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, will mean an enhancement of service, particularly to those remote areas. Currently you can apply for a restraining order on an ex parte basis, but you have to do it directly in writing to the court and the court has to be available and open to receive your application. So this is a significant enhancement of service to areas of the province that don't have a court open at all times.
Those are the main differences. Of course, subsection 3(2) sets out the specific items that can be prohibited. At this point in time we have no limitation on what can be prohibited by the restraining order provisions of the existing legislation. We just have those words "annoy," "molest," "harass." It would be a significant enhancement for police stakeholders to be able to more clearly see what activity is being prohibited.
Mr Joseph Spina (Brampton Centre): I think you got into some of the answer to the question I was about to ask. It was around the applicants in section 2, where you indicated that this act broadens the base of the applicant. I guess it's not just a female spouse or a child but also includes an elderly person who may or may not be related. They could just be a cohabitant of the household, could they not?
Ms Predko: Actually, if we turn back to the definitions section, "cohabit" is defined to mean "to live together in a conjugal relationship, whether within or outside marriage."
Mr Kormos: It's conjugal, Joe.
Ms Predko: In terms of when we say people are cohabiting, we actually mean people who are cohabiting in an intimate or sexual relationship. From a policy perspective, we were concerned about capturing roommates in terms of this proposal.
Mr Spina: And that's gender-neutral?
Ms Predko: This definition is completely gender-neutral.
Mr Spina: So it could be two women or two men?
Ms Predko: Certainly.
Mr Spina: The other element I want to clarify is in section 3, where it talks about cohabiting for any period of time. Respecting what you indicated by "conjugal," I'm just wondering, is that too loose or is that covered by other legislation in defining "cohabitation"? I'm thinking of a couple, of whatever type, who spend a weekend together and then an abusive situation results. Is that considered to be cohabitation? I'm just trying to clarify that.
Mr Kormos: It's too bad Mr Vankoughnet isn't still in your caucus. He could be helpful with that.
Ms Predko: It's a continuation along a spectrum of relationships. I think what you've just described would fit either within the concept of the people dating or cohabiting for any period of time. With dating being included, it really isn't a distinction you necessarily have to draw when the cohabitation periods are very short.
Mrs Elliott: You mentioned, I think, the joint committee on domestic violence in your opening remarks, and you also mentioned that you had looked at other jurisdictions and the legislation they have in place. I'm curious to know how the legislation before us is different than the legislation you've reviewed from other jurisdictions.
Ms Predko: There are some distinctions between Canadian legislation and foreign legislation because of our constitutional prerogatives in Canada, where the federal head of power includes all criminal law power. For example, in New Jersey, which is an American statute I've examined quite closely, the state is capable of enacting criminal powers. So they have a much easier time making a bill that covers the criminal and the civil spectrum. Because of our Constitution, it's a little more difficult, so I'm going to restrict my remarks mainly to the differences between this and other Canadian pieces of legislation, because the foreign ones are quite different.
The main differences, I think, are that in section 2 we include persons who are or were in dating relationships. There is a definition of "intimate partners" in the Yukon's legislation, but it is a circular kind of definition and was not of assistance. The dating relationship, I would argue, is more broad than that and is included here.
In terms of the definition of domestic violence, our definition is different from the other jurisdictions, because the violence could have occurred against "an applicant, an applicant's relative or any child." I believe that's also true in Prince Edward Island, but in the other Canadian jurisdictions the violence must have happened directly against the applicant. This difference is because much of what is domestic violence does occur in a continuum family setting where threats are made against children. There can be threats made against things that are not people, like pets, for example, and we think this captures the continuum in a more effective way.
Another difference in our definition of domestic violence is causing the applicant "to fear for his or her safety." In consultation with some advocates for victims, we were trying to capture the essence of the activity. For example, if we look at paragraph 3 of subsection 1(2), "an act or omission or threatened act or omission that causes the applicant to fear for his or her safety," many of the other jurisdictions say here, "an act or omission or threatened act or omission that would cause bodily harm or damage to property." That may be overly broad in the sense that there may be acts or omissions that would cause damage to property that wouldn't necessarily cause people to fear for their safety. So that's a way our definition is different.
In terms of the process, we have the shortest period of time and a stagnant period of time during which a person is entitled to a hearing. Most of the other jurisdictions have a process whereby a Superior Court judge reviews the order within a short period of time but the respondent is not given any opportunity to provide evidence or be heard. Then the respondent would have to make an application after confirmation to have the order changed or set aside. This is a best practice from our perspective. We've consolidated what's happening in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba into what we think is a workable best practice for Ontario. So in that way it is different than their legislation.
Mr Bryant: I have 15 minutes, is that right, Madam Chair?
The Chair: You've got until 5 o'clock.
Mr Bryant: Thank you for coming. Let me deal with some technical questions first. You mentioned in your remarks that two other provinces--I think you said Saskatchewan and Alberta--use Criminal Code provisions to enforce actions that this act addresses itself to. Have I got that right?
Ms Predko: Yes. They have specialized domestic violence legislation much like this. In three of the five provinces they have no offence provision and rely on section 127 of the Criminal Code.
Mr Bryant: To your knowledge, in those provinces they haven't adopted provincial legislation because the Criminal Code covers it already?
Ms Predko: I'm not sure I understand the question. From my discussion with their policy counsel, I think they made a decision that they wanted criminal enforcement of their specialized domestic violence legislation, as we do. In making that decision they decided, because of the way section 127 of the code is drafted--maybe it's helpful if we make reference to that for a second.
Section 127 of the code is entitled "Disobeying Order of Court.
"Everyone who, without lawful excuse, disobeys a lawful order made by a court of justice or by a person or body of persons authorized by any act to make or give the order, other than an order for the payment of money, is, unless a punishment or other mode of proceeding is expressly provided by law, guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years."
Mr Bryant: That is what provision in what act?
