Standing committee on Justice and Social Policy
1st session, 37th Parliament | 1re session, 37e législature
Mon 30 Oct 2000 / Lun 30 oct 2000
Monday 30 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
Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses
Ms Eileen Morrow
Office for Victims of Crime
Mr Scott Newark
Woman Abuse Council
Ms Vivien Green
Ms Dorothy Bakos
Ms Suzanne Young
Ms Sandra Booth-McKelvie
Cross-Sectoral Violence Against Women Strategy Group
Ms Beryl Tsang
Canadian Children's Rights Council
Mr Grant Wilson
Women's Place of St Catharines
Ms Marion Wright
Durham Region Custody and Access Project
Ms Deborah Sinclair
Ms Helen Brooks
Ms Kate Schillings
Ms Donna Babbs
Mothers for Kids
Ms Maxine Brandon
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 David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel-Wellington-Grey PC)
Also taking part / Autres participants et participantes
Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-East York ND)
Clerk / Greffier
Mr Tom Prins
Staff / Personnel
Ms Elaine Campbell, research officer, Research and Information Services
The committee met at 1531 in room 151.
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.
The Chair (Ms Marilyn Mushinski): Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. This is a meeting of the standing committee on justice and social policy to consider Bill 117. Each deputation has up to 20 minutes in which to address the committee and in which questions may be asked by committee members if there is enough time.
ONTARIO ASSOCIATION OF INTERVAL AND TRANSITION HOUSES
The Chair: The first delegation this afternoon is the Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses, Eileen Morrow, coordinator. Good afternoon, Ms Morrow.
Ms Eileen Morrow: I would first of all like to thank you for giving us this time to speak to the committee. I am here representing the Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses, or OAITH. We are a 65-member association primarily of first-stage emergency shelters for abused women and their children, and it's from that perspective that I'm commenting on the proposed legislation.
I'd like to begin by speaking specifically to the letter of the bill and to support some of the positive points within that limited framework. We're happy to see that the definition of "applicants" has been expanded to allow women in a range of relationships, including same-sex relationships and dating relationships, to access this order. We are also pleased that this order, in its emergency form, supersedes other civil orders.
We are pleased that those women in relationships other than legal marriages can obtain exclusive possession of the home, including rental residences, and we support the conditions outlined in the sections on contents of the order and we hope that these will be written routinely into orders by JPs and judges.
However, we have a couple of suggestions for amendments or recommendations for implementation.
First, we'd like to see a section in the legislation or a directive within the legislation that makes it mandatory for police officers to inform women about the availability of this order at every domestic call.
Second, we would like to see an amendment to the consideration of civil orders, subsection 10(1), making intervention orders prevail over other civil orders, not just for emergency intervention orders but for all intervention safety orders.
Third, we would like to see an amendment within the legislation making it clear that charges are to be laid where there are reasonable and probable grounds and that an intervention order is to be provided in addition to charges laid, not as an alternative to them.
With regard to this last, we would like to see the Ministry of the Attorney General or the Ministry of the Solicitor General establish a tracking system to ensure that the implementation of these orders will not have an adverse effect on the laying of criminal charges.
I would now like to turn to the effectiveness of Bill 117. Intervention orders are only as effective as the person who receives the order. So this bill is only effective for those abusers who decide to obey intervention orders. Consequences for breaching this order, even when there is a criminal conviction, are likely to be the writing of a further no-contact criminal order, perhaps a fine or a conditional discharge. We know that abusive men often do not obey bail conditions, peace bonds, probation orders or other criminal court conditions imposed upon them.
This bill then is implicitly limited to providing only some measure of protection to some women whose partners will obey court orders, and even to the extent that the usefulness of this measure exists, the government of Ontario must provide a number of supports to ensure that the bill is of help to women and children. The government of Ontario must (1) ensure that women know about it and how to access it; (2) monitor its implementation; and (3) provide the access to justice measures that ensure that women can exercise their rights to equal justice by applying for the orders, having them enforced and taking other actions women need to take to protect themselves and their children.
To ensure women know about the orders, how to use them and how to ensure that the initiative is monitored, the government of Ontario must increase its support for community-based women's services and groups: women's shelters, second-stage housing programs, women's centres and community neighbourhood groups. They provide first contact and access to community resources for women and children and they provide women with the information and options they need to address violence, including these orders. They will hear first from women whether the orders have helped them, whether they are a useful tool in their safety plans and whether those charged with enforcing them and prosecuting breaches follow through for women and children. Make no mistake about it: this government will rely on women's services to put this bill into practice and to make sure it works and must provide resources for this additional work.
This bill will represent only another empty promise to women experiencing violence unless the government of Ontario initiates measures to ensure that women have genuine access to justice in the family and civil law, and adequate legal aid to enter that system.
Even today, when Legal Aid Ontario has a priority for abuse in its eligibility criteria, women often find themselves unrepresented in family court, but unable to afford a lawyer. For women who need additional hours for translation and language interpretation or assistance because of literacy or other issues, access to justice becomes further compromised. Women are unable to receive fair and appropriate representation or equal treatment under the law, which is their right. Additional specific resources must be allocated to address these equity and access issues.
While the orders in Bill 117 may provide exclusive possession to women of their homes, they will not guarantee that women and children will be able to stay there. The reality is that abusers do not stay away and that, unfair as it is, women and children often do have to leave their homes to seek safety, either from a shelter or from family and friends.
The government of Ontario must ensure that women and children have the supports they need to leave their homes, to move into safe, affordable or subsidized housing and to take the actions they themselves deem necessary to protect themselves and their children.
In September, Premier Harris was quoted as saying that he would make domestic violence a priority in the fall session of the Legislature. During the debate on this bill in the Legislature at the beginning of October, a number of government representatives admitted that the government needed to do more. Other than a reannouncement of $10 million dollars in funding to community services first announced in the spring budget and a summer promise of $50 million for a victims action plan, which primarily included technology and criminal system initiatives unlikely to make much of a dent in the problem, this bill seems to be the only priority we have so far seen from the government of Ontario in the fall session. It is not enough. More can and must be done. If this is the centrepiece of the government's table for violence against women, we can't expect much of a meal.
We need more than the law-and-order initiatives of this current government agenda. As you may already know, only 25% of women who are abused call police and not all of those will have charges laid; 75% will use other options, especially core community social programs, such as social assistance and subsidized housing, women's services and shelters, community counselling or family and friends to help them escape the abuse, if they are able to leave at all. Many will remain trapped in violent relationships with their children.
The solution lies in a cross-community, comprehensive infusion of supports and resources to address all of the barriers women face in an abusive situation.
OAITH is a member of the Cross-Sectoral Violence Against Women Strategy Group which this summer put together a list of 37 emergency measures to address violence against women, measures that we felt could be done within the fall session. If the government members really are serious about doing more, this is the blueprint from which they should build. It can be done and the money is there.
Legal aid reform, for example, could be provided. Mr Justice Sidney Linden, chair of Legal Aid Ontario, has revealed that Legal Aid Ontario now has a surplus of $41 million. Increased supports for women's shelters and other women's programs could be provided. Shelters and rape crisis centres do not currently need the $30 million announced this summer by the Attorney General to link shelters and rape crisis centres to police computers at some point in the future; they need that money to provide the direct services and options to women and children fleeing now. Transfer that money to community-based women's services who ensure that women know about measures like Bill 117 and about all their other options, and who monitor and work with community systems on a daily basis to better protect women and children.
I understand there is approximately $50 million or thereabouts in a victim assistance fund at the Ministry of the Attorney General. Perhaps some of that money could be used to provide supports to women in their communities. The money is there.
During the debate on this bill at the beginning of October, a number of government speakers mentioned that their party had increased spending on domestic violence by $37 million since 1995. This would not be difficult for the government of Ontario to accomplish. In 1995, $9 million in annualized funding was cut from direct violence-against-women services. After five years at that rate, the government would have accumulated a total of $45 million from these funding cuts. The money is there.
Last week, Attorney General James Flaherty was decrying the use of violent messages in the lyrics of rapper Eminem and the fact that he couldn't do anything about it. It will be more helpful for Mr Flaherty, and the government of Ontario as a whole, to reject the lure of the media moment and, instead, start talking and taking action on things like emergency measures, which this government in fact can do something about.
On behalf of OAITH, I call on this committee to recommend not only improvements to this bill but especially to legal aid reforms and to the community-based women's services and groups on which it depends to be effective. I ask that you address not only the justice issues but also the social policy and social development measures necessary to truly respond to violence against women. I ask that you endorse the emergency measures presented to this government prior to the fall session and that you work to implement them during the month of November, Wife Assault Prevention Month. Thank you.
The Chair: Thank you, Ms Morrow. We have about six minutes, so perhaps two minutes from each party.
Mr Michael Bryant (St Paul's): Thank you very much for coming. You've given us a lot to work with here, and I want you to know that this information is going to continue to be repeated in the Legislature and elsewhere so that we can get the message out that you're advocating and that I support.
My question is this: I asked Ministry of the Attorney General officials, not political staff but officials, whether or not the 1999 Baldwin committee report had been or was being implemented. They said it was being implemented, and they also said that it was a five-year plan and that we weren't five years down the road. Do you have any response? Where are we at in terms of the implementation of that important report?
Ms Morrow: Of course I don't have the report with me today. I believe there was a five-year plan, but to my knowledge the first-year plan has not been put into place at this point and a year has gone by--I believe well over a year--since that report was released. I don't even think that the measures that were recommended in the first year of the five-year plan have been implemented at this point.
Mr Bryant: OK. Thank you.
Mrs Marie Bountrogianni (Hamilton Mountain): Ms Morrow, it has been a couple of months now since the coalition came with those emergency measures. Have you heard from the government since then on that specifically?
Ms Morrow: There was a call from the office of Minister Helen Johns to set up a meeting, I think, but that meeting has not been set up. Other than that, we haven't had a commitment at all from the government of Ontario at this point. We have had a commitment, as you know, from the Liberal Party of Ontario. We've had a commitment from the New Democratic Party of Ontario. We're calling on all parties to put aside partisan agendas and to work with us, but we still haven't had the commitment from the government.
Mrs Bountrogianni: Thank you.
Mr Peter Kormos (Niagara Centre): I'm so pleased that you made the submission, because from day one in the committee hearings--I mean, the bill stands by itself, but at the end of the day the whole business of access 24 hours a day, seven days a week: heck, we don't have the JPs, we don't have the judges, never mind available at 2 in the morning.
One of the problems my constituency office deals with so frequently, and I'm sure everybody else does, is family lawyers aren't representing women even when those women are eligible for legal aid, because legal aid has compressed their block fee to a point where I'm convinced lawyers are ethically saying, "No, I simply cannot do your case justice in the limited number of hours," so women aren't getting legal support. Women aren't getting counsel out there. And although it's a generalization, it's usually the woman who has fewer resources in terms of being able to put cash on the barrelhead in terms of getting lawyers, so I appreciate what you're saying about accessibility to counsel.
Ms Morrow: Obviously I shortened my brief to get it within the time limits here at the table, but the brief actually does mention some of the problems with legal aid, and that is definitely one of them. We know that Legal Aid Ontario has said that younger lawyers, for instance, are not signing on to a legal aid plan. There's a concern about the decreasing number of lawyers who are signing on because the tariff is low, because the hours are capped, and for situations like violence against women and abusive situations the number of hours can increase quite rapidly if abusers begin to use the family court as a tactic of control, which they do on a regular basis. It's very important for us to understand that we need to provide women with access to legal aid for all of the matters that they need to deal with in civil law until those matters are resolved, and that's not happening.
Mr Kormos: In light of some of your comments, the next presenter, I hope, is still the Office of Victims of Crime. They may well have some things to say about where they've been consulted by the government and about advice they're prepared to give in terms of making sure that women can access this law, never mind the lawyers to begin with, making the law accessible to them.
Ms Morrow: I hope that's the case.
Mr Kormos: Stick around and let's see what they have to say. Thank you.
Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel-Wellington-Grey): Thank you very much, Ms Morrow, for coming this afternoon and giving us your views with respect to the legislation and other matters.
The bill, as you know, is generally speaking a preventive type of legislation, and some of the comments that you raised with respect to enforcement are certainly legitimate. I think the government shares with you those views, specifically enforcement of breaches under the Criminal Code, and that has to do with stronger terms and conditions for detention.
My question is one that was raised by a member of the Liberal caucus earlier. I hope this bill will give a number of people, including women whom you represent, more confidence in the system. My question is about the problem which I think you raised: how do you encourage women to call when there's been abuse? You listed off statistics of how they don't call. How do you do that? I believe that this bill will encourage more people to call, of all genders and all the different people who have been listed off in section 2, but are there other ways?