Ms Predko: That's section 127 of the Criminal Code. You'll see that part of this is "unless a punishment or other mode of proceeding is expressly provided by law," other than contempt, I might add. By not providing an expressed other mode of proceeding in law, you are able to use this section of the Criminal Code, and that's the approach that's been taken in the other three provinces and the approach that we're proposing to take in Ontario.
Mr Bryant: If this has been covered already, just tell me, but I don't think it has. The bill before us now permits seizure of weapons. This type of provision is already available to judges when they set bail conditions under the Criminal Code, isn't that right?
Ms Predko: That's correct.
Mr Bryant: I'm just taking this from Mr Martiniuk's speech of October 3. He's discussing what the bill does. He talks about other terms of the order. Before I get to that, the new act permits the removal of the abuser from the home. That's also already available under the Criminal Code, is that right?
Ms Predko: If there's a criminal charge.
Mr Bryant: So the answer is yes.
Ms Kuras: If there's a criminal charge.
Mr Bryant: The other terms that could be found I guess in intervention orders, and again I'm just going through the list from Mr Martiniuk--"Requiring the ... abuser to vacate the residence." Could this be required by a judge today, before this act is passed?
Ms Predko: By a Family Court judge, a person can get exclusive possession of the matrimonial home if they are a married spouse, which means they qualify under part I of the Family Law Act. This would be available to all of the persons who are listed in section 2, all the potential applicants, which is much broader than a married spouse.
Mr Bryant: "Requiring that police are present while the ... abuser removes personal possessions." Is that not already either a matter of policy or a matter of course under these orders? Could a judge make that order right now, before this bill is passed?
Ms Predko: No, actually they could not. Police as a matter of practice in some jurisdictions will attend to keep the peace; in other jurisdictions they will not. So in order to ensure that everyone is entitled to the same service--
Mr Bryant: So you're saying there are different police practices on this?
Ms Predko: That's correct.
Mr Bryant: Do you happen to know what they do in Toronto?
Ms Predko: In Toronto? I didn't practise in Toronto so I don't know.
Mr Bryant: Fair enough.
Mr Tilson: Where's that?
Mr Bryant: Strike that from the record.
"Ordering counselling for the abusive partner to help prevent further violence." That's an order that can be part of a sentence right now under the Criminal Code, can't it?
Ms Predko: Under the Criminal Code, but these orders can exist without there ever being a criminal charge.
Mr Bryant: Sure, I understand.
Ms Predko: So yes, under the Criminal Code such an order could be put in place.
Mr Bryant: This counselling that's being provided to the abusive partner, I understand it's going to be a court order under this new act. Are additional funds being dedicated? Maybe this is a question for Mr Tilson, or maybe it's a question for Ms Kuras, as the executive lead on victims' services. Is there some anticipation that there are going to be increased orders and therefore more resources needed for the counselling of the abusive partner?
Ms Kuras: Obviously we'll have to look at whether or not increased resources are required, but currently abusive partners do attend counselling sessions as part of probation orders, for example under the PAR program. We would be tracking this to see whether or not additional resources would be required, depending on how often these types of orders might be made. It's difficult to say.
Mr Bryant: It sounded like they're required to get that counselling under their probation orders. Is that right?
Ms Kuras: Correct.
Mr Bryant: "Requiring that the ... abuser give up possession of firearms and weapons that have been used, or threatened to be used, to commit domestic violence." Again, that's an order that probably routinely would be given, but certainly could be given under a Criminal Code offence right now.
Ms Kuras: Again, to be specific, not at the home and not at the time. There are specific provisions for firearms seizure under other provincial statutes; for example, with respect to hunting and those sorts of things. But no, this is not something that would be available today unless there was--
Mr Bryant: A Criminal Code offence. OK.
Next, and again this is Mr Martiniuk's list, "ordering counselling for the children at the alleged abuser's expense, to help them overcome the effects of exposure to the violence." This is what the intervention order will do. How is this going to be enforced against, to put it bluntly, deadbeats if in fact there are no monies forthcoming? We're talking here often about people, as you know very well, who have been ignoring civil and criminal orders, restraining orders, and now they're being told to pay for counselling and they won't. So how is that going to be enforced against them?
Ms Kuras: That question was asked earlier and we'll just expand our information search to include not only "unwilling" but "unable."
Mr Bryant: I think the question, if it was from Dr Bountrogianni, was--
Ms Kuras: If they can't pay, and you are asking if they won't pay.
Mr Bryant: Right. So right now the Ministry of the Attorney General is not committing new resources in anticipation of the additional counselling remedies that are being provided under this act?
Ms Kuras: The additional resource requirements will have to be looked at. There are none at this time.
Mr Bryant: I'm going to take "There are none at this time" as right.
"Granting exclusive possession of the residence to the victim or exclusive use of certain property such as credit cards and bank accounts." Who's going to do that? I'll tell you what I'm thinking of. I always think of the Family Responsibility Office. Orders are often made, but who's going to make sure that they're enforced? Is the Ministry of the Attorney General going to put crowns or other people in charge of ensuring that this order is followed through? Because again, we're not talking about the most co-operative people in the world when we talk about the abusive partners.
Ms Predko: One of the things about a civil order is that they are for the most part self-enforced, which means that when you get an order in the Family Court, for the most part they're enforced by the person who obtained the order. In this situation, the act makes provision for the respondent to either post a bond or enter into a recognizance. If he or she can post a monetary bond, then that would provide funding that could, for example, pay for the counselling service, if that's the situation, or could deal with the exclusive use of the property.
I think what's going to happen here is that this is an order that can then be shown to other persons who might deal with the property and it will be an order that would give them notice of the applicant's interest in the property. If it's a situation where he's restrained from dealing with a particular property, it could be registered on title, for example, or if it's a situation where she's been given exclusive use of something, it would be something that could be shown to police officers. It's quite a common reaction in a domestic violence situation, for example, if he or she is the registered owner of a vehicle, to phone the police and report the vehicle stolen. It's to address that type of behaviour and it's to show persons in authority or persons who might be dealing with the property who has the power to deal with the property or the exclusive use of the property.
This type of order is quite common now, under the Family Law Act, in terms of the contents of the matrimonial home. It's possible now in law between married spouses to make this type of order.
Mr Bryant: So basically it's up to the victim to enforce the order. The Attorney General is not, through this act or otherwise, going to be enforcing the order for the victim. It's up to the victim to enforce this order.
Ms Predko: I don't think that's what I answered.
Mr Bryant: That's what I'm saying. Do you disagree with me?
Ms Predko: I don't think I'm in the position to answer that question.
Mr Bryant: So you don't deny it then.
The Chair: She said she's not in a position to answer that question, sir.
Mr Bryant: Chair, I'm just asking the question and she answered, I thought--
The Chair: And she's answered it.
Mr Bryant: Chair, why are you getting involved?
The Chair: She has answered the question.
Mr Tilson: Let me put it this way: I don't think it's appropriate to cross-examine the witness. She gave an answer which, hopefully, will answer your question. It's as simple as that. If you don't like the answer, that's the way it goes. She's given an answer and I think it's an appropriate answer.
Mr Bryant: I was just waiting for her to finish her answer. I didn't think that she had finished her answer, but the Chair and Mr Tilson will probably continue to have advice for me on my questioning. I'll keep on asking them.
The Chair: Mr Kormos?
Mr Kormos: Have you had a chance to read some of the written submissions we've received?
Ms Predko: I haven't had an opportunity to do so, Mr Kormos.
Mr Kormos: Some pretty wild stuff in there. There's some people who clearly shouldn't have access to e-mail. There's some real--
Ms Predko: I'm hoping I'll be given them so that I'll have the opportunity to read them.
Mr Kormos: You don't have to read all of all of them because, trust me, the highlighted comments will warn you about the authors.
Parliamentary Assistant, I appreciate the effort here. You talk about the regional disparity from community to community, police force to police force, for instance, in terms of police attending to keep the peace and the degree to which they'll become active. Let's talk about women as victims of domestic violence. My concern is that women aren't going to be treated equally across Ontario with this bill. Is that a fair concern on my part?
Ms Predko: Why do you have that concern?
Mr Kormos: I'll tell you why. Because in August I visited at Attawapiskat and Peawanuk on the James Bay-Hudson Bay coast, the community of Ogoki, which is inland, along with several other of the isolated native communities. They don't have justices of the peace. I spoke with the native police services in those communities and they very specifically talked about their frustration, the police officers', in dealing with, among other things, domestic violence. These cops can't even get arrest warrants because they don't have access to a JP. So I'm really concerned about accessing. I appreciate you've got section 13 in here; that's the designation of JPs who are going to do 24-hour duty, and judges as well as JPs.
As part of the drafting team, have you included any recommendations to the ministry about needing to beef up the whole JP and judge complement if we're going to give fair and equitable access to this legislation? Let's talk to the people in Ogoki or Peawanuk or Attawapiskat.
Mr Tilson: My understanding is that the Attorney General's office will provide whatever resources are necessary to make the bill work. I also understand, which I hope the two witnesses before us, or the two people from the ministry, would elaborate, the continuation of the telewarrant process that is being done now. You don't have to go as far north as you're talking about to hear of situations--and obviously that is an approach which the Attorney General wishes to proceed with under this bill.
Perhaps the witnesses--I keep calling you witnesses--the representatives from the ministry could elaborate on that point.
Ms Predko: Certainly.
Mr Kormos: Even though it's my time, it's his question. Sure, by all means. I just didn't want him to think I didn't realize.
Mr Tilson: Just making sure you're awake, Mr Kormos.
Mr Kormos: Go ahead.
Ms Predko: It's anticipated that, as it says in the bill, certain JPs or judges would be designated to hear these on a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week basis. Currently in Ontario, justices of the peace are available on a 24-7 basis through the Telewarrant Centre, which is the centralized facility connection that's available to police officers by use of telephone and fax.
That is certainly a model that is used in other jurisdictions in this country where they have a centralized, specialized panel that deals with these applications so that police in all locations would be able to go to the centralized panel to get a hearing of an application for--in those jurisdictions it would be called a protection order; in our jurisdiction it would be called an intervention order. So it would be anticipated that it wouldn't be having to go to local JP resources or local court resources in an after-hours situation.
Mr Kormos: But I don't understand. If I'm the applicant, I'm a woman who's just had my partner, husband, boyfriend, what have you kick the door in, I'm the one who has to make the application, I'm the one who's fearful at 2 in the morning--it's one thing in Welland to say the police officer's going to take you down to the police station, which might be one of the places where the 24-hour-a-day JP is going to conduct hearings. I've been to the police stations in these communities too; they're worlds removed from what we regard as an urban police station. How does the individual access that, as compared to--I understand what you're saying about police officers, through the technical support they have in police stations, how they utilize. How does the individual, how does Jane Doe, if I may, access that on her own? Because some of these communities don't have police either.
Ms Predko: It's not anticipated, under the current structure of this bill, that people would have direct contact with justice of the peace resources without some facilitation through police services.
Mr Kormos: OK. This is something new. Have we heard this before? Go ahead.
Ms Predko: Obviously in the north there would need to be another strategy if there are not police services available. I want to point out as well that the Aboriginal Healing and Wellness Strategy is aimed at addressing domestic violence, among other issues, and that certainly this would need to be done in conjunction with, consultation with, the aboriginal community. It's not our intention to just impose a bill and say, "Here, this is something that would work for your community." It's certainly something that would need to work through the Aboriginal Healing and Wellness Strategy. So to answer your earlier question about the small, remote locations, I think there would need to be a strategy, and one of the regulation-making powers under the bill is that different regulations can be put in place for different areas of the province, and that's because it's anticipated that there would need to be a strategy developed for the north.