Ms Morrow: I don't think the existence of the bill in itself will actually make any difference in terms of motivating women to call the police. There has been a long, historical record of the criminal system not responding and that is a factor in women not calling the police. There are other factors, like women not wanting police involvement in their family, wanting to give the abuser a chance, wanting to be private about family matters, and sometimes fearing the police, knowing that their communities in particular have not received fair treatment from the police historically. Those are all factors that are very difficult to overcome. The way you get women to call the police--and let's not forget that's only one part of the issue. That's a criminal act that's being responded to. You're not responding to the violent relationship, you're responding to the criminal act and only the criminal act. So let's be very clear that it's a limited response even when it works.
If you do want women to respond to that criminal act, you begin by giving them the services, the supports and the context that they in fact are comfortable with. Many women, in fact most women, as we know from the stats, are not going to call the police. That's not the first thing they're going to do. The first thing they're going to do may be to tell a family member or a friend or a professional or a shelter or someplace where they can be confidential and safe and not make that kind of a blunt response right away. If you want women to have confidence in that system you have to provide those initial contacts, like women's centres, like neighbourhood centres, like women's shelters, that give women the support and comfort and the advocacy, quite frankly, that they need to engage with those huge systems that often are quite distant and sometimes treat women as though they were basically incidental to the whole situation.
The Chair: Thank you very much for your presentation, Ms Morrow.
Ms Morrow: Thank you for letting me give it.
OFFICE FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME
The Chair: The next presenter is the Office for Victims of Crime: Scott Newark, special counsel; and Dawna Speers, consultant.
Mr Scott Newark: Thank you very much, Madam Chair. Like Ms Morrow, I'd like to thank the committee for giving us the opportunity to make a presentation here before you. Appreciating as well that 20 minutes goes very quickly, I will try to focus on some of the specific issues and yet leave time for questions at the end.
Our office essentially was announced in 1998. We had two primary functions that led us to have some information that we hope to share with you today. In fact, we've presented a brief that contains more of the detail than I will get into here.
We started off with a review of existing victims' services across the province and, as well, in speaking to individual crime victims. We visited over 300 sites all across the province, including sexual assault centres and domestic violence shelters as well as the public service providers in those areas. Also we operate, in effect, a 1-800 line for individual crime victims to call in, and not infrequently they are people who are victims of domestic violence. It's from those two primary groups, essentially, that we offer our analysis of this bill in the sense of what it provides and also the perspective of what was identified to us as outstanding issues and the context of how Bill 117 deals with that.
As Ms Morrow and some other witnesses have testified before, it's certainly true that a number of people indicated that the bill is of value insofar as it deals with after-the-fact situations, that is, where something has already occurred. But whatever the number is, many people don't access either the criminal justice system or a civil enforcement system. Rather than deal specifically with that, what I'd like to offer is some of our observations about why that is and how this bill potentially deals with it.
It struck us during the consultations we had that the one message conveyed loud and clear was that a lot of women who were victims of domestic violence were of the view that there really was no enforcement of the orders that were in existence anyway, so there was not a heck of a lot of point in going and invoking all of this when the sentence that might ultimately come out was something less than what was needed or that the justice system itself didn't seem to do a very good job of enforcing its own orders. That is, in my experience, not unique to this particular area but something that is reasonably common throughout the entire criminal justice system. This bill obviously is a significant improvement in that sense in that it specifically directs the police on how these orders are to be enforced, and in particular how the emergency orders are to be enforced. That's no small accomplishment, in my view. To give that kind of a direction is significant.
The second concern that was expressed was that there were a multiplicity of orders that were, in effect, given the necessary or usual ancillary matters surrounding these kinds of situations and they were very confusing, and it was often difficult for the police officer at the door. There was a sense that the situation was such that they didn't want to invoke that process. This bill attempts to address that in the sense that it tries to streamline the orders and, I think quite wisely, ensures that any application includes previous applications and other existing orders. It appears as though it's an attempt, really, I think quite wisely, to try to package all the stuff together and to place a priority in relation to these emergency intervention orders.
The third issue that was raised in relation to this was that accessing the criminal justice system may read well in the book but sometimes, especially if you're a victim of crime and especially a victim of domestic crime, and probably even more so a victim of domestic violence, you can have the best laws in the world, but if you can't access them properly they aren't necessarily worth that much. So I'm pleased to see that the bill contains some direct efforts in that, including directing in the legislation that there shall be, in effect, 24-7 availability of JPs and judges in relation to the orders. That is a positive step forward.
I would also echo Ms Morrow's comments, however, in relation to some of the other issues for people who are victims of domestic violence that they've identified to us quite apart from the criminal justice aspects. If you have a general policy as a government--or as a society, really, not so much government--that says it's a good idea for people, you want to encourage people who are victims of domestic violence to remove themselves from that situation, then it's probably incumbent on society to make sure they have a place to go to. That's not something that's directly contained in this bill, nor logically would it be contained in this bill. In many ways it's a policy issue but it's certainly, in our judgment, a relevant and legitimate policy issue.
There are specific reasons, I would suggest, why it's a good idea that this be contained in legislation, and recognizing that what you are dealing with is encouraging people to use the criminal justice system or at least the administration of justice system. The first is that the justice system is evolving in Canada and in Ontario. Although sometimes it's hard to appreciate, in fact it's getting a lot better. In my semi-biased opinion, that is particularly true in Ontario. It seems to me that this bill is part of that overall improvement. We are getting better at what we do. God knows, we have a lot to do, but we are in part of that process of improving it.
Secondly, it seems that to simply reject the criminal justice system is to accept the status quo, and with respect, I would suggest that is not a desirable alternative.
Third, the consequence of not invoking the public systems is that there is an absence, obviously, of some direct accountability or even assistance for the particular offender who is involved, which initiation of civil proceedings or criminal proceedings does instill.
Fourth, it is a recognition of the fact that issues of domestic violence are matters not just between the person who is the victim and the person who is the offender or the abuser, but they are public concerns. That's something that I would suggest often gets overlooked, but there's a reason why we call it Regina v So-and-So, and it is not because all the offences occur in Saskatchewan. It's because, literally, there is a public interest every single time a crime is committed against somebody else, and we don't want to go down the road where we convert that into a private contest between the victim and the offender.
There are a couple of suggestions I have, keeping in mind the time, in relation to content on the bill itself. I noted in some of the definition sections that they are quite precise. I'm not suggesting there's something more, but generally sections like that contain a phrase along the lines of "without restricting the generality of the foregoing," and then include the specifics. I looked at one of the specific examples defining domestic violence and I couldn't think of something else, but I just mention that you may want to look at that.
A second point that I would suggest you may wish to consider: my experience is that generally anything which is essentially enhancing public safety, increasing offender accountability or protecting victims of crime, it should be expected that it will be challenged under the Charter of Rights, and in this instance, given the way the bill is framed, probably as potentially even outside provincial jurisdiction. I don't agree with that, and our brief goes through all of that.
I just want to offer one suggestion, and it came from my past life in dealing with the federal government on legislation: it's generally not a bad idea to have preambles on bills. The reason for that is not just because you want to express why you're doing this, but because a court frequently will be in a position where it has to look at the reason why the legislation was passed, and the alternative to having a preamble is that the court will take it upon itself to decide what the Legislature's purpose was. It is true that they can look at the debates right here or even the debates within the House, but you get to define in the bill itself the specific rationale. This is generally what occurs under section 1 analysis of any kind of a charter challenge. So I simply make that point as something you may wish to consider.
There are a number of other areas where I believe the minister or the ministry has suggested to you that there are things that could be done in relation to federal amendments. Those are included in our brief. I don't propose to go through them now.
There is one final issue that I'd like to touch on. It deals somewhat with a point that Mr Kormos made, although in a broader sense, and I know that others have raised it too. It's probably my bias, from having come as a front-line prosecutor and then working as the executive director of the rank-and-file police in Canada. I tend to look at things from the perspective of the people who actually do the job on a day-to-day basis, and this is somewhat the same as the point that Ms Morrow was making. It's a great idea to pass this particular bill, and it's a great idea to pass any of those kinds of improvements, but you've got to devote the resources or it isn't going to work.
As I read this bill, there is going to be an increase in the responsibilities of JPs, judges and police officers, and from our perspective, as you will see in the brief, it may be that some of what should be done here in relation to assisting the individual victims and getting these orders is done through an enhanced victims' service, but there's going to be additional work created. That, frankly, is some of the purpose of this. You need to put some dollars behind that, in my respectful submission, or you may end up with something more illusory than real.
Like Ms Morrow, I am also of the view that the money is there. I know that our Attorney General actually tracked down the fact that there is a significant amount of money in uncollected fines. We need to find a way, it seems to me, to go and get some of that money, to be able to apportion the dollars so we can support what is really quite a good bill, although there is more to do.
I'll wrap it up there. The brief contains a great deal more than that, but I wanted to leave some time for questions.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr Newark. There's probably about five minutes for questions.
Mr Kormos: Five minutes gross?
The Chair: Not gross; total.
Mr Kormos: Aggregate. Thank you very much.
On page 6, you make reference to what you just spoke to, and that is the adequacy of support for people--not always women, but in the vast majority of cases women--seeking relief under this section. It was suggested last week, and I don't want to put words in the parliamentary assistant's mouth or the mouths of anybody else, that the police were going to be the advocates. That was raising the concern about the 2 am application. First you've got to rouse a justice of the peace, but the suggestion was that the police are going to be the advocates. My problem is, down where I come from, in Welland, Thorold, Niagara Centre--there are nights in Welland where for the whole city there are two cops out there on patrol. That's it; that's the complement. The reality is that they simply don't have the resources to walk an applicant through this process. I suspect the police aren't going to be overly enthusiastic about doing it, because it's not a charge per se.
Expand on your recommendation in the report of the joint committee, because that's interesting. That's important, too, very important--critical.
Mr Newark: Yes, it is. The joint committee we attached as an appendix to the back of the report, too. I think they're getting at the same point. You don't want to create a situation where literally, in my judgment, you have a crime victim having to walk themselves through this process. Not only is it not particularly a good idea for that person to have to do that, given why they have to get the order in the first place, but it's also like reinventing the wheel every single time. This is only going to be so complicated after you do a number of these, I would think. It's a much better idea to have somebody who has the specific background in what they're doing about it. You could have police officers doing it, certainly. For example, on criminal charges that is the case, where a police officer in effect conveys those specific issues--or even on peace bond applications, which I didn't actually touch on, the same thing applies there.
Our suggestion was, like the joint committee's, that there should be in effect an expansion, as the government has committed to, of victims' services across the province. It seems to me that is a better deployment of resources, so that police officers can go back to being police officers and doing the other things they have to do.
Either way, though, Mr Kormos, whether it's police officers, whether it's appropriate victims' services or, frankly, whether it's ensuring that shelters or the other groups that are going to be involved with women have the resources necessary to do it, these are some very good ideas in this bill, but you want to make sure it's got something behind it to give effect to it.
Mr Kormos: I was particularly concerned about subsection 3(3) and the requirement that puts on the applicant without there being any relief. You might want to take a look at that and speak to the government in that regard.
The Chair: Mr Kormos, your time is up. Government side.
Mr Tilson: Comments were raised about the constitutionality of the bill. I'm asking you to elaborate on that in a few brief seconds.
It is my understanding that the principle of the bill is that specifically with emergency intervention of a justice of the peace or a provincial court judge, those orders must be confirmed by a Superior Court judge, and that's the rationale. It has been used in other provinces.
Mr Newark: Correct, and in other cases or other examples of an intervention-type power--and you've got to remember as well that these emergency orders aren't simply being pulled out of the air. There are in fact defined criteria that have to be met and there are specific conditions only which can attach to those orders. All I can tell you is, those are the kinds of things that courts traditionally look at in assessing whether it is a violation of the charter or not.
The other thing is that it needs to be recalled that if someone is talking about there ultimately being a penal consequence, that occurs where somebody has violated the terms of the order and is presumably being prosecuted under the Criminal Code. My guess is they're talking about section 127 of the code. That being so, that's a criminal charge. It's proof beyond a reasonable doubt with all the protections that are there under the charter and pursuant to criminal procedure.
I don't want to offer some kind of an illusion here. My sense generally is in today's world, if it's anything that's effective, it will be challenged under the charter and you simply have to get used to that and prepare your legislation that way.
Mr Bryant: Recommendations 33 through 53, which are appended at the end of your report--is it your submission that the money is there to implement those recommendations?