Mr Kormos: I've got another problem down where I live, down in Niagara Centre. You've got to bear with me for a couple of minutes, because I've got to explain it, right? As a matter of fact, it was in 1999. Honest, Chair. It was during the provincial election, another constituent. I get a phone call, and I know this woman. I know her parents, her family, her husband, her kids. This isn't domestic violence; this is a neighbour dispute. It will probably speak to the application of this bill and why it's restricted to domestic violence, because neighbour violence can be very volatile too and very difficult for police to deal with. My goodness, they hate those, the spiked fences. We've all had to deal with those in our ridings.
This woman has a neighbour who may or may not have threatened her in terms of what the Criminal Code requires for a charge of threatening. The police don't lay a charge. I talk to the staff sergeant. When he explains to me why the police didn't lay a charge, with what little bit I know and the experience I've had, I'm inclined to say, "You're right, the judge probably wouldn't convict on the threatening sections under the Criminal Code." The police recommend that she go and get a peace bond under the Criminal Code. Is it section 745?
Ms Predko: Section 810.
Mr Kormos: It used to be 745, back before 1988.
Mr Kormos: Time flies, that's right.
The problem is that she goes to a JP and the JP gives her a hard time about hearing the application for a peace bond. Again, I don't know a whole lot about procedure but I recall that although the judicial discretion is precisely that discretion, the obligation of the JP to hear you out, to determine whether or not there are reasonable or probable grounds and to sign the information, is not discretionary. You know what I'm saying, Chair?
The Chair: Yes, I do.
Mr Kormos: So in the midst of the election--I've got a few things going on--I say, "No problem, we'll go over to 3 Cross Street in Welland," where the JPs hold their office. Here's this JP and I go in with my constituent and I say, "Whoa." The JP has problems deciding whether or not she's going to turn her tape recorder on. She doesn't have a clear understanding of the fact that these proceedings are supposed to be recorded. You'll like this story, Ms Mushinski.
The Chair: Would you please refer to me as the Chair.
Mr Kormos: The Chair. The Chair, Ms Mushinski, will like this story.
The justice of the peace has problems deciding whether she should record it. I say, "Please, JP, you've got to record this." She's not a new JP, she was appointed before 1990, if you get what I mean, between 1987 and 1990. I've known this woman for a long time through her political activity with the local Liberal organization. Wait, hold on. I'm going to get to that.
I've encountered some excellent justices of the peace. I've known--we've been blessed in Niagara--some very good ones. We've got a couple of dogs thrown in there. The political patronage appointments have ended up being real dogs. I'm there with the JP explaining to her very patiently that this woman has a crisis. The JP at first misunderstood where the woman lived and tried to suggest she perhaps lived in a bad part of town and maybe she should consider moving out that part of town to get rid of her neighbour. It's a part of town I happen to have grown up in, of all things. I explained to the JP, "No, Your Worship, she lives on the other side of the canal." "Oh."
Sure enough, I had to leave, and by the time all was said and done, the JP had sat there and, using her position, convinced the woman not to lay the peace bond information. Incredibly frustrating: I spent 30 minutes there with this constituent. Basically what we've got is a bad JP, an incompetent one; not the norm, but an incompetent one. Her name is Meg Belcastro. As I say, Chair, you might enjoy this story. She's an incredibly incompetent JP who shouldn't be sitting, who is not receiving adequate supervision and who is certainly not receiving adequate training, and if she is, she hasn't the aptitude or the ability to internalize the training.
What has the Ministry of the Attorney General got in mind? We've already got a lot of concerns about training for crown attorneys, police and judges around the issue of domestic violence and dealing with those, and we've seen a remarkable transition in the response of the courts. What has the AG got planned for justices of the peace, many of whom are very good, some of whom are not? What has the Ministry of the Attorney General got in mind for training of justices of the peace to have them deal with this very new area of law and some incredible new powers being granted to justices of the peace?
Mr Tilson: Designated justices of the peace.
Mr Kormos: Yes, for the ones who are selected or appointed.
The Chair: You have about two minutes to answer that question.
Ms Predko: As we explained when we were technically reviewing the bill, if the bill is passed, we anticipate that only a certain number of JPs and provincial court judges would be designated to hear applications. We've been reviewing best practices in other jurisdictions, and in particular Saskatchewan and Alberta rely on specialized panels. In having a specialized panel it is much easier to deliver training, and as I'm sure you're aware, training of judicial officers is within their jurisdiction.
Mr Kormos: Their own bailiwick.
Ms Predko: That's correct. The Ministry of the Attorney General provides training material and educational material for use by the judiciary and by justices of the peace. We would provide educational material to the bar as well and hope that they could play an educative function in their interaction with judicial officers.
Mr Kormos: Have you any initial material? None of that stuff is prepared yet?
Ms Predko: What material?
Mr Kormos: The materials you'd provide for training of justices of the peace, judges, members of the bar.
Ms Predko: No. The process would be that if the act is passed, then we'll need to develop regulations and the content of the regulations would be the meat and potatoes of any education or training material that you would provide to those groups.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr Kormos. Mrs Molinari?
Mrs Tina R. Molinari (Thornhill): I understand that there's a broader range of relationships covered in this act and that it's the first Canadian jurisdiction with such expansive coverage. There are a couple I did not see covered in the definition, being those who are living together and "cohabit" means "conjugal relationship." Is there somewhere else where roommates would be covered, where there are two people living together who are not related or are not living together in a conjugal relationship, but there is a form of violence expressed? Are they covered in any other area?
Ms Predko: They are not covered by the statute. They certainly have other remedies available to them: all the Criminal Code protections as well as an application for a peace bond under section 810 of the Criminal Code.
One of the difficult policy decisions is that when you're examining something and calling it "domestic violence," there are a lot of mandatory standards that apply to police services and a lot of internal police service policy that relies upon a definition of "domestic violence" in terms of the relationships between the parties. For example, some police services require that a domestic incident be identified by communications and then they follow a different procedure. To include roommates within the parties covered by the bill would likely lead to some confusion between the application of this bill and the definition of "domestic violence" used by police services in responding to these types of incidents.
Mrs Molinari: My next question is the age restriction. "A person must be at least 16 years old to apply for, or be the respondent to an application for, an intervention order or an emergency intervention order."
Ms Predko: And your question is why the age restriction?
Mrs Molinari: Yes.
Ms Predko: If the victim of domestic violence is under the age of 16 years, they would be within the ambit of the Child and Family Services Act, which is the primary method of protecting children within the province of Ontario from violence and abuse, so in consultation with the Ministry of Community and Social Services, not wanting there to be confusion and overlap between these two pieces of legislation, the age of 16 years was chosen in terms of applicants.
In terms of respondents, again it's a situation where we don't want to impact on a family situation and have a child removed from a home when they're under the age of 16 years because they are perpetrating violence. It should be a situation that would either come under child protection or another method of proceeding. We don't want to interfere in the lives of children who would come within the coverage of the Child and Family Services Act.
Mrs Molinari: The reason I ask is, where they are covered then, is it as extensive? This is a good piece of legislation that covers a wide range of protection for victims. What I'm looking for is comparable legislation and you're telling me there is something in place that would protect under-16s. Is it as forceful as this?
Ms Predko: I don't want to give you an opinion about what I think is the coverage of the Child and Family Services Act. It's different. The Child and Family Services Act, under section 37, defines a child in need of protection, and the method of defining a child in need of protection is structured differently than this is structured in this act. I can tell you truthfully that an assault against a child under the age of 16 years is still allowed in Ontario law and an assault against an adult person in the context of this act would be domestic violence. There are differences between the treatment of young people under 16 and people over 16 within the context of this act.
Mrs Elliott: My colleagues across the way were making some comments earlier about counselling programs and the types of programs that are available. I think it's important to have on the record that there is an existing program in place; in fact it was established under our government. It was formerly called the male batterers' program. It's now called the partner assault response program. In addition to that, $21 million is now invested in over 100 counselling programs for both women and children. Some $50 million dollars is presently being expended on community-based projects under the title of the victims' justice action plan.
An additional $10 million is underway now, divided into two, $5 million being focused on children who have witnessed violence and an additional $5 million being funnelled toward transitional programs for women who have experienced domestic violence. By my numbers, we're now up to a total of well over $100 million being invested in what's commonly called the VCARS program, which is the victim crisis assistance and referral service. That's $10 million annually invested in that program, and under our government the number of sites where those services are offered--certainly we have one of those in my own community of Guelph-Wellington--has been expanded by 50% and there are now over 26 sites.
Mr Tilson: Attorney General Flaherty has indicated he has made a number of requests to the federal government with respect to protecting victims of domestic violence. Can you tell us what some of those requests have been?
Ms Predko: Certainly. The requests are basically threefold. The first is to create a specific offence for breach of a provincial intervention order or a protection order, such as we're discussing with this bill. The reason that request was made was because it would be much easier to track breaches of these orders through the system if there was a specific offence for breach of a restraining provision.
The second request that's been made of the federal government is to reverse the onus on a bail situation where the person has committed domestic violence or where they've breached a restraining order. The reason here is that in some of the critical incidents we've witnessed over the past six or eight months, the parties were out on bail, even in a situation where the crown attorney in a particular case had opposed bail at a bail hearing.
The third situation that the Attorney General has asked the federal government for a response on is either a simplification or a clarification about section 810, peace bonds, to make them a more effective remedy for victims of domestic violence and victims in the situation that this member spoke about up here. Currently peace bonds are done by practice in most of the provinces on notice to the person who is alleged to have breached the peace, and they take a number of months to process. If that process was clarified and either made on a without-notice process or in a process where there was an expedited hearing, then it would be easier to get an 810 peace bond and involve the criminal system in a situation that might not be domestic violence but certainly would be neighbour problems or a roommate problem.
Those are the three main requests that the Attorney General has made to the federal Minister of Justice.
The Chair: Any further questions from the government side? You have about five more minutes.
Mrs Molinari: With respect to restraining orders, can you tell me how many restraining orders are currently in Ontario and how many are breached?
Ms Predko: Each year, there are about 1,500 to 2,000 new restraining orders added to the system, and at any one time on the CPIC system, which is the Canada-wide police information system, there is--I'm not totally certain on this number, but I believe there are around 10,000 to 12,000 on CPIC for Ontario at any given time.
In the past few years, we've averaged around 200 charges for breach of restraining order on an annual basis. We believe the reason that number is so low is because police officers are uncomfortable with laying that charge. It's an incredibly low number if you think about the number that are outstanding on the CPIC system. Certainly, when police describe their experience, they seem to be attending where there's been a breach.
The other alternative that happens, and it will continue to happen, is that if the breach involves a criminal offence, the police will decide to lay a criminal charge. That would continue to be the case.
I've just had a note passed to me. It's 5,000 to 6,000 restraining orders on the CPIC system at this time.
Mrs Molinari: What are the current penalties for restraining orders?
Ms Predko: For a first breach of a restraining order, the penalty is up to three months in jail or $5,000 in fine or both. Normally what we see in terms of the system when we review the statistics is a fine in the neighbourhood of $265 to $300. We don't actually see a lot of time in incarceration. For a second restraining order breach, the punishment can be as high as two years in jail or $10,000 in fine or both.
Mrs Molinari: So those are the current ones?
Ms Predko: Those are the current ones under the Provincial Offences Act. But the limitations are actually defined within the statutes that define the restraining orders, so it's defined in section 35 of the Children's Law Reform Act and section 46 of the Family Law Act.
Mrs Molinari: Will this increase the penalties?