Mr Newark: I'd have to go through them specifically. Frankly, I didn't prepare for that question. I can say that there are, in my opinion, unrealized revenues. That's a question that certainly government should be analyzing if it decides that those recommendations are things it needs or that should be pursued, but there is no question that there are additional revenues available to government to pursue those programs. One I didn't mention is that we subsidize RCMP contract policing in other jurisdictions to the tune of about 110 million bucks a year.
Mr Bryant: The other question was with respect to JPs. We have fewer JPs now than we did in 1995, yet we have increased responsibility through this legislation and through other legislation, such as the Safe Streets Act. As far as you can tell--and I'm not going to ask you how many more JPs we need--do we need a significant increase in the number of JPs?
Mr Newark: I don't know specifically. I can tell you that has been identified to me by police officers as a real problem. In my experience a lot of that comes as a result of federal legislation. I'm thinking of C-16 arising out of the Feeney case. There was a not insignificant additional step placed on police officers having to go to get those warrants. What should have happened, and what we recommended at the time, was that given the fact that the federal government was creating this new step, the federal government should have kicked in some dough to providing those kinds of additional JP resources--which they didn't do, by the way.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr Newark.
WOMAN ABUSE COUNCIL
The Chair: The next presenter is Woman Abuse Council: Vivien Green, coordinator, and I believe others.
Ms Vivien Green: My name is Vivien Green. I'm the coordinator of the Woman Abuse Council. I've brought along some representatives from our member agencies. I don't know if I need to introduce them, or do you have their names?
The Chair: I would appreciate if you'd introduce them, please.
Ms Dorothy Bakos: I'm Dorothy Bakos, from Family Service Association of Toronto.
Ms Suzanne Young: I'm Suzanne Young, from Flemingdon Neighbourhood Services.
Ms Sandra Booth-McKelvie: I'm Sandy Booth-McKelvie, from Women's Habitat of Etobicoke.
Ms Green: We appreciate this opportunity. I'm going to say a few comments, then Dorothy will address some, and then hopefully we'll have some time for questions and everyone will, hopefully, respond.
Firstly, I'm here today to strongly support Bill 117 and in particular its ability to provide abused women and their children with the instrumental supports necessary to keep them safe and maintain stability in their lives while attempting to deal with an abusive spouse or partner.
I feel this bill is extremely important in attempting to meet the needs of all abused women and is a necessary addition to providing urgently needed supports necessary to protect victims of abuse. We know very well that many situations of domestic violence involve acts of abuse and harassment that are not currently covered in the Criminal Code. Women must be able to apply for and obtain civil orders to protect themselves and their children. Even with the widespread knowledge around the limitations and difficulties of current restraining orders, which is family legislation, women have been requesting these orders time and time again. We have also long known that it is in the breaches of these orders that women, as we've seen this past summer so horrifically, have lost their lives.
Hopefully, this new bill provides victims and their children safety through an accessible system whereby they can successfully apply for protection orders outside of the criminal system. Of greatest importance is that these new protection orders are then clearly understood and enforceable.
Among the aspects of Bill 117 that are the most important and useful in assisting women to be safe are the following: providing for a protection order that can be obtained through the civil system and offers a lower test, albeit for an interim period of time. This is critically important for victims of domestic violence where the abuse is serious and ongoing. Victims are often at a high risk, but the behaviour is not yet criminal, such as if this is emotional abuse, harassment etc.
Secondly, providing a civil order that is enforceable: although this is quite self-evident, it has been sorely lacking in our current legislation, as we know, around restraining orders. The fact that these new orders will be enforceable through the criminal system has the potential, I feel, to make them truly meaningful.
The third piece is certainly providing for instrumental assistance to victims. Some of the examples are the ordering of the respondent to pay the costs of counselling for a child, to cover costs incurred by the abused, granting temporary possession and exclusive use of personal property, such as a car, so that she can continue to go to work, and ordering the respondent to spouse abuse counselling.
I would like to talk a minute about accessibility, because clearly accessibility of these orders--and by that I mean women being able to get them--as we've heard already is a crucial element to this. One of the few useful aspects of the current restraining order system is that victims can apply for these in a fairly clear-cut, accessible manner, and in many cases women did not obtain the services of a lawyer. It is really important that this new legislation be as accessible as the previous. Hopefully, women will be able to apply for these orders without a lawyer.
If it is absolutely necessary, we urge that women have to have access to legal aid certificates to enable them to obtain legal representation.
One of the suggestions is that given the aforementioned problems with legal aid that obviously as a system need to be addressed, in terms of this particular bill perhaps specific systems could be set up such that victims could apply for these orders through community-based legal clinics and centres. Again, these orders will only be useful if women can access them and access them easily and clearly.
The questions and concerns that we have with this piece of legislation are primarily issues with regard to the training and implementation of the bill. We feel strongly that many women's and children's lives are resting on this and urge the province to ensure a comprehensive training and implementation process. As has been mentioned, this requires the investment of resources.
The concerns that we do have regarding implementation include the following.
Nowhere in the bill does it clearly lay out the relationship between this bill and the Criminal Code with regard to the emergency orders. We understand that in some other provinces that have similar legislation there have been specific references to clarifying that if grounds exist for the laying of a criminal charge, police officers who might be attending will automatically lay those charges. It is very important that this bill not be used to relax the criminal prosecution of woman abuse where there are grounds for that. In fact, the effect of this bill must go hand in hand. It can't be used as a way to go back to seeing this as just a family issue.
Public education on this bill and training to all the involved sectors is again absolutely critical to the success. Training of all criminal justice professionals, particularly in relation to ensuring that breaches are enforced, is essential.
As we know from our current system, without absolutely clear understanding by the police of their role and responsibilities and the manner in which they must enforce these orders, the new legislation will be virtually no different.
Lastly, awareness and information to the community will be essential in ensuring that this new bill is useful and used. There has been some discussion about community-based agencies that work with women providing outreach, awareness and education to the community.
Using community agencies such as are represented here to undertake this process makes sense given their ability to reach women and the universal interest that exists in providing women victims of abuse with tools necessary to keep themselves safe and gain necessary supports. However, this initiative will require a comprehensive strategic plan and carrying out of a massive campaign. Materials, resources and funding to agencies asked to participate will be required in order to allow them to undertake this essential work.
I think my colleague will speak a little more to some of the broader issues but I also want to add that obviously this is one piece, a very important piece, but it has to go hand in hand with a commitment on the part of the government and all parties to implement the many, many recommendations that have already been put forth over the last couple of years, starting from the Arlene May, looking at the joint committee report and recently the emergency measures.
This is one important piece. We need housing. We need counselling. I do think this is an important piece but it has to be a community-wide and a coordinated response.
Ms Bakos: Again, my name is Dorothy Bakos. I'd like to say a few words about our agency before getting into the some of the broader issues that face abused women and their children.
Family Service Association of Toronto is a member agency of Family Service of Ontario, one of the community partners that is here today with our colleagues to raise awareness on these issues.
Family Service is about 85 years of age and has a significant history in working with family violence issues for over 25 years now.
We provide a variety of essential services for abused women and programs for children who are exposed to domestic abuse as well as services for perpetrators of abuse.
We are very excited and enthusiastic with the work that we continue to do with diverse communities as well as education and prevention initiatives.
However, it is increasingly challenging to continue to provide these services and to meet the demands, as well as work with committees such as the Woman Abuse Council, due to a lack of funding, cutbacks that stem from 1995. Many community agencies lost their provincially funded purchase-of-service grants, resulting in substantial funding reductions for many organizations. Many agencies have had their funding reduced by 5% since 1995, forcing agencies to cut back on counselling programs.
This is why we have come together today as colleagues and community organizations, to raise awareness of these limitations and challenges that we face and to ask the government to continue to work with us on finally preventing this epidemic of family violence. In terms of the consequences that it has to families, if we do not act now, this can seriously compromise the safety and quality of life for abused women and their children of all walks of life across our country, across our province, across our city and right across our own neighbourhoods. This is why adequate resources are essential.
With respect to Bill 117, the issues that Vivien has raised, some of the assets around the bill but also some of the challenges, we as an agency, with adequate resources, can position in such a way where we can assist in making sure that information is disseminated appropriately throughout the various populations of diverse communities, so that women have knowledge of what this bill is, how it can affect their lives and how it can affect their safety. Our agency, as other family services type of agencies and social service agencies, have the ability to do outreach and participate in education initiatives. With more resources we can also expand in our counselling programs, because the restraining order is an effective tool that we implement in our intervention strategies when we're working with safety.
I just wanted to conclude by saying that the complexities of domestic abuse are many. That is without question. What further complicates this is when victims of domestic abuse and their children are put in a situation where they need to also negotiate the system when they are attempting to meet their safety needs. This is why we need to modify the system, such as the criminal justice system. We're looking at the restraining order issues in Bill 117, which Vivien spoke about, and we need to work together across various sectors to ensure the safety of women and their children.
As community partners, we are here today so that we look at how we can resolve these gaps. Again, although it is a challenging task and we realize that there is no one solution, that we all need to work together, we are hoping that we can have the government support to bring these gaps closer together.
The Chair: Thank you very much. We have about six minutes; two minutes for the government side.
Mr Tilson: All three parties, with a few minor changes, seem to be supporting the legislation. I don't know whether you've had an opportunity to look at the bill--
Ms Green: I have.
Mr Tilson: --specifically the intervention order, which is section 3. The bill lists off a number of conditions that could be suggested. There are 13 of them. You kind of touched on this in your presentation. Were you suggesting that there should be some additions to that or that some of the conditions are or are not strong enough?
Ms Green: When I read it, I thought those were some of the excellent parts of the bill. At least the stuff I read talked about things like the respondent having to cover some of the costs incurred by the abused and going to counselling, that kind of stuff. Is that the list you're talking about?
Mr Tilson: Yes.
Ms Green: I'm just saying that those are, in particular, some of the things that I think are most important about the bill, that are very, very useful.
Mr Tilson: It's quite an extensive list, and I couldn't determine whether you thought there should be additions to that.
Ms Green: No, no. I was just trying to pinpoint those as some of what I think are the most useful. I do have to say again, however, that we know that particularly in terms of woman abuse, and perhaps in other situations, it's the breaching of orders of all kinds that is so important. Because how we give a message to both the offender and the victim that we are serious as a community about this--the fact is, the more orders that are there is really important. We do have to have the resources and the training to enforce those. My great fear, as has been echoed, is that if the police do not have the training and the resources and the will to do that, we'll again have a sham, which makes it worse than nothing.
Mr Tilson: The government has stated that the Criminal Code isn't strong enough with respect to the enforcement and making clear as to detention and other conditions. Have you put your thoughts to that at all, as to what changes should be made to the Criminal Code, as to what the Solicitor General or Attorney General should be saying in their meetings with their federal counterparts?
Ms Green: From what I've seen, it's more a matter of that on paper I believe we have, even now, some of the means to do it. It's a matter of in fact enforcing. I had the opportunity to sit on the joint committee, and it was very clear that policy people were completely unclear about how to enforce restraining orders. One of the things I think about this law is that it has to be very clear how they are enforced. Police have to know that it is their job to do this.
Mr Tilson: I was thinking with respect, if I could interrupt--
The Chair: We are running out of time; I'm sorry.
Mrs Bountrogianni: Thank you very much for your presentation. I'm going to repeat a question that my colleague asked earlier of another group, because it's very important. Have the recommendations of the 1999 joint committee chaired by Judge Baldwin been implemented satisfactorily? I know it's the end of the first year of a five-year plan. What has been done satisfactorily?
Ms Green: As one who sat on the committee, I can say quite fully that I do not believe they've been implemented. Certainly, there are some elements of the joint committee that have been started. I think it's been quite clear that this government has taken an interest in criminal justice changes. I do have to say, again, as one working at the front line here in Toronto, that even the implementation of the specialized courts is being severely challenged because of lack of resources. I know right now in Scarborough the court people there are desperately anxious and eager to set that up but are unable to do it because of lack of resources. So we have that piece.
In terms of all the other areas, the joint committee very much looked at this as a holistic problem that has to be dealt with by our entire community, and the joint committee report echoes the kinds of things the emergency measures talk about, so I would have to say in most of the other areas--now, we have seen some changes. There was some money allotted for the child witness program. But we certainly are not there at all. I think that is certainly a place to start. We are all saying the same thing--the emergency measures, the joint committee--and we need to do it. It's not one sort of way to go; we have to deal with all of these.
Mr Bryant: Do we have more time?
The Chair: You have about 30 seconds.
Mr Bryant: OK. I just want to make sure that we're clear. I'm always told the same thing whenever I ask this of the government: "Oh well, we're only a year into it." Are you saying that despite the fact that we're just a year into it, we're not where we should be after a year?
Ms Green: Definitely. We--
Mr Bryant: Definitely not?
Ms Green: We're not where we should be. There was an actual time frame that we put together. Again, we're not suggesting that it would be followed to the T. I think what is so problematic is that the resources that are there have been put into only criminal justice, and, as I say, not even adequately; and issues like housing, such a critical aspect, and counselling, as you heard, so--
Mr Kormos: As Ms Lankin points out, we're what, two years beyond the May-Iles jury recommendations? Not just a year--two years.
I appreciate your comments because they're consistent with what other folks have said. Look, Ms Hadley was murdered by a murderer who was released once on a judicial interim release order by the police, subsequently by a court. That person was subject to two orders. So at the end of the day, all the orders in the world, whether they're under Bill 117 or under the Criminal Code by virtue of being judicial interim release orders, ain't worth the paper they're printed on unless there are the will and the resources to make sure these darn things are enforced in such a way that it protects the person who is intended to be protected.
It's not enough just to call the cops after the guy shows up with a shotgun, because it's too late then. So you're addressing, as I understand it, because I think we agree, the fact that if we don't have resources for cops, plus training, and for justices--they shut down whole courtrooms of justices of the peace this summer past and tossed out weeks of charges because there weren't enough JPs to sit. So I'm worried. My concern is that when I see a JP's court--you know, the bail courts--they've got three pages of dockets, they're under pressure to process these. No bloody wonder people are getting released without adequate consideration of whether or not they should be held in custody and what the terms should be.
Ms Green: In addition to the issue of more JPs, one of the perpetual issues is training. I think in the Hadley case and many of these it's many times JPs who are not enforcing the orders. So again, it's the whole issue of training and commitment and resources.
Mr Kormos: I appreciate you folks coming today. Thank you.
The Chair: Thank you, Ms Bakos, Ms Young and Ms Booth-McKelvie.
CROSS-SECTORAL VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN STRATEGY GROUP
The Chair: The next presenter is the Cross-Sectoral Violence Against Women Strategy Group, Punan Khosla and Beryl Tsang.
Ms Beryl Tsang: Hi. My name is Beryl Tsang and I'm with the Cross-Sectoral Violence Against Women Strategy Group. I apologize that Punan Khosla will be unable to join us today due to illness. I think she's one of the many Ontarians who has been felled by this flu that seems to be going around.
I wanted to begin by saying that I've worked in this field for a long time and I've seen it grow, I've seen it progress and I really think that Bill 117 is a step in the right direction. But I think it needs to be part of an interdependent strategy and it needs to be part of a series of actions that promote women's equality in Ontario.
It is time for practical government action. This summer, as many of my esteemed colleagues have said, we've witnessed brutal, unrelenting violence against women. Almost every day we've picked up newspapers and we've seen that women have been either murdered or seriously injured. For those of us who've worked in the field, names like Gillian Hadley, Hemoutie Raghunauth and Bohumilla Luft aren't just names of people in newspapers; these are women who are someone's mother, they're someone's sister, they're someone's daughter, they're a friend. Their murders aren't random and they're not isolated acts of violence. These are deliberate acts of violence committed by men against women.
On average, 40 women a year in Ontario are murdered by a partner or a former partner. Men are charged every day with assaulting, threatening and stalking their wives, girlfriends, common-law partners and their children. While thousands of women seek refuge in women's shelters and help in violence against women programs across the province, many more remain with an abusive partner because they lack the means to leave.
I think it's really well established that violence against women is rooted in social, political and economic inequality. I don't think women are willingly victims. I'm not a victim but I could become a victim if I could not access--and "access" is a really important word. We've just completed a study on women's access to justice. I could become a victim if I could not access the judicial means, the economic means to protect myself and my children.
I think what's really important is strengthening women's economic and social position and valuing children. Adequate social and economic supports may well have saved the lives of the women who were murdered this past summer. I think that we need to ask ourselves, why should we adopt an equity approach? Aside from the fact that it's right and just--it's just not economical. Inequalities between men and women have led--and I quote the following 1995 statistics: in 1994 woman abuse created the loss of over $10 million in tax revenues nationally due to early death, premature death, missed days of work and incarceration. In 1995 the national cost of woman abuse to the health care system was almost $1.6 billion. That's just an aside.
Basically, Ontario is becoming dangerously polarized between the haves and have-nots, and many women find ourselves at the short end of the stick. Over the last two decades, the percentage of women living in poverty in Canada has been climbing steadily. Almost 19% of adult women are poor; that means we live below the LICO. This has unquestionably weakened our ability to leave abusive relationships.
While all women live with the threat of male violence, I really want to call your attention to women living on the margins of our society. Aboriginal women, racialized women, recent immigrants, women with disabilities, deaf women and poor women are faced with compounded inequalities that weaken our position even further.
In recent months, public discussion of solutions has focused on the criminal justice system and tightening up on offenders as well as pouring money into programs for male batterers. While violence against women needs to be understood as a serious crime, which is the responsibility of the men who commit it, I think there's a tendency for policymakers and for media to divert attention away from the needs of women and children. I find this a really dangerous position.
Women's advocates have long called for criminal law reform to ensure the much-needed protection for women and children, but we are disturbed by the way in which safety issues are now used to justify law and order initiatives in place of effective social programs, prevention, health promotion programs. I really am concerned that the law and order rhetoric is based on the exploitation of public fears of "stranger danger." It favours the use of a heavy-handed law enforcement strategy against socially disadvantaged groups, which in no way addresses at the root the violence women face in our society. It also serves to scare off women in low-income and racialized communities from reporting violence, putting those women at further risk of death or serious injury.
Male batterer programs are as yet unproven--there's no research that shows their effectiveness--and cannot in any case be seen as a priority over much-needed programs and services for women.
Years of cuts to our social programs, legal aid, direct anti-violence services and neighbourhood supports have left women in a hardened state of inequality. Women's safety really depends on a comprehensive, consistent, long-term approach that addresses the root problems.
But women and children can't wait. The coming session of the Ontario Legislature must enact immediate measures that bring down some of the obvious barriers standing in the way of women's ability to protect ourselves and our children.
I actually do have handouts. Basically these are emergency measures. This is an abbreviated list. There are hundreds of them, but these are our immediate demands. What we are calling for is a commitment of $50 million to community-based services for women and children, in particular emergency services such as crisis lines, shelter funding. The coming year's budget should allocate a further $50 million in annualized budgets to independent community-based women's shelters, including those not currently funded by MCSS. In communities where there is a documented urgent need for additional shelter beds, funding should be allocated to begin this expansion, as promised in the government's Common Sense Revolution document; immediately implement the shelter funding review, as recommended in the Arlene May inquest; access to second-stage housing, funding for second-stage housing programs.
We'd like to see the reinstatement of the 5% cut to rape crisis centres funding to make provision for annualized increases and core support. We'd like to see funding for one community outreach person in each rape crisis centre. We'd like to fund counsellors within rape crisis centres for support for women who are sexually harassed in the workplace.
There is the importance of granting funding for women's neighbourhood and advocacy groups to provide ongoing province-wide funding to women's anti-violence advocacy groups; funding trained violence against women cultural interpreters in immigrant and settlement agencies; ensuring sufficient and stable funding to French-language services in community-based agencies throughout Ontario; and providing stable funding support to women's centres.
This is the part that is near and dear to my heart and this is the part I would really like to speak to: legal reforms and services. Again, I said Bill 117 is a good starting point, but an additional infusion of funds and resources is needed to be allocated to legal aid.
The number of hours that abused women and children are guaranteed by the legal aid plan is not enough. There are not enough women-centred legal clinics for abused women. So we would like to see an increase in the tariff that's provided.
It's critical that women are provided with funds for cultural, deaf and ASL interpretation in Family Court as per the current provisions in criminal and immigration court.
Our research in the area of women's access to justice has really shown that women are not provided with adequate access to justice when they're in court. They are often subject to being interpreted by their former partners who are abusive, or judges and so forth do not provide appropriate interpretation for them.
Extend legal aid coverage to abused women to include divorce and all property matters.
Provide legal aid to women who are victim-witnesses in criminal cases.
Provide legal aid funding for representation of women making human rights complaints about harassment in the workplace.
The criminal law reforms need to be increased to protect assaulted women who have been on hold for many years. The province has yet to implement many of the detailed recommendations from the Arlene May coroner's inquest jury, and recommended changes must be put on the front burner.
Risk assessments need to be conducted and an offender's previous history of violence must be completed and on file before all first bail hearings for abusers. When release on bail is granted with a no-contact order to a man charged with violence against women, one breach of that order must mean that he is denied further bail.
We need iImmediate direction to crown attorneys to argue women's charter rights to life, liberty and personal security in all bail hearings.
Family law reform: fear for the safety of their children is one of the most important concerns for abused women. Manipulation of the Family Court system is a common tactic of abusers to continue their control over the family. Possible apprehension of children who are witnesses to violence is a major deterrent to women reporting abuse. This is really important. One of the things our research has shown is that women are often streamed into mediation, even in cases where there is abuse. They are streamed into parenting programs. Implement a policy of no mediation where there is evidence of past or present abuse. There can be no negative judicial interference when a woman declines mediation because of personal safety concerns or concerns for her children.
We insist on the increased availability of supervised access exchanges and centres to ensure they are available to all women who have safety concerns. I cannot tell you, when we were doing our research, the number of counsellor-advocates and lawyers who cited the deaths of women on custody and access exchanges.
Improve and expand the nature of supervised access centres so that fathers and children can have safe, meaningful visits with proper, trained and consistent supervision, in the appropriate language with appropriate interpretation.
Implement the family law recommendations of the Arlene May inquest and implement a mechanism to track the impact of new child welfare legislation and practices on abused women and child witnesses of violence.
We call for the allocation of core government resources to ensure the economic survival and workplace safety of women and their children across the province.
We ask that an implementation of an annual cost-of-living adjustment to welfare rates take effect. We ask that you provide referrals to community legal aid via plain-language letters to all people denied a benefit or cut off welfare. We ask that you provide anyone denied benefits through the new call centres with a telephone link to a community legal clinic for advice.
We want you to drop the appeal on the spouse-in-the-house rule to ensure that women are able to maintain financial independence, and drop the plan to penalize for "benefits stacking" and maintain current policies allowing women to access multiple provincial services as they need them.
End the clawback of the federal child tax credit for families on welfare.
We'd like to see implementation of a policy to abandon the practice of requiring and/or requesting that women disclosing violence seek child support or spousal support in order to qualify for social assistance.
Allow full deferment of or voluntary participation in workfare.
We would like to see a 1% increase to the pay equity fund as an adjustment to all proxy agencies to ensure the survival of women's agencies and the services that meet their legal pay equity obligations.
Lastly, we ask for workplace protection for women.
We ask that you designate the first week of June as a province-wide sexual harassment awareness week.
Include in the Employment Standards Act protection from termination for all women who are facing harassment, abuse or stalking in the home or workplace.
Extend the proposed family leave provisions to provide protection for women who are being assaulted, abused, harassed or stalked at home or in the workplace.
Extend the proposed family leave provisions to cover workplaces with fewer than 50 employees, as only about 5% of all businesses in Ontario have more than 50 employees.
Extend the Employment Standards Act parental leave provisions an additional 17 weeks to cover the entire one-year period for which EI benefits are now available.
Thank you. That was it.
The Chair: Thank you, Ms Tsang. We probably have about three minutes for questions, so if you could keep it brief, please.
Mrs Bountrogianni: I'll ask you a question, and if you quite understandably don't know the answer, maybe the parliamentary assistant can answer.
Recently the government announced $5 million in funding to early intervention programs for child witnesses of abuse. You mentioned earlier, and it was mentioned before your presentation as well, that there's been a 5% cut over the last six years to shelters and programs, and second-stage housing counselling has been--to your knowledge, does this $5 million replace that money? How much money was cut for counselling? Do you know?
Ms Tsang: To the best of my knowledge, it actually hasn't replaced it. What that $5 million has done is actually expanded the ability of other organizations such as hospitals and children's mental health agencies to access government funding in order to provide specialized services in that area.
Mr Kormos: Very quickly, you should have been pleased--I wish you were here last week when Ms Elliott lectured us for a good three minutes on all the increased funding that this government has invested in women's services, women's shelters, programs for abused women etc. Can you please tell us what's happened to the core funding, and what has it meant for women's shelters like women's places, women's centres, across Ontario?
Ms Tsang: Since I'm actually not with OAITH, I would like to ask my colleague Eileen Morrow to answer that.
Mr Kormos: That's fine by me. Go ahead.
The Chair: You've got about 30 seconds to answer that.
Ms Morrow: With regard to the effect on the services, what we have is an increase particularly in crisis calls and women calling shelters, and we have a decrease in the amount of service that we can actually provide to these women.