Ms Predko: The penalty for breach of section 127 of the Criminal Code is up to two years in jail, so it's the same, but it takes away the possibility of a fine as an outcome. A current outcome quite commonly is a fine, and of course it would lead to a criminal record for the person who is convicted.
Mrs Elliott: I asked you earlier about how this legislation varied from legislation in other jurisdictions, and you pointed out a number of those things. I'm curious to know if the legislation in other jurisdictions, particularly the Canadian jurisdictions, has been evaluated, and if you have a sense of how well that's been working to actually address the issues since those pieces of legislation have been in place.
Ms Predko: There have been two evaluations of the legislation in the province of Saskatchewan, one about six months after implementation, and another, I believe, three to four years after implementation. In both evaluations, the results were quite positive in terms of victim feedback and police feedback about the effectiveness of these orders.
One of the things they did notice, though--and I didn't get to finish my answer to you earlier--was that certain provisions of the Saskatchewan legislation--one is a warrant of entry--were not being utilized at all. That type of warrant of entry, which allowed the police to enter a place where they thought a victim might be and try to make contact with the victim, those provisions have not been reproduced in our bill because the result of the Saskatchewan evaluations was that they were not being utilized.
Alberta has a process where they've evaluated their legislation. They have not yet made public the results of that evaluation but we expect it in the next month or so. We're hopeful that their evaluation process, which will be at the one-year mark for the implementation of their legislation, will be able to provide some additional feedback to us in terms of the best approach to implementation.
The Acting Chair (Mr Joseph Spina): Mr Bryant, you have about eight minutes, I believe.
Mr Bryant: I probably should direct this to all three ministry officials who are here and I'll let you decide who answers it.
I presume everybody here is aware of Justice Baldwin's report. We refer to it as the Baldwin report in the vernacular, but it's the report to the Attorney General of Ontario by the Joint Committee on Domestic Violence, working on a seamless community. You know about this report.
Ms Predko: Yes, I do.
Mr Bryant: About a year after the report was given to the minister, in July 2000--so it had sat on his desk, so to speak, for 11 months--Justice Baldwin undertook the extraordinary measure of writing to the Attorney General, the Honourable Jim Flaherty. She did two things. She called for a summit on how the justice system deals with domestic violence and she also said in July--this is her quote and it's something that affects the prosecutors, the crown, and your ministry: "I have observed no noticeable change in the manner in which counsel are approaching these difficult cases in the criminal courts in which I preside." So she said we've put together this important report, which itself was to consolidate and assist in the implementation of the Iles inquest--it's a big report; this is just the executive summary--and nearly a year after the report had been tabled, there was no change in the manner in which counsel were approaching these cases. Is there anything in this legislation that addresses itself to that serious concern that directly affects members of your ministry?
Ms Kuras: The concern you're referring to is her comment about her observations in her courtroom?
Mr Bryant: The quote, yes.
Ms Kuras: I think as part of a technical briefing on this legislation it's fair to say that we are hoping this legislation will prompt vigorous prosecution and vigorous enforcement of restraining orders because the process is going to be clearer. It's going to provide an opportunity for us to have some input in developing the regulations in terms of the policies and procedures to ensure that this new legislation is brought into force, if passed, with an understanding on the part of all the players about the roles they will need to play. I would hope that, if passed, this bill will prompt some further steps--it is one step--that need to be taken in the area of domestic violence. On that basis, I would answer your question that I believe this bill, if passed, would actually provide an opportunity to improve some of the practices and procedures.
Mr Bryant: How? She is talking about the way counsel deal with domestic violence cases. It took up a big part of her report. How does this legislation address that directly?
Ms Kuras: I don't believe legislation can directly address the way counsel conduct themselves as they do their business, certainly not legislation put forward by the Ministry of the Attorney General. Certainly, as a parallel effort, we hope to have significant training available, both for the bar as well as all others involved in ensuring that this restraining order reform works.
Mr Bryant: Here is my concern, so that you understand. She is saying there is a problem in July 2000. You are saying there is nothing in the legislation to address the problem. So I'm asking the ministry--and let's be clear: I support the legislation. It is a first step, as you said. I'm concerned about all the other steps, all the other strategies that are listed in the Baldwin committee report, 16 strategies in all. I'm saying that in July the judge said there's a problem; you said there's nothing in the legislation. This is my opportunity to ask the ministry, what are you doing to correct this very specific concern raised by a judge who authored a very important report on domestic violence? I open it up to all ministry officials.
Ms Kuras: If we were not talking about this specific legislation, I could offer some other information that might help you see that there is some work being done on risk indicator tools. Police forces are going to be implementing a set of adequacy standards in the new year. Part of that is a very significant look at how police services deal with domestic violence incidents, and they will be completing a risk indicator tool which will help crowns assess the potential risk that any particular offender may present in the future. So there are a number of other initiatives which aren't listed as part of this legislation but are part of a larger strategy to deal with domestic violence.
Mr Bryant: I'll tell you my concern, and I probably address this to Mr Tilson more than to counsel. The concern is that we've got all the promises here and we've got the road map. We don't need another summit. I think the judge was trying to be judicial when she said that we need another summit. We've got the road map here.
After nine people died over the course of the summer as a result of domestic violence in Ontario--that we know of, that was reported in the newspaper--the government rose in the House and said--and one can look at the Hansard--"In response to this disaster, here's what we're doing," to which I say, is that it?
One of the things we've heard is, "It's a first step." What I'm doing is giving the ministry an opportunity to say, "Here's what else we're doing to deal with the 16 strategies in the Baldwin committee report." What are you doing other than addressing a tiny component of the problem of domestic violence?
Mr Tilson: If you're asking me, as the parliamentary assistant, I've just recently been appointed, this past week, and have yet to find an office.
Mr Bryant: Fair enough. Perhaps I should address it to the lead counsel on victims' services.