Mr Kormos: What about the funding?
Ms Morrow: In fact, the funding cuts have not been restored. What we have is an increase in women calling, an increased demand, and pressure on the services. So we have less service to each individual woman and child as a result.
Mrs Brenda Elliott (Guelph-Wellington): I guess in response to my colleague across the way, I was taking the time to point out a number of the programs that our government does offer. In listening to the very extensive series of demands that have been presented this afternoon, it would make it appear as though the government doesn't offer any programs. In fact, we offer a myriad of programs. I was indicating in my comments the other day about the $135 million in various programs that we do offer and additional programs that we're undertaking.
I was curious to hear your comments about the haves and have-nots and women not doing well in the economy and so on. I thought you might be interested in the following: in 1999, of the 198,000 new jobs created in Ontario, 46.5% were gains by women. In fact, of all the 768,000 new jobs in Ontario, women gained about 51% of those. So I think it's important to recognize that there are many opportunities for women. Part of the challenge that we are all facing, whether in government or out of government, is that women need opportunities for economic independence, and that will give them some opportunities for independence should there be issues of domestic violence facing them.
Ms Tsang: I actually don't dispute that.
The Chair: You have about 15 seconds to answer that.
Ms Tsang: However, most of those new jobs are not permanent positions; those are part-time jobs. They're entry level. They don't pay for the cost of child care in Ontario, and while they may be new jobs, they certainly are not ones that some of our clients can access.
The Chair: Thank you, Ms Tsang.
CANADIAN CHILDREN'S RIGHTS COUNCIL
The Chair: The next speaker is Grant Wilson, president of the Canadian Children's Rights Council.
An emergency alarm sounded.
The Chair: That's been happening all afternoon, by the way.
Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-East York): I thought it was because Mrs Elliott said something that someone disagreed with up above.
The Chair: I don't think you can hear that in the House, though, can you? You can't hear that buzzing. We're working on it. It usually takes about two days to warm up; that's the problem.
Good afternoon, Mr Wilson.
Mr Grant Wilson: Good afternoon. I'm Grant Wilson. I have a rather unique background which perhaps I can explain a bit before I get going. I've had sort of short notice here. I found out about this at 11 o'clock this morning, that I would be here, and I will be presenting a written presentation to you before the deadline later on.
My background: I've been interested in gender issues for most of my life. While taking business administration, a three-year program at a community college, I took women's studies; I received a B in that. Some people suggested that since there were only two males in the class, perhaps I was really an A student but there was some gender discrimination there. I think I was worth a B.
I have been involved with various groups in different capacities. I'm a computer consultant. I've done computer consulting work and provided networking services etc, consulting regarding that, to two different women's shelters. I've been involved with a number of support services for both men and women. I've gone out and done surveys of a number of these issues with the police in Halton-Peel, Hamilton-Wentworth and Toronto. I've talked to many police officers. I've been involved with assisting victims of domestic violence, particularly men, when they've gone to court. I have found that with the police and the court system there's a substantial bias against these men.
I can give you personal information in these cases. For example, the 5'1", 100-pound wife of my neighbour in Oakville was charged for a second time for assaulting him with a weapon. The restraining order was such that she could come back to the home at certain times. She would not leave at the time designated, and when the police were called twice, they came over and didn't do anything about this. She belted him in front of the police officer and they didn't charge her again, or anything else. When this went to trial, I accompanied him to trial and the judge found her guilty. Her explanation on the stand was, well, she got mad, but she was getting counselling for this anger from a psychiatrist, and therefore he sent her home again. The judge commented on how he didn't want to affect the family law case. He was really affecting the family law case by putting her back in the home after she was found guilty for a second time of assaulting this man with a weapon. The judge also stated that he believed the man when he said he'd been assaulted on five other occasions that he hadn't reported to the police, and those were unfortunate. He had his lip split open while he was driving his van with his son in the back etc.
So I've gotten involved with quite a number of different things. I've been to court many times with these people. I've helped a woman with a restraining order she had to get her ex-husband out of the matrimonial home. In that particular case there was no violence involved; it was simply that he was prolonging this, you know, "marriage is forever" and didn't quite get the message and was asked to leave by the police, etc, and had the restraining order. So I've got a background of involvement with a lot of these different issues and support groups for men who are victims of domestic violence.
I have seen quite a number by this government, which wishes to promote that only women are victims of domestic violence in their multi-million dollar campaign to support Crime Stoppers. Approximately a year ago on the front page of the Toronto Star we have a staff sergeant who's liaison with the Metro police and Crime Stoppers stating that 25% of the calls they get regarding domestic violence have men as the victims.
I have a report from Peel Regional Police, which I would be happy to submit, that has my landlord at the time, who was about 5'2" and 110 pounds, attacking her husband. When the police came and she answered the door at 3 in the morning, the police officer--and I knew the officer from all my experience with them. This is a 20-year officer who was in charge of training all the new recruits. She had said the man wasn't home. When the police officers insisted on entering the home to check it out, she assaulted the officer. He didn't arrest her. He didn't do anything, as a matter of fact. They said, "We have to come in and check the place out." Then she immediately said, "He's sleeping." The police officers entered and they checked. They didn't find any injuries on him. She had been throwing all sorts of stuff, and I think they were both drunk. However, it was amazing to me that the police officer did not charge this woman when he was assaulted by her. He has that in the report. It says there that he was assaulted by her in a domestic violence situation.
In talking with many officers of the Peel Regional Police and Halton police etc, they state quite frankly to me that politically this is to be treated as wife assault, not spousal assault, and there is to be a substantial amount of emphasis put on arresting the man. There is a big problem there with that discrimination, and you're discriminating against children as well when you do that. There's already a substantial problem here for children in all of this circumstance.
I find it amazing that we can sit here and claim this tremendous epidemic of domestic violence when you look at the statistics and see that under 100 spouses, girlfriends, whatever, are victims of domestic violence in Canada during a one-year period, and 25% to 41%, over different years, have been men, yet we ignore that problem. When you look at the 1993 report from Stats Canada, they talk about wife assault: in 1993, 59% of the victims of domestic violence who died, who were murdered, were women. They don't even talk about men. Who were the other 41%?
This is the attitude that I find in all these police forces. The officers have found tremendous political pressure, and this is damaging the kids. I think this legislation further damages them, because it gives more weapons to angry people who want to hurt their spouses, and since 90% of those with custody are women, which is a phenomenal figure, this is the ideal weapon to go and destroy your spouse if you're angry for whatever reason. If you want to get back at him and you're vindictive because he was cheating on you or whatever, then this is the case.
I have heard from a long-time friend who works in a shelter east of here who has told me that she has personally witnessed women who work there counselling other women to phone the police and have this guy charged with a fictitious crime, to bruise themselves someplace, and therefore make false allegations, which are rampant. When you have two people who are in a separation or a divorce situation, that's a terrible thing to go and do, but hatred will do these kinds of things.
The problem for the children in all this is that when you eliminate parents from their lives instantaneously, without due process, or you have a limited process like you people have here where it's a negative onus--you're guilty until proven innocent, according to your suggestions, and you have a limited time to respond to this--in my opinion it's insane. I can't believe we're going to convict people first and ask questions later; that's what this attitude amounts to. It's incredible that anybody can go and do this.
The problems that we already have for children are substantial. Boys in particular have had all sorts of discrimination. We don't have enough male teachers in primary grades. There's a substantial discrimination against them. They're deathly afraid of someone accusing them of touching someone or whatever. There are a number of issues here regarding boys in the schools who are discriminated against. When they get these ads coming across that men are perpetrators of all this crime etc, whether the stats show that or not, they feel very badly about this.
We have a situation now where the number of boys leaving high school and not completing versus girls leaving is much higher. I don't have the figures with me, but I have the statistics in my office. Something like 10 times as many teenage boys commit suicide as teenage girls. Amazingly, the largest group that commits suicide in our society is white males over 40. These aren't my figures. I've got studies from Harvard and there are a number of different studies on this. When you run rather graphic ads and nail men, you're also nailing boys.
When it comes to children's welfare, we look at agencies which are social service agencies that are there to help the family. The children's aid society is there to appraise the situation, to take whatever steps are necessary, but their first step is not to go in there and just wipe out the relationship with that child. They take very important steps in justifying what they're doing, interviewing everybody and taking a look at the situation, documenting this, before they ever say the child should be taken away from the parent. Yet you're proposing legislation that just says, "One parent wants it; just phone it in." That's a bit of a problem.
In my own situation, where I was a victim of domestic violence in 1991, I think this would have been a terrible weapon for me to use if the police would have done anything about it. I had problems with the police then. When I phoned 911 after my ex-wife broke into my house and wanted to take the children from my custody and started a very brutal fight with me--I was bleeding in three different places and I was very black and blue--they didn't believe me at first. Then they came out with all the squad cars and took her out of my living room. As a man, I have to turn around and say, "Oh yes, I'm very manly. I played football in college on a varsity level first team and I boxed for two years. Yes, I could have hit her in the face and driven her nose through her skull or something." I didn't do that. I tried to minimize the situation as best I could and tried to hold her. She got away. I was the only one who had injuries.
The kind of discrimination we're facing in the courts and with the police is phenomenal. Right after that we had a family law assessment done, and the assessor gave us a slight change in the times, but she never consulted me. She goes on about this woman's anger. She didn't talk about any anger that I had. Then she turns around and says that this mother has denied access to my oldest daughter and then proceeds to go on and say, "If the parents can't get along, the mother should get custody."
The Chair: Mr Wilson, you are getting into details of a specific case. I should caution you that, while members enjoy parliamentary privileges and certain protections pursuant to the Legislative Assembly Act, it is unclear whether or not these privileges and protections extend to witnesses who appear before committees. For example, it may very well be that the testimony you have given or are about to give could be used against you in a legal proceeding. I caution you to take this into consideration while making your comments.
Mr Wilson: Thank you.
There are a number of statistics which I would like to bring to your attention. I think that when we look at the children involved in all these situations, we should be looking at different ways of dealing with this, giving a stronger weapon to try to--it's going to cause conflicts.
I know of a case where I was assisting one of the parents and he went out and murdered the woman and killed himself. I know and I can prove, with my conversations with the Peel Regional Police, that the reports in the Toronto Star were false. In fact, if you read all the reports from start to finish that appeared in all the articles you would see there are major contradictions. You would find, if you had the truth, that this was a decent man who had never been in trouble with the law, who was the primary caregiver of his child and who had amazing amounts of documentation to this effect from family doctors, day care, after-school programs, teachers, sports coaches, etc. This child doesn't have a mother or father any more because there were false allegations against him that he had left his son abandoned etc that this woman made to the Peel Regional Police. Then, finally, to get him out of the house, to close down his business that was in the house, she accused him of threatening her life. This was a decent person, an usher at the church around the corner, who went out petitioning for traffic lights to go up at the end of their street, a very decent person who lost it. This wasn't an anger problem he had, this was a psychological one. I think there was a problem there, when you feel so grossly violated by having the police pick you up and take you to jail. It is inconceivable that this person could even go to the police and make up these false allegations. He probably lost it and went and killed her and killed himself because of it. Yet, when we read about him in the paper killing his ex-wife and himself, we see him as Mr Angry. Yet, when a female doctor can go out and kill her child--
The Chair: Mr Wilson, could you wrap up, please?
Mr Wilson: When we see a female doctor go out and kill her child, we say she must have had some psychological problems or there were things going on and this was somebody who needed help.
In conclusion, I would say it's very important to look at this not from a law standpoint, that we can't get restraining orders that are just controlling enough, we can't really hammer these people enough, but maybe we ought to look at this and say this is more of a social problem. We should have qualified counsellors and social workers who are familiar with these issues, who are perhaps older and have had kids and raised them etc, who can evaluate these situations better, so that people can call at an earlier stage, so they're not afraid of losing the relationship with their spouse because somebody shoved somebody else or spoke some harsh words.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr Wilson.
Mr Wilson: There should be a time when they can phone and get social assistance help, where somebody can evaluate this family, what their needs are--
The Chair: Thank you, Mr Wilson. Your time is up.
The next speaker is Marion Wright, legal advocate for Women's Place, St Catharines.
Mr Wilson: Are there any questions?
The Chair: No questions. Your time has expired.
Ms Lankin: On a point of order, Madam Chair: It might help just to remind folks how much time they have and that they can use it all for their presentation, but if they want to have any questions from the committee, they need to leave a little bit of time.
The Chair: Yes, I did say that, actually, at the beginning, and I will repeat that. You do have up to 20 minutes in which to make your presentation, and if there is time there will be questions within that 20 minutes from members of committee.
Mr Kormos: Also that there's coffee and tea there. It's not just for us.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr Kormos, for your editorial comment. You're cutting into the presenter's time.
WOMEN'S PLACE OF ST CATHARINES
The Chair: Good afternoon, Ms Wright. Please proceed.
Ms Marion Wright: Good afternoon. As you said, I'm here representing Women's Place of St Catharines, which is a shelter for abused women. I'm a lawyer who works there as a legal advocate. I assist both shelter residents and non-residents and ex-residents in the community.
There are several aspects that are positive regarding Bill 117. These include making breaches of intervention orders a criminal offence, allowing the applicant to apply for exclusive possession of the home regardless of whether they are married and allowing those in dating relationships to qualify for intervention orders. However, there is of yet, that I'm aware of, no definition of what a dating relationship will be. I would like to use my time today to discuss just a few of the problems I foresee with the implementation and administration of Bill 117. As I'm sure you are aware, how the law is administered can completely change the actual intentions of those who drafted it.
First, Bill 117 allows for emergency intervention orders. While in many ways this sounds very positive, there are already provisions for emergency motions during the court hours that are not utilized. The family law rules that apply to the Family Court of the Superior Court of Justice and the Ontario Court of Justice allow for emergency motions. Specifically, rule 14(4) allows motions before a case conference in a situation of urgency or hardship or for some other reason in the interests of justice. There are also provisions in rule 14(11) for motions without notice when there is an immediate danger to the health or safety of a child or of the party making the motion and the delay involved in serving a notice of motion would probably have serious consequences.
Even with these provisions it is extremely difficult to get a motion for an emergency during court hours because the interpretation of what constitutes an emergency has been very narrow. Even if you are granted a motion without notice, it may be days before a judge looks at your matter and actually comes to a decision. My concern is that the same interpretations are going to be applied to Bill 117. If a woman is currently having difficulties getting a motion during court hours, I suggest that there's a strong possibility that it will be equally unlikely that the matter will be heard in the middle of the night by a JP or by a judge. Furthermore, the order will mean absolutely nothing until the respondent is notified of its existence and there's no guarantee as to how quickly this will happen.
In addition, what about the cases that aren't deemed to be an emergency? In some jurisdictions that have the Family Court of the Superior Court of Justice, your first court date is more than three months away. That date is often just to appear before a clerk to set a date for a case conference, which could be another month or more in the future.
Another example of legislation or regulations not being used the way they are intended has resulted in abused women being forced to attend court appearances even where they have a lawyer representing them. According to members of the Family Rules Committee, provisions of the rules were to be used so that women did not have to attend court or if they were forced to attend they could be in a separate room or telephone or video conferencing could be utilized. Unfortunately, in the jurisdiction where I work, women are being told by their lawyer that they must come to court and therefore be in the same room with their abuser and face the intimidation and risks to their personal safety that come along with this. Their lawyers don't ask the court for any of the available alternatives even in the most extreme cases. We allow men under probation, bail or restraining order conditions to stand outside the courtroom and sometimes even display intimidating behaviour in the courtroom. If this same behaviour occurred on the street it would be a breach of the order. This is not what was envisioned by the rules but apparently it is what will be faced by women seeking intervention orders.
One of the ways to try to prevent legislation or regulations from being misinterpreted is to ensure that there is continuing education for justices of the peace, the judiciary, lawyers and other administrative personnel involved in implementing and applying the legislation on a day-to-day basis. Examples of why this is needed include women being advised by their lawyer to remain in the matrimonial home with their abuser during the judicial process without any assessment of the risk to their client. It is also not uncommon to find lawyers or the judiciary who do not specialize in abuse cases minimizing the abuse suffered or asking questions indicating that they must have done something to deserve the abuse. They also fail to recognize the signs of abuse or the escalating behaviour of the abuser. Without continuing education to rectify these problems, Bill 117 could easily be misinterpreted and applied without an understanding of the dynamics of domestic violence. This will result in another piece of legislation that is of no use to those who it was supposed to assist and therefore perpetuate the feeling of the majority of abused women that it is better to avoid the judicial system all together.
Another major problem will be with the ability of women to access Bill 117, as has already been mentioned in previous presentations. How are women going to know what the provisions are and who is going to assist them in accessing the provisions?
There are some services available during court hours, although not nearly enough, but there is nothing available after court hours. Women's shelters are underfunded and short-staffed. There is no one available in the middle of the night to assist with any paperwork that may be required or accompanying a woman to a hearing or support her while she is on the phone with a judge. If you qualify for legal aid, it takes weeks in the jurisdiction I work in to even get an appointment, let alone a certificate. If you already have a lawyer, few are going to be reachable in the middle of the night. While it is possible to access the law without a lawyer, it is more difficult and definitely more intimidating.
When the Family Rules Committee introduces rules governing the application for intervention orders and emergency intervention orders, are they going to account for women who do not qualify for legal aid but cannot afford a lawyer? Are they going to consider the specialized needs of abused women? Will the rules be user-friendly and will they be followed by all jurisdictions? I can tell you that currently the rules in effect are not followed in all jurisdictions. Furthermore, will the Attorney General use his power under section 18 of Bill 117 to require the Family Rules Committee to amend or revoke a rule that is not working, or once this bill is passed will it be forgotten in favour of the next bill on the agenda?
If women cannot access the provisions in Bill 117 and have no support in doing so, then it will not be useful legislation. We can only ensure that this does not occur by putting supports in place such as more legal aid funding and funding for advocates to assist women to access the provisions in the legislation and to educate them as to its existence.
I am also concerned about the court that will have jurisdiction to hear these matters. In areas where there is not a Unified Family Court, which is also known as the Family Court of the Superior Court of Justice, women are going to be forced to go to the Superior Court of Justice even when there are no property issues. You must remember that in some jurisdictions these courts have no duty counsel and no advice counsel, whereas in the Ontario Court of Justice you do have these things. Furthermore, is a woman who has already started a proceeding in the Ontario Court of Justice and then decides she needs to apply for an intervention order going to be forced to apply in the Superior Court of Justice if it's not an emergency and therefore have proceedings in two courts? This again would be an extremely intimidating process.
The last issue I'd like to discuss is the enforcement of intervention orders in general and also the enforcement of the financial and property provisions in the legislation. If a woman is able to successfully get an intervention order, it means nothing unless it is enforced. Currently, the enforcement of restraining orders under the Family Law Act is a problem. While making it a criminal act to breach an order is definitely an improvement, there still are concerns regarding the police actually laying a charge for a breach. If the police do not lay the charge, the breach never makes it into the criminal justice system and the abuser is never held accountable in the criminal courts. Furthermore, the court must attach a significant penalty to a breach of an intervention order, not just another piece of paper that will not be followed or enforced. Mandatory minimum sentences in these cases would certainly be a step in the right direction and may also make society realize that these orders actually mean something.
With respect to the financial provisions in intervention orders, such as an order requiring the respondent to pay the applicant compensation including moving and accommodation expenses, I see two problems. These provisions are not available in emergency intervention orders, and non-emergency orders, as I have already indicated, could take many months to get to court. Therefore, while there are provisions restraining the respondent from converting, damaging or otherwise dealing with property the applicant has an interest in, the property could be destroyed long before the matter ever gets to court. Also, if there are no expedient provisions to get and enforce these orders regarding assistance with rent, mortgages and other daily expenses, then women are at risk of losing their homes. I do not know how the provisions in Bill 117 regarding bonds and recognizances will work; however, there should be specific guidelines for the judiciary to follow. Otherwise, some judges will not even use the provisions. The consequences of breaching an order should be immediate. I deal with many women who have court orders in place regarding financial assistance with the upkeep of the matrimonial home who never receive a dollar.
The consequences of failing to pay child support is a perfect example of a system that continues to fail. It is often years before any enforcement proceedings are initiated, and many available provisions, such as jail time which could be served on weekends so as not to affect the payer's ability to work, are completely ignored. Abusers know how to manipulate the system and they will do the same thing with this bill. The financial provisions of the bill, if breached, are not going to be considered breaches of a criminal nature. Perhaps we should be asking ourselves, "Why not?" Abusive men will continue to be abusive even if the applicant is granted an intervention order by leaving the applicant destitute, unable to take care of her children and with no one to effectively enforce the terms of the order. The legal system, society and the government stand by every day while this continues to happen. Women know the failures of the system and often decide that they cannot turn to the legal system for assistance because it has nothing to offer them.
In conclusion, you must understand that Bill 117 consists of several pieces of paper that could be successfully implemented to make a difference for some victims of domestic violence, or it could become another law that is of no assistance. Being a lawyer, I often get asked by those I work with at Women's Place in St Catharines what is wrong with the judicial process and why it does not offer any useful assistance to abused women. One of my first responses is that there are provisions in several acts that could be used to assist abused women but they are not administered in such a way and therefore they become part of the problem instead of part of the solution.
Without vigilance in tracking how Bill 117 is being administered and enforced and taking immediate steps to intervene where there are problems, it will become just another act that does not make a difference. The only way this can be done is with a commitment to follow up with women's groups and advocates as to how the bill is working, what needs to be amended and what additional supports need to be put in place.
The Chair: That's your presentation? Thank you very much, Ms Wright. Questions starting with Mr Kormos. You have about a minute and a half.
Mr Kormos: I appreciate your comments about the enforcement provisions, because they are very confusing, Mr Tilson. The implication is that you don't want to use the application of section 127 of the code for breaches of conditions 9 through 13, yet it seems to me that in fact you could. It's not clear in that regard. Maybe that is your intention but the intention isn't articulated, and I think that's what your observation of it is.
Ms Wright: Yes, my reading of it is that's not the case.
Mr Kormos: You say that police officers shall enforce provisions 1 through 8, but my suspicion is that the only way police officers without more explicit instruction are going to enforce any of these provisions is to simply lay a charge under 127 for breach; to wit, "requiring the respondent to vacate the applicant's residence." I suspect that police officers may charge a person and use their arrest powers to remove that person from the residence, but very few police officers are going to want to involve themselves, for instance, in doing the job of the proverbial sheriff in removing somebody from a building.
I appreciate those comments and hope the PA--we've got to address that during clause-by-clause and we'll certainly be speaking to it, because I think you're dead on. You know what you're talking about.
The Chair: You've got about 20 seconds if you want to comment on that.
Ms Wright: I think that's exactly correct. My biggest fear is that we're going to have this great piece of paper but a year from now there are going to be no differences. I'm in a position to say that from the fact that I work with this every single day and often the people who are administrating the bills don't, and that can be a huge problem.
Mr Tilson: You made a comment about section 2 with respect to one of the applicants under a dating relationship and you were critical of that. Have you got a suggestion to the committee as to how that could be amended to improve that definition?
Ms Wright: My criticism is that there appears to be no definition. What are we going to say a dating relationship is?
Mr Tilson: That's what I'm asking. Do you have a suggestion as to how to improve that section?
Ms Wright: My suggestion would be to define it clearly. Is it going to be--
Mr Tilson: You don't have one.
Ms Wright: Are you going to put in one date, if you've seen the person one time? I'll tell you what's going to happen. A judge is going to get hold of that and define it, and that's what we're all going to be stuck following. Maybe it will be a good definition, but maybe it will exclude many women.
Mr Tilson: You talked about the slow process of the courts. One of the several purposes of the bill is to deal with an emergency intervention order, as you know, under section 4. You proceed through that and you don't need to go to court. You can get a designated justice of the peace, for example, who are the only ones who can deal with these things 24 hours a day. So in all the matters you're talking about, I quite appreciate the slowness of the court in the other areas, but that's what I think is one of the good things of this bill, that you can get good service to people who have been violated by domestic violence.
Ms Wright: That's true, but my question again is, what happens if the justice of the peace, the judiciary, doesn't define emergency the way I would define it? What if they continue to define it the way they do now, which means good luck in getting an order?
The Chair: You don't have the chance to comment on that, Mr Tilson, unfortunately, because we're running close to our limit. Mr Bryant.
Mr Bryant: You'll get a chance in the Legislature, I know, to comment on that. I have two questions. Firstly, any other amendments that you would suggest? Secondly, you said that not only might Bill 117 in effect be useless if it's not implemented, but it might actually be harmful. If you could just tell us why that's the case.
Ms Wright: With respect to other amendments, no, I would just like to see more specific provisions because of the danger of not having them. With respect to the bill being harmful, just the very thought to women that there's another piece of legislation that is supposed to be out there to help, and if it falls apart it's another reason to stay away from the court system. I spend a lot of my time trying to convince women, "Let's give this a try," and I can't blame them when they say no. If this falls apart it will be another reason why they will not consider using the judicial process at all.