Mr Tilson: In speaking to the Attorney General, I believe, as he has said and as others have said, this is the first step. Obviously we've got a lot of things to do. Domestic violence is a very serious problem and we're going to deal with it.
Mr Bryant: I appreciate that, Mr Tilson. I probably shouldn't have directed it to him.
I have one minute. Let me ask Ms Kuras. You are the executive lead, victims' services. Why is it now 15 months past and the Baldwin committee report has not been fully implemented? You can tell us. You've been working as the executive lead in victims' services. Why hasn't the Baldwin committee report been implemented?
Ms Kuras: There are many aspects of the report that are being worked on, some that have been implemented. I think if you looked at the entire picture, you would see there has been fairly significant movement. The fact that all of them haven't been actually implemented in the way they've been described--well, if you look at the cover, it is a five-year plan. It wasn't intended to be completed in a year. I think there has been significant work done on the expansion of domestic violence courts, and that certainly was an important recommendation. We're improving the specialized police response. I think that perhaps you best consider this as a five-year plan--we are--and I hope you'll continue to see some improvement.
The Acting Chair: Eight minutes, Mr Kormos, please.
Mr Kormos: Thank you for coming here today. I wish we had more time.
I want to apologize. When I made reference to that speaking note on section 127 of the Criminal Code, I saw the open cardboard box, right over here, and of course I gave it to Mr Tilson. I thought it came from the Ministry of the Attorney General because there were multiple copies of these various speaking notes. I saw Ms Molinari reach into the box and get some of them. So I'm wondering, Mr Tilson, if you would table with the committee all materials prepared, for support of members of the committee.
Mr Tilson: I have no intention of giving you my notes.
Mr Kormos: Well, I suppose--
Mr Tilson: I don't mean to be flippant about it. I have notes here that I have prepared, and I think that's an unreasonable question to ask.
Mr Kormos: No, the ones prepared by the ministry.
Mr Tilson: If there are documents that will help us--we've already indicated there's going to be a chart prepared to assist in comparison, and we're prepared to provide whatever information we can make available to you to better understand the bill.
Mr Kormos: Fair enough. No problem. I've read the bill and I won't have to rely upon speaking notes to speak to the bill.
I'm interested because today for the first time you raised this concept that it's presumed that there's going to be police intervention and that police are going to walk this through the system for a victim of domestic violence. That wasn't suggested in any of the debate or introduction by Martiniuk or Flaherty.
Part of the problem we've got down where I come from, on a 24-hour-a-day basis--there are nights in Welland when there are two police officers on duty out there in patrol cars in the city of Welland, which is not as big as Toronto, and a lot of it is a rural community as well. I don't know where our cops, without their resources being addressed as well, are going to have the resources to have a police officer working with an applicant in a process that could take a considerable period of time throughout the course of a shift. I suspect a whole lot of small-town and not-so-small-town Ontario is very much in the same dilemma, especially on a 24-hour-a-day basis.
That then takes us to the problem of legal representation. Again, it was new today when it was suggested for the first time that the police are going to be the advocates, if you will--not the best choice of words but I'm using it for a very specific reason. If the police are going to be called upon to be the advocates in the emergency or interim or as the ex parte applications, I presume that isn't necessarily the case on the permanent one. There it's contemplated that lawyers are going to be involved. I suppose anybody can represent themselves in court, but then we've got the other serious problem of women's access to legal representation.
I heard what Ms Predko said earlier about legal aid funding and a commitment from legal aid, and I'm sorry, but the reality is that just isn't the case. Fewer and fewer lawyers are representing people in matrimonial litigation on legal aid because of the block fee of a maximum, the capping of the fee, in terms of the hours of preparation. I'm told the procedures become so onerous, form after form and so on. Women aren't getting to lawyers. My fear is, are women going to have access to lawyers under section 3, the with-notice intervention order? I suspect not. It's going to be a real problem in a whole lot of the province.
You talk about designating judges and justices of the peace, yet I notice--in some of the briefing materials we got around JPs, federally appointed judges and so on--huge vacancies on the federal appointments. I didn't see whether we received any material yet on the provincial appointments but I know just anecdotally from talking to people--heck, the province had to shut down provincial offences courts this summer, in Hamilton among other places, because of a shortage of justices of the peace. Charge after charge was tossed out in provincial offence courts in both Toronto and the Hamilton area, and it could well have happened in other areas as well. They weren't Criminal Code charges, to be fair, but whole dockets were tossed out because of a shortage of justices of the peace, among other things. So there are real problems there. Quite frankly, we're going to keep reminding the government of it, hoping to hear some sort of response to those issues in the context of these particular hearings.
The other really troubling thing is that all of this process in Bill 117 happens after the fact and it's reactive. Something has to happen in terms of actual de facto violence or that would permit you to infer that there could be a risk of violence before you access Bill 117. Then you end up with a piece of paper that lets the police do something if something happens yet again. So that comes to the whole issue, and I trust we're going to hear from some of these people during the course of these hearings.
Down where I come from, Women's Place shelter used to provide an extensive level of services for women and kids. It would make Bill 117 far less critical, because if women have safe places to go to and their kids have safe places to go to, if they have support in the community, if they can be in those safe places, they don't need the emergency restraining orders. They can use the traditional court process. Then you don't have the dilemma about police being the advocates at 2 in the morning, or 24-hour-a-day JPs and judges. So one of the concerns that folks down in Niagara have is that this speaks for itself.
I've raised some of the issues about the drafting. Drafting is a difficult exercise, and if it appears that I've been critical of either of you, if you've been in charge of the actual drafting--I appreciate that it probably wasn't a single person making those decisions, it was a committee or group effort, but I'm going to be raising some points about what I see.
It also makes me concerned that we don't have an explanation, for instance, for the exhaustive list under subsection (2) in terms of the definition as merely being including but not limited to.