Mr Bryant: Access to justice is obviously a huge issue that you've been speaking about. You've got the parliamentary secretary here. What recommendations, specific to domestic violence, would you suggest in order to be able to implement it?
Ms Wright: More legal aid funding, more training for and more duty counsel, advice counsel, more hours obviously on legal aid certificates--
Mr Garry J. Guzzo (Ottawa West-Nepean): Especially training lawyers.
Ms Wright: Absolutely.
Mr Guzzo: Starting with Kormos.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Ms Wright.
DURHAM REGION CUSTODY AND ACCESS PROJECT
The Chair: The next presenters, the Durham Region Custody and Access Project: Deborah Sinclair, consultant; Helen Brooks, lawyer; Donna Babbs, lawyer; and Kate Schillings, focus group member. Good afternoon, ladies. I'm just going to vacate the chair for one minute. Mrs Elliott will take over.
The Acting Chair (Mrs Brenda Elliott): Good afternoon and welcome. As you know, you have 20 minutes for presentation time and it is your decision as to whether or not you will allow time for questioning within that 20 minutes. Please begin.
Ms Deborah Sinclair: My name is Deborah Sinclair. I would like to briefly introduce my colleagues: Helen Brooks is a family law lawyer in our lawyers' working group in Durham region; Kate Schillings is Luke's mother and also a focus group survivor who's participated in our original research; Donna Babbs is chair of the lawyers' working group as well. I am a social worker who has been a long time in this work on the front line, since the early 1970s, and have had the privilege of working with Durham region over the last few years on this particular project.
We have given you some materials. I'd just like to go over them and make sure you've got them. The first piece, I believe, is the binder, In the Centre of the Storm. This is called "Durham Speaks Out: A Community Response to Custody and Access Issues Affecting Woman Abuse Survivors and Their Children."
In this particular project, we had a number of focus groups with woman abuse survivors about their experience when they faced the family law system. Many of the women in our project had not had experience before with court--criminal or civil. The disclosure about their abuse came forward as a result of speaking out on behalf of their children in regard to custody and access issues. They would not have been picked up by a criminal system. They would not have disclosed. Many of them were experiencing emotional abuse for many years, and in some cases physical abuse that would have been useful for them to have prosecuted. However, they kept it private, like the majority of abuse survivors do.
One of the learnings in this project that has been very important to us is that emotional and psychological abuse can be just as life-threatening and injurious to a woman and her children as physical abuse. That has been a very tragic and very important learning for us in this project.
The other piece I would like to just briefly outline for you is that we do have some specific amendments that my colleague, Helen Brooks, will speak to regarding this particular piece of legislation before you.
In addition to that, we have an action plan that we have presented directly, face to face, to the Attorney General, which I believe has been happily received. It's included in this package. We'll be happy to speak to any questions, today or later.
We're very happy to be a part of this process. We've been a part of the whole process around this particular bill since the beginning. We have had representatives sit on the task force from Durham region, the original task force on restraining orders. We were one of the four communities that were chosen in the province to have all-day consultations on the bill. We, and different members of our community, have met twice face to face with the minister and his staff, as well as participating today. Also, we've participated in giving feedback on the draft recommendations. We represent more than 225 people in the community. Professionals, judges, lawyers and police officers participate in all of our committees, as well as women abuse survivors and their children.
We believe this is a step in the right direction. We also are very cognizant of the fact that there are a number of recommendations that have been put forward in other reports that we fully support and endorse, although we'll speak more specifically to this draft.
We support our colleagues who spoke previously: Vivien Green, Eileen Morrow, Beryl Tsang. We would reiterate much of what they've said, and you'll find that in our report.
I'm very aware of the time. I think perhaps, Helen, you would like to speak to the amendments specifically.
Ms Helen Brooks: Yes, I can.
Ms Sinclair: And then we'll have Kate speak afterwards.
Ms Brooks: This is the first time in this province that there is a legislative definition of domestic violence. This statute is an immensely progressive step for victims of violence, but if this province truly intends to protect all--and not selective--victims, the definition of domestic violence must be fluid and capable of expansion, and there must be legislative direction for the courts to recognize emotional abuse. Otherwise, this province will only serve to protect part of its victims, those who are threatened by some physical gesture or act. If there is no definition of "act," then the ordinary dictionary meaning will apply. In my handout, there is a copy of the Webster's Dictionary definition of "act."
None of us in this room know the offender as well as the victim, and even then some victims have misjudged the danger or risk to themselves and have been hurt or killed. For those victims who truly know they or their children are at risk, having experienced what the offender can do or is capable of doing, they need the government's protection as much as, if not more than, the victims who can point to a black eye or broken arm. Those victims are easy to identify. Emotionally abused victims should not need to wait until an "act" occurs before getting protection. The responsibility of this government is to ensure that all victims can be protected.
In the handout, there is a summary of the amendments we propose in order to expand protection to the victims of domestic violence. I intend only to briefly highlight three of those.
We suggest that it would be helpful in the statute to include a preamble. It's been done in other legislation. We've put in a suggestion as to what the wording might sound like. Our reason for making this suggestion is that those who are in authority to issue intervention orders ought to have the benefit of understanding the general framework within which to interpret various passages of the legislation in a manner that's consistent with the stated intent and purpose, and a primary objective.
As I indicated in my opening remarks, there needs to be a definition of "act," and we would suggest that "act" includes any verbal utterances or verbalizations. I've enclosed in the handout an article by Mr Phillip Enright, a crown attorney with the Ministry of the Attorney General, suggesting that in certain cases emotional abuse can be the subject of a criminal charge. So in this statute it should be clearly identified.
If I could ask the members to look at the bill, subsection 1(2) under "domestic violence," where it states, "For the purposes of this act, domestic violence means," we're suggesting that the word "means" be changed to the word "includes." This permits the court wider latitude when interpreting circumstances and it is not as restrictive as using the word "means."
If I could ask the members to look at subsection 3(1), we're suggesting that clause 3(1)(b) be deleted in its entirety. The conjunctive use of the word "and" does not fit with the definition of "domestic violence" set out in subsection (2) even without our amendments. We believe clause (b) is an added burden for an applicant to not only prove on a balance of probabilities that domestic violence occurred, which in the definition suggests that the applicant fears for her safety, but then there must be a juridical finding, a secondary finding whether that person may be at risk of harm. The words "and a person or property may be at risk of harm" are redundant language when it's clear that all domestic violence in one manner or another places a person at risk of harm. There can never be acts of assault or abusive verbalizations that do not in some way place a person at risk of harm. Adding these words to the section of the statute suggests that there can be domestic violence without risk of harm, and this is sending a false message.
The handout also encloses an article I ask the members to eventually look at from the Globe of Mail, 1987. It was in the report entitled Intimate Femicide: Woman Killing in Ontario, 1974. A trained police officer was found guilty of negligence. He was an experienced, 18-year veteran who knew the offender was violent, knew that he was on charges of assault against the wife, but due to the wife's mild manner, he assessed the risk of harm as being low or no risk. She was subsequently fatally shot by her husband, and their daughter wounded.
The assessment of risk of harm, in our respectful submission, is best left to the experts, not to the courts on a summary application.
Ms Sinclair: Kate, I believe you would like to share a few words. Kate has participated in our research project.
Ms Kate Schillings: I am grateful for the opportunity to speak before you today on this bill. My story is a difficult one to tell, but I continue to tell it in the singular hope that lasting and meaningful changes will come out of it, which is why I am here today.
In August 1997, I fled a severely emotionally and psychologically abusive marriage with my three-and-a-half-year-old son, Luke, in my arms and my purse over my shoulder. I escaped to a women's shelter, with my husband in close pursuit. Although I managed to get myself and my son to safety inside the shelter that night, it was necessary for me to leave the next morning and go into hiding elsewhere so as not to compromise the safety concerns of the shelter.
One week later I was in court to establish interim custody and access. I had met with my lawyer several times before this court date to discuss the legal actions required to initiate a divorce, spelling out examples of the types of emotional and psychological abuse present during the years of my marriage and trying to articulate the deep-seated fear I had for my safety and the safety of my son.
Emotional and psychological abuse in my marriage was insidious by nature, creeping into the relationship very slowly and almost imperceptibly. It is difficult to explain how this entrapped me and how the deepening fear wore me down over the years. The most difficult thing is that there was no visible evidence of abuse: no broken bones, no bruises, no black eyes. Constantly present, though, was a very real fear while in the presence of my husband, a fear of not being safe any more. Because my husband's threats were very veiled and non-specific and always centred on our son, I was really very vulnerable. How could I get anyone to understand this?
I went into court that day hoping that here I would find the protection my son and I so desperately needed. In my affidavit I had asked for sole custody of my son and for supervised access for my husband's visits with his son. I made it very clear that in addition to the abusive behaviours, I strongly believed that my husband was severely depressed. He had exhibited many of the hallmark signs of severe depression and I was very concerned about his stability. For this reason, I had also asked that he be made to seek help as all my attempts to get him to a doctor had been fruitless. I was told this was not likely to happen.
I was granted sole custody but liberal and unsupervised access was ordered for my husband starting the very next day. Despite strenuous and repeated efforts on my behalf, my husband was still given unsupervised access. This was just the opportunity he was waiting for. He brutally murdered my son, first strangling him and then setting a fire in which my son's body was burned beyond recognition. He destroyed much of the marital home and also took his own life in the process. He came through on his threat not to let me leave with my son.
My assertions of abuse were absolutely secondary to the following three factors: the process of mediation at all costs between the two lawyers. I was told that it would be better for me if the judge did not have to decide the custody and access outcome. I was warned that I needed to be more co-operative, that my protestations would be considered in determining final custody and access months down the road. I never even saw the judge during any of my proceedings. The second thing that became more important than my assertions of abuse was the right of my husband to see his son. He came to court and presented himself as a very affable and likeable fellow. The third thing was the fact that my husband had no priors before the court. With no visible evidence of the abuse and no paper trail, it came down to my word against his.
If the protection housed in this draft Domestic Violence Protection Act had been in place three years ago, the outcome of my case might have been very different. It might have looked like this: my assertions of emotional and psychological abuse would have been heard. A risk assessment would have been ordered. Mediation would not have been an option. My husband would have been ordered to seek help. My husband's sister, who had only seen us as a family about three times in five years, would not have been asked to vouch for his ability to care for our son. I would not have had to sit in the same room as my abuser for six long hours, further contributing to my already weary and terrified state. Supervised access--possibly no access--would have been ordered pending my husband entering into treatment for abusive behaviours and for depression. The safety of myself and my son would have been paramount. My voice would have been heard and my son would be alive today, almost seven years old and in grade 2.
I cannot begin to tell you of the enormity of the pain, how I miss my son every hour of every day. My voice was stifled in that courtroom and my son paid the price with his life. Please do not let it be stifled here. Please continue to listen to all those whose experiences you cannot begin to imagine. The past three years have been spent moving through the pain of losing my son, especially by the hands of his father. It is only recently that I have recognized that now I also need to start dealing with the abuse that was a constant in my life for so many years. Only then can I rebuild my life.
I leave you with this today: On the day of the memorial service for my son, my husband's lawyer came to me, clearly burdened, and whispered, "That is not the man I spent six hours with," and I replied, "You're right; it's the man I spent eight years with and nobody listened to me."
Thank you for hearing us today.
Ms Sinclair: Thank you very much, Kate.
Ms Donna Babbs: Kate's story, we want to reiterate, has extreme importance to the definition of domestic violence.
Mr Kormos: Madam Chair, on a point of order, excuse me: We've got a vote. We're coming back here at 6 o'clock. We want to carry on. I wonder if the Chair would consider putting to these folks if they could stick around for 10 minutes while we go and vote.
The Chair: Mr Kormos, with respect, the difficulty is that some of us are not able to come back for more than 10 or 15 minutes after the vote. So may I suggest, if you could please wrap up. I know this has been a very emotional submission, but we do have another delegate. We have to go and vote in about eight minutes. So if you could please wrap up.
Ms Babbs: Two minutes of our time has just been taken up, so if you don't mind, may I have the additional two minutes?
Mr Kormos: Of course.
Ms Babbs: The definition of domestic violence is based on the criminal law definition primarily. It does not deal with emotional abuse. That's why we ask that you review the submission prepared by Helen Brooks which deals with the definition of domestic violence; why it needs to be expansive and not restricted to mainly physical assault; why the definition of "act" has to include verbal acts. We ask that you review the report and Kate's story, which is spelled out there in further detail, where you'll see examples of emotional and psychological harm. We ask that you listen to Kate's story and realize that Kate knew the risk of harm that she was in. A judge may not see the risk of harm.