The "under 16"--what you're saying is that a 15-year-old who's forced into prostitution can't go to a JP and get an order under Bill 117 against her pimp. The fact is there are 15-year-olds in Toronto--I use prostitution as an illustration--with 25-, 30- and 35-year-old pimps, and you know what children's aid says about children, especially in the range of 15 and a half years. They aren't being dealt with by FACS. So I'm concerned about the 16-year-old rule as well.
I'm also concerned--and Ms Molinari hit it right on the head in her critique when she raised concerns about the standards, the relationship that has to exist under section 2 about applicants. I was concerned about elder abuse, for instance, but in paragraph 5 of section 2 you deal with that, those who are related. It seems to me that we could again very quickly come up with situations or scenarios where people are at risk because of their living situations, where there isn't an equality in the relationship that goes beyond co-habitation and/or blood relationship: roommates, two elderly people living together in a less than co-habitational situation. There's a whole pile of scenarios I think we could come up with pretty quickly that should warrant us looking at section 2. Ms Molinari's criticism of the bill is dead on. It's good to see a government member--
Mrs Molinari: I wasn't criticizing.
Mr Kormos: Well, you raised the criticism. I'm following through, Ms Molinari. It's refreshing. I hope you'll work with me on amendments to--
Mrs Molinari: You're going to get me into trouble.
Mr Kormos: You shouldn't get into trouble for criticizing faulty legislation, Ms Molinari, ever.
There's going to be a whole bunch of things that we're going to be addressing, so thank you very much, Chair. Good for you, Tina.
Mr Bryant: You never should have come back.
Mr Tilson: I've only got a few minutes to speak. First of all, I want to thank you, members of the Attorney General's staff, for coming and making your presentation today. I know you'll be with us throughout the committee hearings.
Bill 117, which is the Domestic Violence Protection Act, is certainly a response to one of the most horrific crimes we have in our society today, which of course is domestic violence. It's important that the issues be discussed openly and that we find ways to prevent this crime and to assist victims of domestic violence.
We have some written presentations that have been given to us today. I imagine there will be more to come. I look forward in the days ahead to hearing some of the oral presentations that will be made by different individuals.
Domestic violence is a serious crime that this government won't tolerate in Ontario. It's particularly insidious because it not only affects the person being abused but deeply affects children who are exposed to violence in the home. This shatters the traditionally held perception that the home should be the place where we all feel protected, where we feel safe and secure and where children learn the time-honoured values of kindness and respect to others. Domestic violence undermines those things, the foundation of our province, which is strong families. So we're committed to creating safe communities. During the past five years we've taken a leadership role in helping to protect victims of domestic violence.
We've demonstrated that we stand on the side of victims. We created and expanded the domestic violence court program. It's the largest and most comprehensive of its kind in Canada. We allocated an additional $8 million annually to ensure that crown attorneys have sufficient time to meet with victims and witnesses in preparing their cases for prosecution. This gives victims a stronger voice in the justice system.
To support more victims of domestic violence, we expanded the victim/witness assistance program and plan to do more. To get victims in touch with the services they need, we expanded the victim crisis assistance and referral service and the SupportLink program. To support families in crisis, we expanded the supervised access program.
We're proud of these achievements and we make no apologies for the so-called law-and-order agenda.
Improvements in the justice system are critical in helping victims of domestic violence. The justice system holds abusers accountable for their actions and it clearly delivers the message that domestic violence is a crime. This is one way of breaking the cycle of violence.
When the police enforce and when crown attorneys prosecute domestic violence cases, the message that domestic violence is a crime rings loud and clear. For many years, domestic violence was perceived as a private family affair. The enforcement of the law and prosecution of cases is an important reminder that domestic violence is a crime. The work in the criminal justice systems keeps the public and abusers focused on the message that domestic violence will not be tolerated in Ontario.
This bill is one more step we are taking to protect victims of domestic violence and hold offenders accountable. The members opposite have minimized our achievements in the justice system. They have focused almost entirely on the need for front-line community-based programs to help prevent domestic violence.
This government also provides substantial funding and community-based services. Madam Chair, I guess I don't have time to give those. We'll give that information at a later date. I'll guarantee it.
The Chair: You have--I think it's a 10-minute bell, isn't it?
Mr Bryant: Let him finish.
The Chair: It's a 10-minute bell. That's why I sort of limited you to eight minutes. You still have a couple of minutes if you wish.
Mr Tilson: If I could continue on some of the funding that we have provided to date: as an example, $51 million has been allocated to support the emergency shelters and related services in 2000-01. We're committed to supporting women's shelters because they keep abused women and their children safe. They also provide practical and emotional supports that are essential to helping women escape violence in their lives and support children who witness violence.
We funded shelters, including $1.7 million which was allocated to the Ministry of Community and Social Services in 1999 and 2000 for crisis lines across Ontario. These lines operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and fielded over 150,000 calls. We recognize the important role these lines play by offering support and assistance to women in crisis.
We're always trying to improve our services: $1.5 million annually has been allocated since 1996 for the victim support line, a province-wide, 24-hour, toll-free information line funded by the Ministry of the Solicitor General.
By calling, a victim can speak directly to an information counsellor, who will provide information on supports and services available in their community, register for automated notification about any releases of a specific adult provincial offender and get general information about the criminal justice system. Recently the Ministry of Community and Social Services announced $10 million annually to enable shelters to hire transitional support workers and establish programs specifically designed to help children who have witnessed violence in their homes.
In 1998-99, almost 3,000 women received assistance through our emergency legal aid service for women in shelters program. We also created specialized services for abused women in partnership with the Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic. This pilot project assists women who want to leave abusive relationships by providing direct legal services, advocacy and information about family law, landlord-and-tenant and immigration issues.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr Tilson. Do I have a motion to adjourn?
Mr Tilson: So moved.
The Chair: We'll reconvene at 3:30 tomorrow afternoon in this room.
The committee adjourned at 1751.
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