We ask that you seriously consider our proposal that the second part of clause 3(1)(b) be deleted, because when there's domestic violence there is a risk of harm. We can't have that restricted by allowing judges and justices of the peace who don't have experience in domestic violence to make that assessment.
We ask, in all the submissions you hear, that you consider the importance of life, liberty and security of the person, which is in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and that you err on the side of caution, let these orders be made and worry less about trampling on the rights of potentially very dangerous individuals not being removed from their homes.
The Chair: Thank you for your submission.
Members of the committee, are you saying that you want to go and vote now and then come back for the full 20 minutes? I believe some of you can't come back for the full 20 minutes. Is that correct?
Mr Tilson: I have to leave.
The Chair: We have about 90 seconds to get up to vote. Can we at least hear for five minutes from the last delegate, please?
Mr Bryant: You want to have three minutes?
The Chair: Five minutes.
Mr Tilson: We have to go and vote.
The Chair: All right, that's fine. I was going to say you have five minutes.
The committee recessed from 1750 to 1805.
MOTHERS FOR KIDS
The Chair: Sorry to keep you waiting. I hope Ms Bountrogianni will be back.
The next delegation is Maxine Brandon from Mothers for Kids. Sorry to keep you waiting, Ms Brandon. You heard me earlier. You have 20 minutes in which to make your presentation and for questions to be asked.
Ms Maxine Brandon: Good afternoon. My name is Maxine Brandon. I have a background in psychiatric nursing, teaching, social work and, recently, mediation. I am here today to represent Mothers for Kids and to discuss the concerns regarding Bill 117.
Mothers for Kids is a group of about 50 non-custodial mothers who have lost custody of their children through the process of the legal system. Mothers for Kids advocates for the interests of children and are concerned about children's issues in our current legal system whereby the children do not have any individual rights, nor do they have a voice. This group is also focused on women as mothers and the distinct role that mothers provide their children in their development through childhood to adulthood.
Mothers for Kids is committed to finding better solutions for children other than the current court system, lobbying for changes to the Divorce Act, advocating for automatic shared parenting where there is no kind of abuse in existence, advocating for mediation and rehabilitative solutions rather than children being the innocent victims of the divorce industry. The belief that children need both parents is that mothers and fathers provide their children with different and distinct role models necessary to equip them for the challenges of adulthood.
Domestic violence: we know that domestic violence causes great trauma to all concerned--to men, women and children and within our communities--yet we allow this in society. We are all to blame. The constant visual assaults of the daily ingestion of rape, drug use, murders, violence and pornography to adults' and children's intellects alike are experienced through the television, newspaper, radio and movie industries.
We will put a ban on cigarette smoking due to health reasons and public outcry, yet we will not put a ban on violence in our society to protect the mental health of our individuals and our children. Is it any wonder we have so much domestic violence, young offenders and increases in incarcerations in our courts and prisons? Children live what they learn. Violence must not be learned as an option for problem-solving and conflict resolution.
Although Mothers for Kids agrees that there should be an act to better protect victims of domestic violence, we ask that Bill 117 not be passed. We ask for the re-examination of the bill to be completed and that the act be rewritten following submissions.
We are concerned that the act as such will cause an increase in domestic violence, an increase in psychological abuse to its victims and also an increase in legal abuse generated in the court system, all of which could revictimize and increase the victimization of the victim or result in more physical assaults or murders and suicides.
Specifically, Bill 117 has flaws which need to be addressed. Under "domestic violence," subsection 1(2), the bill does not define what an "omission" is, leaving this to wide interpretation or punishment.
Bill 117 is strictly punitive and punishment-oriented, failing to provide funding or looking to provide for preventive, educational and rehabilitative models in our communities. The bill is reactionary to the recent number of domestic homicides and suicides and is not completely thought out as to whether it would de-escalate domestic violence or whether it is likely to increase domestic violence, homicides and suicides.
The bill provides a financial incentive for abuse and also that of psychological abuse by the individual who seeks power and control or revenge against the other and then can manipulate the bill and the legal system to their advantage by use of their lawyers. What can be used against one can easily be manipulated to be turned around to attack the victim. Once drawn into the adversarial court system, one cannot get out of it. Cases have been known to go on for four to seven years or any length of time before bankruptcy, ill health or poverty stops the battling--in this case maybe death or suicide as well, or homicide.
There's no such thing as truth in the judicial system. This is a shock for many of us to learn. There is only evidence and the weighing of such. A skilled lawyer is much like an artist painting a picture on a canvas before the judge. The scene can be altered by the application of, in an artist's case, paint, but in a legal case, stacking affidavits, where one enters into a paper war of either true or false allegations, the use of highly charged adjectives to enrage the other side, and the legal manoeuvring and strategies to overpower one of the individuals. One cannot believe what happens in the judicial system.
All 50 women in our group have experienced legal strategies and manoeuvring and also, in most cases, psychological abuse through their ex-spouses or through the use of lawyers. Men and women who have left marriages due to reasons of psychological abuse find that now they are being re-abused in trying to obtain a divorce and the custody of their children. They now find themselves experiencing three avenues of abuse and trying to naively fight against it: abuse, both current and prior, by a spouse; abuse by legal manoeuvres from one lawyer to another within the case; and system abuse.
The same applies to men as it does to women. The victim can be re-victimized by the system and by the aggressor or abusive individual. The laws can be manipulated in an adversarial system. When your finances and your children are used as bait to win or lose, with lawyers acting as your broker, psychological abuse occurs.
Bill 117 does not address the different types of abuse or their severity or the different applications for recommendations or rehabilitation. It only addresses physical abuse. There are many different causations, factors, precautions and remedies in different types of abuse. There is abuse from mental illness problems, either treated or untreated with medication, diagnosed or undiagnosed; there is financial abuse; there is social and cultural abuse--for instance, the threat to destroy an immigration status by someone entering the country; there is psychological abuse, which is very difficult and hard to prove but more damaging to the individual, their soul and spirit; and abuse from the person who is drug-addicted or alcohol-addicted. The bill does not address these issues and has only one remedy: a punitive, punishment model.
Punitive measures do not always work. They can create more disturbance, more deaths, more homicide or suicide. Because Bill 117 is so punitive in its nature, it will only create more reason for those who are abusive in nature to abuse and give them more reason or impetus to rage, act out or go ballistic. When one has a real or imagined threat against them, for whatever reason--a paranoid cocaine user, an alcoholic or those with mental health disturbances--the thought of increased threat or threats or more losses such as your home, your family, your children, your money, and penal sanctions against you, combined with the adversarial legal system, is like putting a match to the July 1st fireworks.
Models of intervention must be carefully examined, not in haste and not in reactionary speed but with careful planning to look at the effects and side effects of any law to be implemented as well as the effects legally. Finances must be in place to provide necessary preventive, educational, emergency settings and rehabilitative resources to accompany acts of law such as emergency small furnished apartment programs for men and women to chill out, with 24-hour councillors in place to start counselling while providing immediate shelter and safety to those who need it.
Educational models within the schools to deal with domestic violence and the effects on children, and for the children to receive specialized counselling, should be in place, as well as medical training for physicians to ask about abuse automatically as part of the physical yearly examination and at every medical appointment, and to request their patients to have a yearly spousal, marital or common-law checkup.
These things could be implemented easily. There should be telephone hotlines so the community can also report domestic violence before the worst happens, so that potential problems can be monitored. Conflict resolution community intervention programs are needed. As a society, we need to lobby the media and the entertainment industry to lessen the violence and to restore spiritual, moral and ethical ways of dealing with conflict and strife and within the family unit. Violence should not be an option in dealing with conflict.
Within the legal system, ensure the use of mediation resolution services before entering court. Amend the Divorce Act to provide for automatic shared parenting unless there have been real, abusive situations occurring. You can't dangle a child before a parent and expect the parent to act properly. These are their heritage, their rights, their family. You can't use children as pawns in the divorce industry to gain money for lawyers' pockets. You can't do that to people. People are good parents, generally, unless found otherwise. To take a child from one parent and give it to another is child abuse itself.
We are just now understanding 25 years of documented studies where children have been taken from one parent or another through divorce or separation or death and the long-term rejection effects, loss of self-confidence, loss of relationships that they have in their own life and in their own marriages, and all sorts of problems that they're having.
The threat and thought of anyone losing their child as a parent should not be dangled in front of them by the divorce courts. To capitalize on self-employment through the use of children used as pawns between parents is wrong. The rumours of horror stories of divorce and custody battles and inequities and bankruptcies have already reached us before we've ever been to divorce court. Unfortunately, most of the stories about lawyers, divorce and the legal system are true. Read the divorce from hell: $250,000 later and bankruptcy, he hands his children back to a taxicab driver and says, "I can't take it any more." Why should any of us, or you, go through that?
There must be changes within our legal system itself and in federal and provincial legislation to reduce domestic violence and not perpetuate it. Children should not be used as weapons against their parents in court. People rage at the thought of losing their child and everything they've worked for in life. How are we perpetuating that domestic violence? There must be preventive measures in place to help couples separate and divorce without going into the court arena and losing everything. Shared parenting would be a start in reducing the conflict, animosity and the violence that results from this. There must be some sort of accountability for violence in this system.
Bill 117 will influence family law, civil law and criminal law, but with what effect? I believe that this law is discriminatory to landlords and also to the individual in the total effect of this bill on their lives. How many civil action suits will there be by the abuser against the landlord for discrimination and against his individual rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms? It is interesting that the onus comes down to the landlord and not the Ministry of the Attorney General, with the landlord being sued, perhaps, by the abuser and perhaps ending up losing his own shirt in the matter.
Punish the individual for the crime, but do not punish his or her whole life.
How does Bill 117 differentiate between the Criminal Code on assault and battery and assault charges? Which shall be applied? How do they interact? Will there be both family law and criminal law in effect and then a civil lawsuit in civil court? How is Bill 117 to be tried and tested? What effect will this bill have on the judicial system and their staffing resources? Courts are already backlogged. How will this affect police staffing and the enforcement of this act? What measures are in place to monitor and evaluate the domestic and community effects of such a bill and whether the effect of an increase in violence occurs or whether it decreases the violence? Are we sure this bill won't escalate the violence and give licence to reverse abuse?
The bill outlines the same protocol regardless of the severity of the domestic attack. Should the same protocol be used and applied to a pinch as to a homicidal threat? The bill does not take into account the degree or severity of the assault.
The bill does not take into account the factors involved in certain types of domestic violence: who started it, who's right, who's wrong, or if the act or acts were witnessed by the police or not. If they were unwitnessed, was there any police bias in the police report? Was there any involvement of both parties? If so, were they both charged? In less obvious cases of domestic violence, does the best storyteller get the story to the police and to the judge? In court, we have often seen "the sky is falling" syndrome. You can create a scenario whatever way you want in court. If it's on paper, it's deemed as true, yet there's no truth seeker in court.
The intervention order under subsection 3(1) gives the court powers to enact a final order based on the balance of probabilities and not on a burden of proof or reality or actualities. This may be discriminatory, prejudicial and lead to false accusations or reverse abuse in the legal system.
The Chair: Ms Brandon, you have a few more minutes to wrap up, please.
Ms Brandon: There is no doubt, however, that domestic violence does exist on many levels, for many reasons and to many differing effects. The need for community resources is great for both male and female genders. The bill is simplistic in nature to only involve the police and courts when this is a systematic societal problem, much larger than this bill.
The problems must be dealt with by a holistic approach involving all of the community and familiar aspects of intervention, such as churches, schools, medical practitioners, psychiatrists, specialized counselling for domestic issues and specialized courts for domestic violence.
If the proper financial assistance from the government were in place for community resources to meet the demand of domestic violence cases, both and female, we would not need such state intervention to base decisions on probabilities.
The bill is discriminatory in presuming that it perceives the abusive person as a bad parent when that may not be the case. It denies the assaulter access to their children when there may be no evidence of poor parenting and it may be the result of two adults in conflict for unassessed reasons or dynamics.
It places the blame on one party where the person still has not been properly assessed--
The Chair: Ms Brandon, if you want a 30-second conclusion, please.
Ms Brandon: The conclusion that Mothers for Kids have is that the bill should not be passed into an act as written. We would like a re-examination of the bill to determine whether the bill is prejudiced in any way and conflicts with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
We ask that the committee look at a new bill or revisions to the bill that would protect the innocent and also de-escalate violence and not look at increasing it, and involving the community and funding in working toward a better solution for domestic violence. Thank you.
The Chair: Thank you, Ms Brandon.
This meeting will reconvene tomorrow afternoon at 3:30 in this room, Tuesday, October 31, Halloween.
The committee adjourned at 1826.
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